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Tennessee is on fire and Donald Trump is the President-Elect.  The haze that hangs over Knoxville matches the haze in my head and my heart.  It’s hard to think and hard to breathe.

On Election Day  many of us headed off to the polls excited about a bright new world full of promise and possibility and without glass ceilings.

The next morning we awakened to an America we didn’t recognize, a country we used to love but feel that we don’t even know any more.

We are grieving and we are discouraged and the conservatives I know (translation: almost EVERYONE I know, here in red East Tennessee) think we are crybabies and want us to get over it.

In October, I cleared out our fire pit, planning for crisp November evenings.

The pit remains empty and cold.  My bonfire dreams are dead like so many other dreams seem to be. Most of East Tennessee is under a burn ban, and this will continue until just a few days before winter begins.  Tempers are flaring too, and those flames may be harder to dampen.

I am intimately aware of the destructive power of fire.

But fire, controlled, also warms and illumines.

I love candles and every evening before we sit down to watch our show I light several.  I wait for the moment when the flame from the lighter catches the wick and the candle begins to burn on its own, its flame swelling to life.

My family visited Mammoth Cave recently. After gathering us in a large room, our guide turned off every light and left us to wait in complete, impenetrable darkness.   Then he lit just one match and the entire cave was illuminated.  Our eyes can grow accustomed to the deepest darkness.  One small flame becomes enough to see by.

Dark nights of the soul are steps along the journey to spiritual enlightenment.  By all means we SHOULD curse the darkness we see in the world around us right now.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t light candles.  We can burn. We can shine.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . .  (Ephesians 5:8)

 

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All I want to do right now is read the internet obsessively and get ready to watch election coverage.  But it’s NaBloPoMo, and I have to post something.  So I’ll do a quick Election Day photo essay!

Even though there was no school today, I got up relatively early, and got Lorelei and Emily up, hoping to get to the polls by ten.  We didn’t quite make that goal!  But at least we didn’t need to worry about crowds this time.  Unbeknownst to us, they split our precinct place and sent half the voters elsewhere (not our half, happily).  There was only a short line, although the workers said that it had been steady and was busy earlier with voters on the way to work.

Here are our happy post-voting pictures!

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Emily was away at college for the last election and didn’t get her absentee ballot in time, so this was her first vote for President.  Lorelei is still a bit young, but I let her push the button.

And here I am, rocking my “pantsuit.”

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I got the idea online to go on a field trip to the Women’s Suffrage Memorial, located downtown in Market Square.  We found a parking place and I even managed to parallel park!

Then we went to lunch at Pete’s (a downtown institution, where the girls had never been), and then to Krispy Kreme for our free doughnuts!

Since then I’ve been glued to my computer and I’m getting ready to be glued to the t.v.  We have snacks and pink champagne and we are going to have a little party. 🙂

And tomorrow, one way or another, life goes on, and maybe I will be able to concentrate on working again!

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On the eve of the 2012 Presidential Election, I put up a post about how I would be voting, and why.  By now, if you’ve been keeping up, you know whom I will be voting for tomorrow.  And I’ve even explained how I approached making this decision, as a Catholic.

What you might still wonder, though, is what is different about this year.  In 2008, I didn’t vote at all.  In 2012, I wrote in None of the Above.  What has changed?  Did I just convince myself to vote for Hillary Clinton because I love her so much and because I’ve always secretly yearned to vote for a Democrat?

Actually, I would have liked to have voted for President Obama in 2008.  I preferred him to McCain and I wanted him to win.  I would have liked to pull the lever for the first black President.  But I couldn’t find a proportionate reason to do so.

By 2012 I had serious reservations about our President, but his policies were still more agreeable to me than Romney’s were.  Yet, again, I did not vote for him.

What is special about this election?

Two words: Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is my proportionate reason for voting for Hillary Clinton.

Don’t misunderstand–I LIKE Hillary.  I don’t believe most of what the conservative media says about her.  I agree with nine-tenths of her ideas (and I don’t think I have to explain to you which ones I don’t agree with).  And I find a great deal to admire about her.  Plus she’s the most qualified person to ever run for President.

