In these few days before the presidential election, many of us wonder: How did we end up with two such flawed major party candidates for president? Maybe we need to look in the mirror. The candidates reflect our nation’s extreme divisiveness. We could have nominated others to represent us in the highest office in our nation, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — legitimately and fairly — received the nomination of their respective parties. Rather than bemoaning the fact, each of us should say a prayer thanking God for the privilege of living in a society built on a democracy where we can express our views on governance and be heard.
The people of Syria, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, China, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and many countries in Africa, for example, live under authoritarian regimes that squelch divisiveness and the freedom to express one’s voice in the public square. For millions of people around the world, voting — a fundamental human right — is not fully enforced. We might not appreciate or accept the candidates for local, state and national offices, but we have a duty as faithful citizens to exercise our right to vote.
We’ve had plenty of time to form our consciences, to examine where the candidates stand on issues and how their viewpoints coincide with or diverge from Catholic teaching on the tenets of our faith. Our consciences are the final arbiter. But before we enter the voting booth on Nov. 8 (or vote by absentee ballot), we ought to fulfill one more obligation: leave our animosity toward candidates and neighbors we disagree with at the door.
As one Catholic posted on her Facebook page: “Living in a democracy means that people will disagree, and openly. If democracy is to work, we must all respect each other even though we may seriously disagree … respect means allowing people to be different in their opinions.” The individual who posted that comment urged fellow Catholics to pray, to fast, do penance … but do not hate.
If that doesn’t give us pause before we enter the voting booth, perhaps reflecting on the words of Pope Francis in his Year of Mercy letter “Miericordiae Vultus” will. The Holy Father reminds us that “The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn. If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgment, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul. …Jesus asks us also to forgive and to give. To be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God. To be generous with others knowing that God showers his goodness upon us with immense generosity. (No. 14)”
This is the Year of Mercy, which comes to a close later this month. This is what we need to be thinking about as we cast our ballots, and long afterwards. We should accept the election results with grace and not give up on expressing our opinions in the public square. We can help effect change for the common good, regardless of who serves as the next president of the United States or who serves as elected representatives in Iowa and in Congress.
(To learn more about the candidates visit the website: https://ballotpedia.org/Iowa_elections,_2016.)
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor