Julie Walsh is a married, stay-at-home-mother to four young children. Before her oldest was born in 2010, she worked for five years at the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director for Social Concerns and three years in the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Inspector General. 

Julie holds a degree in political science and German from Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg. She and her family are parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle Church in Libertytown.

 

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But what do *you* think? You seem to imply that healthcare or the lack thereof are each morally acceptable to you.

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The Space Between

The Republican health care bill’s demise – and what it tells us about ourselves


So. That health care bill. Quite a little show, wasn’t it?

Republicans campaigned for years on repealing Obamacare, House Republicans in fact voted many times to do so, and President Trump promised to get rid of the thing and replace it with something better (a ‘something’ that would somehow provide better health care to more people at a lower cost).

Then Paul Ryan went and advanced a bill that delivered on the ‘lower cost’ promise at the expense of the ‘better health care’ and ‘more people’ promises.

Understandably, this was unacceptable to moderate Republicans from swing districts, who knew that their constituents would care more about actually having health care than achieving the abstract of repealing Obamacare. Yet Ryan’s bill was also unacceptable to far-right Republicans, who were serious about their oft-stated goal of repealing Obamacare and the subsidies that make it possible.

So over the course of a couple of weeks, despite many assurances that all would proceed as planned, the whole thing fell apart.

Go figure. Republicans could not deliver the undeliverable. They could not wrangle their own party members (let alone Congress at large) into submission in a matter of days.

They couldn’t make real life resemble the simplicity of campaign promises.

And that’s the lesson I think we should take from this.

In this whole swirling mess of frustration with politics and politicians, in the movement to drive out the old-hands / ‘drain the swamp’ / replace the whole lot with outsiders, we’ve lost something important: a sense of the possible. We’ve been rewarding those who make the wildest, most gut-satisfying claims. We’ve been huddling around those who tell us what we want to hear. We’ve been accepting the impossible because we like how it sounds.

There is no way to provide better healthcare to more people for less money. That’s not how the real world works.

If you are serious about your desire to cut the federal government’s costs and you are consistent enough to accept the consequences (i.e. maybe don’t rely on Medicaid to pay for Grandma’s nursing home bill) – I guess I can accept that.

If you care more about the government acting as a well-functioning safety net and you are consistent enough to willingly pay the (higher) taxes that will make that possible – I can accept that too.

But you and I, we have to stop acting like we can have it both ways. The U.S. Government doesn’t have a spending problem because it throws money at a bunch of undeserving people and liberal arts projects. The government has a problem because we expect it to keep delivering the Social Security checks, the Medicare coverage, and the Medicaid payments (the bulk of which go to the elderly and disabled – not just the poor) our friends and family members rely on, but we don’t want to pay the taxes to support them.

We’re never going to get anywhere by believing the “you can have it all” campaign promises meant to draw in our votes and our donations. One of these days we’re going to have to wake up and face the uncomfortable realities awaiting us.

I guess on health care, at least, we just haven’t reached that day.




 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

 

 

March 31, 2017 11:07
By Julie Walsh


Remembering Cardinal Keeler



Cardinal William H. Keeler speaks to the media prior to leaving Baltimore for Rome to participate in the papal conclave in 2005. (CR File)


I had planned to write on another topic today, but when I woke to see the news of Cardinal Keeler’s passing, all I could think about was him, so I thought I’d share those thoughts instead.

I am not someone who knew Cardinal Keeler well; like many hundreds if not thousands of others, I am someone who simply encountered the cardinal, who met him and watched him and who feels blessed to have done so. But though I have no intimate or profound experiences to relate, I can tell you about the love and light I felt when I was around Cardinal Keeler, and which I feel now as I remember him.

I grew up in the Archdiocese of Baltimore – I was ten when Keeler was installed as Archbishop and nearly thirty when he retired – so to me, the cardinal looms large as a representation of bishops, and of the Archdiocese, and indeed of the Church itself.

But not just because of his position.

Cardinal Keeler was one of those rare individuals who made everyone feel like they counted. He connected with people. He was funny and clever and he had this sparkle in his eye that made you feel like you were in on the joke. The cardinal exuded love and warmth and an intangible quality that must have had something to do with the light of Christ. You just felt lucky to be around him.