But if Jeb Bush were running, if John Kasich were running, if John McCain or Mitt Romney were running, I might be voting for one of them or writing in None of the Above again tomorrow.

Donald Trump CANNOT and MUST NOT be President.  I believe he poses a clear and present danger to the residents of this nation, to everything it stands for, perhaps even to its very existence.  All the harm he would do as President constitutes–for me–the proportionate reasons my conscience demands.

Now, as you may know, I am in Tennessee, which I have no doubt Trump will win tomorrow.  I’m not in a swing state, so why am I “endangering my soul” by the remote material cooperation in evil of voting for a pro-choice candidate?

It would be hypocritical for me to expect other pro-life Catholics in swing states to vote against Donald Trump if I refuse to do the same.  My vote may not go directly toward defeating Trump, but it may encourage others whose votes have that power.  I will also be demonstrating, through my vote and my testimony about it here and on my blog, that while there is a Catholic process for choosing your candidate, there is no one right choice for every Catholic.

So tomorrow I will cast my vote for Hillary with a clear conscience and the firm belief that Donald Trump and everything he represents must be repudiated.

 

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/6262122778

Image Credit: Donkey Hotey

It’s come to my attention that many (maybe even most?) of my fellow Catholics are a bit confused on the issue of voting.  How do I know this?  Because FACEBOOK, mostly.  If any Catholic is on Facebook telling any other Catholic that he or she is in a state of mortal sin or hellbound for voting for Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump, for that matter), that Catholic clearly needs a refresher course (maybe a first course?) on Catholic voting.

I can see why some of them would be confused, too, when you’ve got deacons preaching about who to vote for and Bishops and priests making ill-advised and incorrect statements in the press and people putting unauthorized flyers in parish bulletins.  I’ve seen and read about all of this, and you probably have too, and I’m not going to link to these folks to give them any more undeserved attention and the opportunity to spread more misinformation. (By the way, here’s what our Bishops have to say about such activities.)

Some of you have probably also seen voting guides from Catholic Answers or EWTN, and have (understandably) assumed that you could trust such well-known sources.   But the ONLY authorized voting guide (and that includes this blog, which is why my advice to you is going to be backed up by authoritative links) is the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, published in every election year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  That’s the ONLY document with the authority of the Magisterium behind it.  If you haven’t read it yet, you haven’t done your homework and you shouldn’t cast a vote until you do.

You might also want to familiarize yourself with Catholic Social Teaching.  And you are certainly going to want to read the section of the Catechism which deals with the formation of conscience.  And it goes without saying that you should read about the candidates and their positions on issues of importance to Catholics, of course making sure to check your sources.

Frankly, I think the Church and its members would be in a lot better shape if we all spent more time reading the above documents and less on Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats.  Particularly in matters of faith I would suggest spending more time on the Vatican and USCCB sites and less on LifeSite News and HuffPo Religion.

Anyway, I’m going to paraphrase some of this,  but I am not a theologian and this is not an approved voting guide so you really ought to go to the links provided and read for yourself.

Short version:  You can vote for anyone you want to, but not for the wrong reasons.

What does this mean?  Here’s an example:  We all know that Hillary Clinton supports legalized abortion.  Abortion is an intrinsic evil that deserves the highest level of attention from Catholics.  So if you vote for Hillary Clinton BECAUSE she supports abortion, that’s wrong.  If you are a Catholic, you can’t do that.

Every candidate running this year has certain positions that run contrary to Church teachings.  YOU CAN STILL VOTE FOR ANY OF THEM, as long as you are voting for the DESPITE these positions AND in the presence of PROPORTIONATE REASONS.

Back when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict explained how this works.  He’s a scholar and used lots of big words, so here is the simplified version: Voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil (like abortion or racism) requires the presence of a proportionate reason.

In her wisdom, the Church so far has not defined what these proportionate reasons might be, although if you Google you will find plenty of Catholics expressing their opinions.  But they are only opinions, and everyone will reach his own conclusions about this, according to his conscience.

