Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thinking Out Loud, Even When I Know Better

I've been a bad blogger in recent weeks: I've been busy. I've been enjoying family. I've been reading books. I've been watching politics. So let me explain some of what has been taking place in my brain, and then I'll step aside and let the metaphoric shit idiomatically hit the fan.

I've been thinking a great deal about my faith and my ballot card in recent weeks. I've talked about it briefly here before. But I have a serious and growing conflict in my heart over Sen Obama. I like this man. I like his stand on a lot of the issues, as socialized and liberal as they may seem to some. Here are some of the things I like: (1) The "conservative" view of immigration is, to me, untenable as a follower of Christ. And it stinks of fascism - the very idea of rounding up people for deportation is abhorrent to me. I've seen police set up blockades on streets leading to our parish, which has a high Mexican population, on Sunday mornings - actually picking up people who are on their way to worship. That is not the America I love. That is not how we are told to treat the alien and the stranger. That is not how we treat our poor neighbors. (2) That all children receive health care in the richest nation on earth, and all people be able to afford it, also seems a no-brainer - and perhaps it seems so because I have no great wealth that currently provides me the oft-touted "best health care in the world." (3) To pull a card from the Obama playbook: I have been against the war in Iraq since the beginning. And while I think it has become tragically complicated now that we're there (and a simple pull-out ill-advised perhaps), I also am terribly sickened by it. The war has meant persecution and suffering for Iraqi Christians as well as countless other innocents, not excluding the loss of American lives.

So let's play a little Tevye: On one hand, I am resolutely pro-life. I believe it is my responsibility as a citizen and as a Catholic to vote. On the other hand, thinking about voting for John McCain, leaves me feeling nauseated: same turd herders, same price. On the other hand, I like the rhetoric of Obama, and do not believe that it is just rhetoric. I like the inspiration and hope that he brings to the table. On the other hand, I do not in any way condone his views on life within the womb. On the other hand, I am not taken in by the fear-mongering of extremists who worry about his name or his cult following or who think (erroneously) that he didn't put his hand on his chest during the Pledge of Allegiance. That's wacko land. And, of that country, I don't intend to be a citizen.

Will I vote for Obama? I don't know. If I do, it will be in spite of his views on abortion. For me a vote for Obama would not be a light matter. But then, a vote for McCain would also be a reluctant vote.

The big question, of course, is how does someone who is pro-life reconcile that belief with a vote for Sen Obama? It is certainly not by weighing the good I believe Obama would do with the evil of abortion. But it no longer seems so easy to me as casting a vote. It is not as simple a choice as a choice between life or death, between good and evil. A Republican vote does not guarantee that life will take root in our land or that more children will be saved. A Democratic vote does not mean that more children will be murdered. And a simple vote does not wash my hands clean from the evil of abortion, or absolve me of my responsibility to be a force for life (from conception to death) in the circles in which I live and move. Last night, I watched a post-abortive woman talk about the suffering she has been through. And while I felt her pain deeply, I also came away wondering that if many women feel as she does, to a greater or lesser degree pressured or duped into abortion (without choice) - what becomes of these women? What becomes of the people who push death rather than life? Do they suddenly cease to exist in conformity to the law of the land? Our society must change its view on life before any law (or revocation of law) has any great effect. Abortion is, for many people, understood as a right. It's the default mentality of our society, like contraception or sterilization.

What is required of me as a Catholic? This is a difficult question. And I've found it difficult to find a consistent answer with the wide array of Catholic thought (from extremely conservative to extremely liberal). As I understand it, the faith of the Church views a vote for a pro-abortion candidate as a grave sin if the vote is cast because of the candidate's position on abortion. To me that leaves the door open for a vote for a pro-choice Democrat. Again, not because he or she is pro-choice, but rather in spite of it.

At the end of the day, with a Hillary nomination or clear direction to vote pro-life come hell or high water, I may be required to take one for the team and vote for McCain. And that will be OK with me. But it seems that voting this year will deeply sadden me regardless of how or whether I come to any resolution on this issue.

Pray for me. Pray for our leaders, our country, our world. Pray for peace. Pray for those unborn who have had their lives unjustly stolen from them, and for those whose mothers are considering abortion. And pray for women who find themselves with unwanted and untimely pregnancies, who feel as if they are trapped, without hope or options. Pray that they might find hope in new life. That they might rediscover faith while in the oil press. That they might discover in the midst of their suffering, love. And that we might be the ones who show them that love.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz, from Men's Vogue.