I first met Cardinal Keeler when I participated in the Archdiocese’s High School Leadership Institute (High LI). Somehow I ended up with the job of introducing His Eminence to the crowd and sitting with him (moderating, perhaps?) as he answered questions. I remember that he anticipated my nerves and set me at ease.

Years later, when I was working at the Maryland Catholic Conference, my colleagues and I loved answering the phone when he called. He’d stop and inquire about you before asking to be passed along to the person he needed. He was always kind. He was always gentle. And yet Cardinal Keeler was also sharp – purposeful and firm.

I saw Cardinal Keeler at countless events – in parishes, at my college, in the Statehouse, at meetings and dinners – and he seemed to bring life to each of them. That’s not a super unusual quality for well-known people to have – I’ve shared spaces with lots of “important” people and they often cause excitement when they walk into a room. But (and this is kind of hard to explain), I found that when Cardinal Keeler was in a group of people, he didn’t just cause excitement; he also altered the group’s dynamic. His wake wasn’t flat; he left you feeling more loving and committed for having been near him.

When I worked for the Conference, we were often reminded that for some people, we would be The Church to them, we would be Christ to them. We would speak to a legislator or an advocate or a hurting parishioner, and we had the weighty responsibility of conveying – in our honesty and kindness and clarity and mercy – God’s love to them.

From everything I saw of Cardinal Keeler, he lived out this responsibility beautifully. From his leadership in the Archdiocese and the brotherhood of bishops, to his work as a bridge-builder between Christians and Jews, to his everyday interactions with his flock, Cardinal Keeler was a man who – with gentleness and wit – lovingly conveyed the love and light of Christ.

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.


 

March 23, 2017 04:18
By Julie Walsh


Politicians Are People Too (Why we should welcome the #bipartisanroadtrip)


Other than the BBC Dad story (which makes me laugh to the point of tears pretty much every time I watch it), my favorite story of the week is of the #bipartisanroadtrip – a two-day drive undertaken by Texas Congressmen Will Hurd (a Republican) and Beto O’Rourke (a Democrat). The two men, who don’t seem to have had much of a relationship before the trip, decided to team up to get to Washington in time for some votes after their flights were canceled due to our winter storm.

During the trip, the congressmen talked policy, fielded some calls, uploaded videos to Facebook (of course) – and generally just got to know one another. And… whaddya know? It turns out that they kind of like each other. These two politicians from opposite sides of the aisle found some common ground; they built up some good will.

Moreover, because Hurd and O’Rourke broadcast their trip on social media, they were able to bring other Americans along with them on their journey. Not just their literal journey, their tens of hours together in a car – their journey toward a friendly, productive working relationship.

Man, do we need these kinds of stories right now, or what?

I’m a dreamer and an idealist, so it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in this sort of thing. Indeed, during the election I nursed this fantasy of a Congressional exchange program, wherein Congressmen from opposing parties would be paired with colleagues whose districts are dramatically different from their own. I love the idea of an urban Congressman sitting down to a backyard barbecue on some ranch in Montana, a western Congressman attending a church service in inner-city Baltimore, a wealthy suburbanite Congressman visiting a VFW in the rust belt, etc. (Let’s call this idea #347 for me to fund and promote when I win the lottery.)

But I can be practical too, and I know that with the way politics works these days, any politician who tries to reach out to the other side risks being swatted down by his own. These are divided, partisan times. And politicians can be victims of that paradigm just as they are perpetrators of it.

What a terrible shame that is.

When I was a kid, my Granddad was a local elected official. He served for something like 15 years, a Republican in a Democrat’s state, and get this – he made lots of friends on both sides of the aisle. I don’t mean the kind of “friends” who pay for influence. I mean that Granddad – a good, kind man who loves people – became known as a good, kind politician who loved people. And so people (including politicians) loved him.

Years later, when I was lobbying the state legislature, I encountered many of the same politicians who had interacted with my Granddad when he was in office. Each time, the discovery of their relationship was such a gift to me. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I had someone tell me, “I just love your grandfather. I didn’t always agree with him, but I loved working with him and I really respect him.” Their respect for Granddad had nothing to do with his (sometimes stubborn!) policy positions; it had everything to do with how he treated other people.