But Trump is just AWFUL, you say.  How could there be ANY reason proportionate enough to justify voting for him?   Well, maybe a Catholic voter is convinced that Mr. Trump really has had a conversion of heart and is truly pro-life.  Our next President will probably have the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices.  Mr. Trump has said he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.  Faced with the possibility of ending the evil of abortion, this person feels he cannot in good conscience fail to vote for a candidate who might achieve this.

Still can’t understand it? Guess what? You don’t have to! It’s not your business how your fellow Catholics vote.  It’s not their business how YOU vote! You don’t get to tell them they are going to hell and they don’t get to tell you that you are excommunicated.

One more quote from the Bishops: “We strongly urge all parishioners to register, to become informed on key issues, and to vote. The Church does not support or oppose any candidate, but seeks to focus attention on the moral and human dimensions of issues.”

And from our Holy Father, when directly asked what the American faithful should keep in mind while voting: “In electoral campaigns, I never say a word. The people are sovereign. I’ll just say a word: Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.

Being accused of being more Catholic than the Pope is not a compliment, y’all.  Can we all take our cue from the Bishop of Rome and mind our own consciences–and our own business?

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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A few days ago I was invited to join a secret Facebook group.  I posted what follows by way of introduction and was overwhelmed by the support, understanding, and acceptance I received, even from people whose beliefs are very different.  Because so many people wanted a way to share what I had written, I decided to post it here with some slight editing to account for the potential wider audience.

As a devout pro-life Catholic, this election season has been a very trying time for me. Never in my lifetime has there been a candidate for President who aligned perfectly with my religious beliefs, and I have dealt with this in various ways in each election.

I wrote for the local Catholic press for many years, including writing a column specifically on life issues. I was the chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee and have 25 years of pro-life activism to my credit. I blog about life issues frequently and post publicly about them on Facebook. And I’m the mother of five children!

Yet none of this has stopped my being the target of vitriol from right-wing Catholics, many of whom will clearly do ANYTHING to justify the fact that they really just want to vote Republican. I’ve been talked down to, threatened with excommunication, and attacked, even as I have tried to create space for discussion on my Facebook wall and explained the Church teachings on voting and conscience which support my actions.

This year, I am voting for Hillary with a clear conscience. Despite my deep disagreement with her views on abortion it is quite clear to me that her other positions and her proposed policies are more in keeping with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and social justice (not to mention the fact that she is way more qualified, not dangerous, and won’t bring disgrace to the office!). I am not holding my nose while I vote either–I am excited to be with Her!im_with_her

For more of my writing about Catholicism, voting, and politics, see the partial list below:

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 2)

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 3)

Catholic to my Toes

VOTING:  Not Toeing the Party Line

Talking to Kids about Politics

It’s Just Not Fun Anymore

Catholic Voting 101: A Guide for the Confused

Why Is This Election Different?

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democrat-to-the-toes

After I was recently accused of being a “Democrat down to my toes,” my daughter bought me the socks in the picture above.  And while it’s true that I call myself a “pro-life Democrat” in my Twitter bio, the reality is somewhat more complicated.

My earliest political memory is going door-to-door with my mother handing out George McGovern flyers in 1972 when I was five years old.  I knew that he was a Democrat and we were too.

Next up was Watergate, and the graffiti on the wall of the unfinished part of the shopping mall in our neighborhood demanding “IMPEACH NIXON!”  What more proof did I need that voting Democrat was the way to go?

Since all my family were Democrats it was a rude surprise to me to be the only nine-year-old who raised a hand in support of Jimmy Carter in our classroom election in 1976.  That was my first introduction to the fact that most people in East Tennessee were not on the same page as me politically.

All this seems to be pointing to someone who has voted the Democratic ticket her whole life, right?  But if that’s what you were thinking, you’d be wrong.

I turned 18 in 1985, so I had to wait a long time to cast my first vote.  Longer than you’d expect, because I was in college in 1988, and didn’t send off for my absentee ballot in time.  I would have voted for Dukakis without a second thought, in fact without any thought at all, because I was a Democrat and if you are a Democrat you vote for the party’s nominee, right?