Scott Lyons said...

By the way, and for the record, my father is a pipe-fitter. Turd herder is affectionate pipe-fitter parlance for plumber.

Perhaps, that doesn't clarify anything, but it makes sense to me.

Dan said...

You're speaking my language, brother.

McCain: nauseating, though I feel stymied by the Democrats refusal to consider a pro-life position.

I'm tired of being a Republican, quite frankly.

I COMPLETELY agree with your thoughts on illegal immigration! I have never heard a cogent argument from the fear mongers who say we have to round them all up. And I'm tired of the growing disparity between the rich and poor in this country and the fact that so many have no health care whatsoever.

I'm on the same page.

Freder1ck said...

Sadness is the cry of the heart that wants more from politics, that hungers and thirst for justice. Blessed are they who mourn; they shall be comforted.

Anonymous said...

No black and white. I agree in part. John McCain is a pill to swallow.

Yet you say "Here are some of the things I like: " and then proceed to describe something you DON'T like.

Characterizing the round-up of illegals as "the conservative position" is itself unfair to a most of us common sense conservatives who obviously don't stand behind that.

Thus the logic your argument is broken. To hold (I have to assume) that you support Obama because he is not in support of church-day-roundups is a non-sequitor. This is anything but a bipolar issue. So if you hate one of the X significant opinions it means you have X-1 left to deal with. And on this issue, X is definately NOT 2.

That said I am sympathetic to this year's votor dilemas and feel your pain. I really do.

Nor can we neglect the secondary consequenses of the good that we intend:

- War (in Iraq or elsewhere) is terrible. It's about killing people and breaking things. On the other hand dictatorships that commit genocide in their own country and run permanent rape rooms as a form of punishment (etc. etc.) is sitting on the other side of that balance. There are consequences to doing nothing too. (In Iraqs case passing UN resolutions had the same effectivity as doing nothing).

- Racism is bad. It should be stamped out. We should not be judged on the color of our skin. But by making the law you force people to take careful note (indeed to keep legally binding records) about the color of the skin of all their employees.

- By mandating ethanol for a cleaner environment you have the effect of burning (literally) food that could have gone to the poor in the world. And even of pricing healthier foods out of reach for our own nation's poor. (The incentives $$ to grow corn instead of broccoli mean there will be fewer broccoli fields).

These are just the sorts of consequences that someone making laws should be GREAT at. Yet I so seldom hear these things openly debated. And I hear WAY too much about political strategies, polls and personalities INSTEAD.

Scott Lyons said...


Thanks for the pointers in logic. But my thinking is bad because my writing is hurried. I am a stay-at-home dad who homeschools. I need your prayers and your mercy, not a lesson in logic.

Second, enough with the Xs and 2s. If you could spell it out slowly and simply, as if for a man who makes funny faces as he feeds his child Spaghett-Os and later capers around the kitchen making up nonsense songs about Aqua-Man, I would appreciate it. I'm bright about some things, but I also wipe butts for a living.

If I were to write it over again, I certainly wouldn't have written "here's what I like" and then simply listed things that irritated me about the state of the union and what I hoped would come from a vote for Sen Obama. So I appreciate your pointing it out.

However, my writing doesn't break logic - it's simply hurried and poor because the baby needs to be fed. So let me try to be clearer in a moment of quiet. Perhaps the clarity will strike you as more logical.