During the 2016 primary campaign, I could see how pained Granddad was at the tone of the thing. “I wish someone would tell people that politicians aren’t all bad,” he sighed. I agreed, but the wish just seemed futile.

Which brings me back to the #bipartisanroadtrip. This story may seem a little too silly or idealistic or naïve; it may remain in the news cycle for approximately fifteen more minutes. It may cost Congressmen Hurd and O’Rourke, politically. But I’m so glad they undertook it.

We voters need to see politicians as human, as real people with friends and family, eclectic tastes in music, maybe a deep love for coffee. But more than that: We voters need to give politicians the space to see each other as human. We need to support them in their efforts to get to know one another, to consider different perspectives, to talk policy, not shout it. We should allow them to be something as simple as . . . friends.

As far as I’m concerned, a caffeine- and social media- fueled road trip isn’t such a bad way to start.



 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls
 

March 16, 2017 02:10
By Julie Walsh


Happiness isn’t everything (Part Two)


The other day I wrote a piece on happiness, on how transient and subjective it is, and how it therefore makes a poor measure for determining the worth of a thing.

(In that case, I was mostly referring to the ‘thing’ of reproductive technologies – efforts that aim to make people happy by making them parents, or by producing for them children who are healthier or otherwise more desirable than they might have been.)

Of course, there are countless such ‘things’ in life, and it can be dangerous to allow their potential for making us happy to overshadow their worth on other counts. When we do that, we run the risk of hurting others to help ourselves, or even harming our own long-term interests in favor of the short-term.

But I think there’s a more important tendency to think about here. As bad as it can be to use happiness to measure the worth of a thing, it’s much worse (and it can be more consequential) to use happiness to measure the worth of a life.

We see this happen all the time: People advocate for abortion because they think death is better than the unhappiness of poverty and single parenthood. Parents choose abortion because they think death is better than the unhappiness of disability. Teens and adults choose suicide because they think death is better than the unhappiness they’re struggling through. People advocate for physician-assisted suicide because they think a swift death is better than the unhappiness of a lingering decline.

But worth isn’t as tidy as that.

There’s so much more to life than happiness. There’s the good we can do, the witness we can be, the lessons we can learn, the impact we can have on others. There are glimpses of beauty on gray days. There are small, silly joys in dark times and there are hard truths that steel us for the work ahead. There is mercy to be given and received.

You can pursue happiness your whole life – pleasurable things, delicious food, attractive company, exciting experiences, exotic surroundings – and wind up hollow and disappointed in the end. You can live a charmed, healthy life and still miss out on so much.

Alternately, you can live a life of service and sacrifice – experiencing plentiful hardship and little happiness as we would think of it – and wind up satisfied. (Think of the lives of so many of the saints.) You can live through illness and injury and still love your life.

That last point was pounded home to me by a recent Catholic Review article on Maryland’s physician-assisted suicide legislation. The article describes the testimony of a woman named Sheryl Grossman, who has a rare condition that has inhibited her growth and made her prone to cancer.

Ms. Grossman “recounted how as she was undergoing treatment at a Baltimore hospital for her seventh cancer, a lymphoma that had metastasized, a physician who was a department head entered her room.

‘She said, ‘You know, you don’t have to do this anymore . . . You have been through so much. You can stop at any time; it’s OK. We can simply turn off the machines or increase your pain meds. It won’t take long; you’re 37 pounds.””

Ms. Grossman objected. “I gave my last conscious energy to trying to scream, ‘No,’ and to trying to get her out of my room… I love my life.”

Whether we’re talking about the beginning of life or its end, we have to dispose of the shallow notion that what really matters in life is happiness (and health). Life is so much bigger than that. The human mind and soul are so much more capable than a simple happiness measure can gauge.

The other day I argued that “Happiness is like a cloud at sunset: bright and colorful for a moment. It is constantly changing form. It swells with beauty, increases in wonder – and then dissipates into the dark night.” That is indeed how I see happiness (and that sunset) – as beautiful and worthwhile. But I see beauty and worth in that dark night too. I see them in the fog, in the drizzle, in the downpour. I see them in the storm, and I wonder at its anguish.


 


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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook pageYou can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.

 

March 09, 2017 05:41
By Julie Walsh


Happiness isn’t everything


A couple of weeks ago, The Economist published a commentary called “Sex and science.” Its print edition carried the subtitle, “Ways of making babies without sex are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced.”

