Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Unraveling US politics

I've been thinking a lot about US politics in the last few weeks.

People here in Honduras often ask me about the elections and most of them express a real concern about the candidacy of Donald Trump.

I don't want to argue candidates, but I would like to share some very random and poorly formed ideas and sentiments that come to me as I watch the US presidential election campaign from a distance.

A few days ago I picked up Andra Medea’ Conflict Unraveled; Fixing problems at work and in families. A good friend had lent me this book a week or so ago since we have worked together several times on workshop on Alternatives to Violence in a prison here in Honduras.

The first chapter on flooding is really helpful for identifying when one is being overwhelmed and how to control this flooding. But the second chapter deserves to be read in the conflictual environment of the US elections.

I watched the last two debates between Trump and Clinton through the internet. I was saddened and angered by the lack of civility, by the continuing attacks against other people, by the failure to listen to others, by the manipulation of facts, by the lies and the attempts to cover up what one had done, by the failure to answer questions directly.

Though much of these behaviors were evident in the Republican candidate, the Democratic candidate was not above attacking her opponent in the second debate. But invective ruled the

At one point the moderator and the two candidates were speaking all at the same time. I thought – even kindergartners know better.

I do not believe that either candidate really represents the best possibilities for the future of the US, though the election of one of them would, I believe, be a nightmare.

Hillary Clinton’s position on abortion is wrong, so ideologically formed by a individualistic approach to human rights.  I also find her foreign policy frightening – her support of war and an approach to Latin America that seems to be based on looking at what the US wants, not what would assist the people of Latin America. She made it clear in the most recent debate that what concerned her in the foreign policy is what is good for the United States – seemingly exclusive concern for one nation.

Donald Trump’s positions on so many issues are so in conflict with my Catholic faith that I can only list a few – fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, keeping out Muslims, torture, killing of innocents in retaliation for terror attacks, use of nuclear weapons. I am also not convinced that he is really pro-life, even in the limited sense of being opposed to abortion.

Both, in my mind, represent aspects of the throwaway culture that Pope Francis has consistently condemned. Clinton would throw away the unwanted unborn; Trump would throw away the immigrant, the disabled.

Both hold positions anathema to Catholics.

How will I vote? You may guess, but I’m not going to write publicly about this. But what I do know is that whoever is the next president needs to experience a sustained movement for peace, for life, for the poor, and for the stranger, and, therefore, against war, abortion, capital punishment, and the throwaway culture.

As Pope Francis said in Cuba last year:
The youth become part of the throwaway culture and all of us know that today, in this empire of the god money, things are thrown away and people are thrown away, children are thrown away, because they are unwanted, because they kill them before they are born, the elderly are thrown away — I’m speaking of the world in general — because they don’t produce anymore. In some countries, there is legal euthanasia, but in so many others there is a hidden, covered up euthanasia. Youth are thrown away because they are not given work.

The response needs to be a movement of people who in their neighborhoods come together to support each other and those in need. We need people who hold a consistent ethic of life – rejecting abortion, war, torture, racism, and euthanasia but supporting as individuals, as communities, as government entities those who are in need – those suffering from poverty, from marginalization, from violence.

We need to create a new society in the shell of the old. This is not easy work.

I write this as a US citizen who has lived more than nine years in a country where corruption and radical inequality cause hunger, disease, violence, and poverty. I have seen a coup and witness increasing militarization of a nation that has great potential – in its people and its riches.

After the 2009 coup there were many mobilizations of people and demonstrations. But what really impressed me were the efforts to form the people in what democracy means, in tools for critical analysis, and more.  But eventually the Resistance formed a political party and got involved in party politics and the efforts of raising the critical consciousness of the people assumed less importance than attaining power.

What I hope for the US is the growth of a critical consciousness. Perhaps it will happen among some of those who looked to Bernie Sanders for inspiration. But it needs to happen in small groups and institutions throughout the US.  And in this, religious communities can play a crucial role since the vision of a peaceful world with justice can be found in many of them.

Would that God will inspire us to do this.

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