There are things that I dislike about the spirit of the Republican party (I'll try to use Republican rather than Conservative. I am also a Conservative so I understand that not all Conservatives want to round up illegals) as I have seen it played out in the Republican party (and, frankly, among conservative Christian - unfortunately, too similar, they) in the past few years. There are issues that I dislike. First, I dislike the Republican view of illegal immigrants. All I've heard from Republicans is that illegal immigrants need to be sent home and put in the back of the line - play nice like everyone else in the world. Yet I never hear about giving preference to the poor, or welcoming the stranger and the alien, or helping neighbors who are desperate for it, or trying to help Mexico with their problem so that their citizens don't feel as if they need to come here however they can. And looking for terrorists to cross the Mexican border is asinine when we have our northern border wide open. I don't believe terrorists to be so stupid. And, No, I don't want the Canadian border ruined as well. I'd rather be blown up by a car bomb, frankly. Second, I dislike the war in Iraq. War sucks, of course, but that's not the only reason I dislike the war in Iraq. I disliked it to begin with because we were attacking a country and a people who had not attacked us. I found it unjust at its beginning and therefore, regardless of the blessings the world (or even Iraq itself) might reap from it, it will remain unjust to me. Third, I dislike the Republican party dragging their feet on environmental issues - not because they are worried about workers in countries that are becoming industrialized who would lose it all because of the sudden surge of conscience that we Americans are feeling after having reaped all the benefits of pillaging creation, but because they are worried about the oil and gas companies' profits. Fourth, I dislike the Republican party dragging its feet on the problem that is health care. I will concede, however, that there was much of Romney's plan that I liked - at least he recognized the problem and attempted to address it.

There are also positions that I highly respect within the Republican party. I like, for the most part, the unwavering stance on the dignity of human life in the womb. We must make abortion rare. Hell, I'd like to see it disappear. I like that Bush's stance on embryonic stem cell research gave scientists enough time to discover pluripotent cells could be harvested from adult skin cells, with no need to destroy human life. I like that Bush has done as much as he has done to fight poverty and AIDS. (I actually like Bush's [and McCain's once upon a time] position on illegal immigration far better than most Republicans' positions.) I respect that Republicans have stood for life, standing against abortion and euthanasia. (I do not like that that same respect is often not given to prisoners and foreigners.)

Racism is evil. And I have no problem keeping employers honest about who they hire - not because they are hiring illegals, however, but because of their mistreatment of illegals due to the illegals' inability to complain to the authorities. Not every company who has hired illegals has done this, but many have.

About burning food - do we really think it's going to go to the poor? It hasn't. It won't. It will rot or it will burn for fuel. Which would you rather? Now I stand with you and would rather see it sent to the poor, but you and I both know that that ain't gonna happen. But if you want to start a protest somewhere about getting it to the poor, call me up and I'll try to haul out the kids and join you. Regardless of our debate about how we become less dependent on fossil fuels and more dependent on renewable sources of energy, I hope you would agree that we need to begin, somehow, developing alternate sources of energy that are friendly to the environment.

Finally, I agree with you that there are no easy answers. But that does not preclude attempting resolutions. If we fail, we learn and try again. But at least we try. Even if it means no record profits for a decade or two.

Scott Lyons said...


I want to say again that I appreciate your comment. And I hope I do not come across harshly, as I can. (I'm quite good-humored; jolly-old elf kind of guy.) But I do want you understand one last thing, that may not have been clear in my post. I'm not trying to posit an argument here. I'm not trying to convince anyone they ought to vote for Sen Obama. I'm simply thinking out loud about why I feel some confusion as to where I will place my vote. And writing helps my thinking - even when it may not seem so to a reader. ;) I've voted only pro-life as an adult - that's been my only prerequisite as I've always seen it as a non-negotiable. I wrote in my combox a quite lengthy response to someone who questioned that only a month ago. I'm just wondering if it's all more complicated than that. I'm wondering if my pro-life views ought to spill out into my life more in the interim between elections (through writing, prayers, letters, etc.) rather than, and I'm exaggerating, only on an occasional November.

Thanks again for your comment. And feel free to comment anytime. Or give me a lesson in logic - God knows I could use it. :)

kkollwitz said...

I would take a more nuanced position on my vote next November, except that I've been radicalized for 10 years on the abortion issue by having uncensored internet access to the gruesome slaughter of abortion which otherwise is ignored by the MSM and popular culture.
Until there is something worse than abortion, it will be the black/white issue that governs my vote.
If you get wishy-washy about voting for the most anti-abortion choice available, just go check out an abortion photo and then multiply by 40 million.
Dismembering live babies in the womb and throwing the parts in a grinder is absolutely beyond any standard of human behavior, and must stop if the world is to be more than Satan's playground.

kkollwitz said...

I might add that Obama has earned a 100% rating by both NARAL & Planned Parenthood per their websites.
And Obama doesn't stop at abortions:
"Obama articulately worried that legislation protecting live aborted babies might infringe on women's rights or abortionists' rights."