I am writing this on election night before the official call has come in. Last I heard the presidential race was too close to call. People are freaking out about it all over the internet. Me?
For a long time I just didn’t plan on voting. I filled out my ballot and mailed it at the last minute simply because I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I really ought to make the gesture. It’s not as if I was abstaining from voting out of principle. I simply couldn’t be bothered to waste time and energy on something so clearly pointless as voting in a presidential election while I had pathology papers to write, basic clinical skills to practice, technical skills to research, objectives to memorize. If my younger brother hadn’t commented earlier that morning that he only voted because he wanted to do what was right, I probably would have used my lunch break more constructively.
Anyway, I voted. I voted third party for Maturen and Munoz of the American Solidarity Party (ha! sounds like Vegas a stage act).
And now back to real life. I still find it hard to care about the outcome of this election, or any politics, really. I don’t think that is a good thing. As a Catholic I should have a strong concern to promote the common good by all means available, and politics certainly is (or should be) concerned with the common good. I just can’t care about it, because it is too remote.
I mean, seriously, I cannot think of a single time in my life when a political figure has influenced a decision I have had to make. People ask, “But don’t you care about who your commander-in-chief is?” To which I can only reply, “I’ve worked for idiots before this.”
I just have a lifelong habit of not allowing myself to care about things that I cannot affect in some way. In this way I think politics, especially National politics, is really a distractor for a lot of people. We get all wrapped around the axle and bent out of shape over these huge things that really don’t concern us. Worse, the fact of getting engrossed in them distracts us from the good we should be doing.
The government does not adequately take care of the poor in America. So? How does that prevent me from taking care of them?
The president has not solved homelessness and poverty. Does that prevent me from donating to my local homeless shelter, or volunteering my time, talent and treasure?
Abortion is legal in America. This is a tragedy, but it is not the greatest tragedy. The root of that tragedy is selfishness. It is selfishness that makes it so that babies are unwanted, that mothers feel like they have no other option, and that some so-called doctors do not care about human life. I can do foster care, or adopt, or sponsor an unwed mother, or engage in conversation with my fellow medical care providers. The government does not and cannot prevent me from doing so.
The president has not provided free healthcare for everyone. So? Why can’t I provide free healthcare, or reduced cost healthcare for patients who can’t afford it (once I get my PA certification, that is?)
The president has not stopped pollution, or saved the planet. So what? How does that prevent me from living simply, reducing my own trash and exercising stewardship of the environment?
Part of it, of course, is that I am cynical and jaded. Part of it, however, is the fact that I have a worm’s-eye view of it. I do not trust the top down approach. It has its place, but it is essentially foreign to the Christian way of life, at least as I understand it. The real focus of the Christian life is the relationship of the soul to God and to neighbor, and government has no effect on that.
Seeking to regulate behavior from the top down, or even to create opportunities is the hope of the world, has been the hope of the world since governments were first formed. It has failed to provide lasting peace either between or within nations. It has largely failed to provide for human well-being, prevent crime, or make humans happy or holy.
The Christian approach has always been the opposite. Our strength has always been in the small and intimate, from the bottom up. Our secret weapons have always been the saints. The hidden soul doing little things with great love in its own sphere is the real force that turns the world. My quest to become such a soul is not at all affected by the question of who sits in the oval office. My chief concern with who fills that office is that I know who to pray for by name.
Does the government affect us? Yes, it most certainly does. It affects our livelihood, our freedoms, our opportunities, our families, our infrastructure, our economy, our science and medicine and technology and virtually every other sphere of our life. How can I be indifferent to that?
Well, simply, those are not my responsibility, and ultimately they are not so very important after all. My responsibility is to do the best I can with what I have been given, and I have so little influence on the government that I consider it a given rather than a responsibility. As a friend of mine said, “No matter who gets elected, you will still be the same husband/father/friend and son of God you were before.” The important thing is the Love of Christ, which, as St. Paul informs us, “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” cannot separate us from.
As St. Thomas More (allegedly) said, “The times are never so bad but that good men can live in them.”
Ironically, he said that right before running afoul of the king and getting his head cut off.