It is not news to anyone that we have just been through a grueling Presidential Campaign and that we have a new President from the Borough of Queens named Donald John Trump. So far so good! Now, if you are expecting a partisan column that will give you hints on whom I voted for, do not waste your time. I keep my voting a jealous secret.
However, for those who are still with me, I would like to reflect on what just happened as an American whose main identity is not political but religious. I am primarily a Roman Catholic Priest. Everything else is secondary to me, including the country I love: the United States of America.
As a disciple of Jesus, I believe that wisdom and compassion should lead us as a country that we are all in this together. Being an immigrant, I value the freedom and strength of this country. I believe in the form of government that our founders enshrined in the Constitution. We are the oldest continuing democracy in the world and the most stable. We have had elections every 4 years no matter what. Even during the Civil War, Lincoln insisted on an election where he could have been voted out of power.
Nevertheless, we are all so different. Ethnically, the country is beginning to look a lot like Astoria! Every religion, race, and nationality is present here and somewhere in these United States. Yet we are united by the ideal of democracy and on the dignity of the human person. In order to insure that dignity, we try to guard the rights of all our people, not just our group; to give freedom to all religions, we do not enshrine any single religion.
Therefore, we deal with one another, from the President on down to the lowliest person in our land, committed to respecting one another as long as no one tries to impose their beliefs on the rest. The key word is impose. This word has a bit of violence to it. As Catholics, we have been told not to impose our views on Abortion, for instance; but that does not mean that we remain silent when an act of killing affects a developing American in the womb. So we share passionately our concern and we work to convince (not impose) other Americans of the justice of our cause and how the protection to the pre-born American is the protection of all Americans.
This must be done with equal respect for the rights of women and the need for equal treatment under the law. Balancing is the work of prudence, and it is very patriotic to do this with respect to the opinions of others who are also Patriotic and passionate.
The image I particularly like of what I am trying to say is the friendship of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They disagreed most of the time; they did it passionately. However, they could still have a laugh together and go to the Opera with one another to enjoy the music that they both loved.
Unfortunately, politics has taken on an intransigence and a meanness that makes discussion almost impossible. Both the left and the right have begun to call each other names, making politics a forbidden subject. To attack the views of another American in a violent or intolerant way is to be unpatriotic. We have to be able to share our views with respect for the other. We are a family, and while many in a family disagree, they should never lose the love and respect that binds them together.
With the ordinary transfer of power and our new President, we need to work together for the good of our country. Sure, we can object passionately, but name-calling and violence is not the way. I can have an argument with my brother but he still is my brother.
Hate is a strong word that closes off all discussion. Trying to understand the other’s position is the first step to reevaluating our own to see if it is indeed true: Are we all so convinced that we are right? The day that I have nothing more to learn, the day that I cannot admit that I am wrong, is a sad day for both Presidents and Patriots.