A lot changed in four years.  I cast my first Presidential vote for a REPUBLICAN.  I remember how clear things seemed to me in 1992.  Abortion was the gravest possible evil and George H.W. Bush was pro-life.  What other issue could compare?  By 1996 I was having second thoughts about single issue voting.  I couldn’t see that my pro-life vote had made any difference–Roe v. Wade still stood.  Clinton and Gore held to a pro-choice position, I never thought they were that enthusiastic about it.  And I agreed with them on just about every other issue.

So I was 29 years old before I ever voted for a Democrat for President!  I voted for Gore in 2000, and that was the last time.

I’ve written elsewhere the whole ugly story of 2004.  I may well have voted for Kerry, not especially enthusiastically, because of the Iraq war, but I was nine months’ pregnant and bed-bound.

By 2008 my conscience was pricking me.  I didn’t think it was WRONG to vote for a pro-choice candidate, but it felt wrong for ME.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, but neither could I bring myself to vote Republican (mind you, I wasn’t actively TERRIFIED of the Republican nominee–I just didn’t like his positions!).  So I went to the polls, voted in the local races, and didn’t vote for President at all.  I wanted Obama to win, I wanted our country to have its first black President, but I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him.

In 2012 I felt even more strongly that I couldn’t vote for Obama, whose enthusiastic pro-choice views, cavalier disregard for religious freedom issues, and fondness for drone strikes turned me off even as I continued to like him personally.  Yet neither could I bring myself to pull the lever for Romney, whose pro-life commitment seemed lukewarm and whose positions left me cold.  That time I chose to vote None of the Above as a way of registering my dissatisfaction with the choices presented to me.

And this year . . . well, that will be the subject of another post. 🙂

So what does any of this mean? Am I a Democrat? A Republican? An Independent? Does it matter?

I have been known to refer to myself as a pro-life Democrat but that’s really just kind of a shortcut.  Most people know more or less what the two halves of that label stand for, so they can get a good idea of my beliefs in most areas if I call myself that.  And there really is an organization called Democrats for Life, but I haven’t signed up just yet.  Tennessee has open primaries, and I like voting in the Republican one because that’s where my vote can have more impact.   I have attended Republican political events and felt acutely uncomfortable at the cheerleading for positions I find reprehensible; I have a feeling I’d have a similar reaction to some topics that would come up at a Democratic rally.  I certainly don’t see myself donating money to the DNC or being a card-carrying party member.

Anyway, I hope you can see why it infuriates me to be told that I am a Democrat down to my toes, looking for any excuse to vote for a Democrat, when I attempt to explain why it’s not a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

 

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Twelve years ago, dismayed at all the misunderstandings and hatefulness I was seeing among Catholics over the Presidential election, I decided to write a column about it for the East Tennessee Catholic.  I thought I could dispel those misunderstandings and the hatefulness would cease.

Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was on bed rest (Lorelei was born just after Election Day) when the reactions to that well-intentioned column started coming in, but if I hadn’t been I might have taken to my bed anyway.  And if I had seen where we we’d find ourselves twelve years down the road, I might have never gotten up again.

Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Rarely do I say anything about what my friends post on their own Facebook walls–with the rare exception being to offer a Snopes link to correct a blatant untruth.  I have never unfriended someone because I disagreed with their views. I welcome respectful discussion and try to learn from others and to at least understand why they believe what they do.

I’m a bad Catholic, of course.  I fall short on an hourly basis.  But I’m NOT a cafeteria Catholic.  Ask anyone who knows me and pore over every word I’ve written and try to find an example of any time I have EVER dissented from Church teaching.  You’ll need more than good luck and a magnifying glass because you won’t find anything.

 

The friend who attacked me on Facebook accused me of being a “Democrat down to my toes.”  I’ll write more about party affiliation another time, perhaps, but what I am down to my toes is CATHOLIC.  That’s my core, that’s my worldview, and EVERYTHING I believe and the way I try to live my life–including my political life–springs from that.

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