I’m a big fan of The Economist. I love the breadth of issues it covers, I love its wit, I love pondering the questions its articles and commentaries bring to my mind. But I found this particular piece to be so unsatisfying.

To be sure, I was always going to disagree with the conclusions of a commentary bearing the subtitle “Ways of making babies without sex are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced.” But more than that, I think “Sex and science” fell flat. It offered up a complex, even mind-bending set of possibilities and considerations and then answered them not with an elegant argument, but with a simplistic, “Happy parents and healthy children make a pretty good rule for thinking about any reproductive technology.”

Happiness and health: the only measures that matter, apparently.

“Sex and science” advocates for research into the next generation of human reproductive technologies. It embraces the now-familiar earlier generations (artificial insemination by donor and in vitro fertilization) and seems to look forward to the day when children can also be routinely created from the genes of one parent (cloning) or three (mitochondrial transplantation.) Or from two parents, but with gene editing to avoid disease or advantage certain characteristics, or to allow gay couples to produce children related to both parents.

The article casually mentions ethical concerns about such practices and the research required to make them possible, but doesn’t attempt to answer the concerns with much more than a “disgust is not a good guide to policy.” That and “the test of happy parents and healthy children is the right one.”

I spent a good week feeling very disappointed in The Economist, frustrated that it would be so sloppy as to skip over a whole field of ethical concerns only to land on the squishy, transient good of “happiness.” But then I had to acknowledge to myself that this is a much wider trap, one into which most of us (including me!) fall at some point or another. (And into which many of us fall over and over again.)

How many times do we think of our children’s futures and say that we “just want them to be happy”? How often do we rank our own happiness – as temporary as it might be – over any other consideration? How willing are we to brush away nagging questions about the right and the good and the responsible when they risk getting in the way of something that we think will make us happy?

Happiness comes and goes throughout our lives. (Health does too, for that matter.) And though we pursue it in big ways (a spouse, a child, a job, a house) and small (food, clothing, entertainment), happiness is too elusive to be captured for long. Ultimately the goals we seek – the ones we’re just sure will make us happy – can only ever get us part of the way there.

Parenthood is a good and beautiful thing, but contrary to the offhand promises of “Sex and Science,” it is no guarantor of happiness. Ask the postpartum mother struggling with depression. Ask the parents dealing with a teenage rebellion. Ask the grandparents whose children have cut them out of their grandchildren’s lives.

I don’t mean to suggest that happiness (or parenthood) isn’t worth pursuing, that it doesn’t add to our lives, or that it can’t go right alongside the beautiful and good. I only mean to say that happiness is too fickle and subjective a quality to be used as a measure.

Happiness is like a cloud at sunset: bright and colorful for a moment. It is constantly changing form. It swells with beauty, increases in wonder – and then dissipates into the dark night.

(Come back tomorrow for more thoughts on this subject.)



 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls
 

March 07, 2017 12:39
By Julie Walsh


Hard plans changing a hard heart: Empathy for immigrants fearing deportation


When I worked as a lobbyist, I dealt with no issue more wrapped up in emotion and anxiety than immigration. It was the only one I ever had people call and scream at me about, it was the only one that tested my personal relationships, it was the only one that made me feel attacked and betrayed.

But it was also the only issue to really change something in my heart.

Having come from a conservative background, there was something in me that was wary of the immigration question – not opposed, exactly, to immigrants or immigration, but cautious, skeptical, reluctant. Soon after diving into the issue, however, my heart was changed. It was changed by the warmth of the immigrants I encountered and by their anxiety too; it was changed by their stories, their hopes, and their fears.

It was also changed by their plans.



A woman holds a child's hand as they arrive for a rally in support of immigrants' rights in New York City Dec. 18, 2016.  (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 


There is nothing from that immigrant-advocacy period of my life that has stuck with me more than the memory of undocumented immigrants making contingency plans for their own arrest, imprisonment, and deportation. It’s not anything I’d ever had cause to think about before: I mean, if somebody’s doing something illegal, how much is there to think about? They get arrested and they’re locked up or sent away – end of story. Right? (Wrong.)

Back then, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was conducting a series of workplace raids that had the immigrant community very nervous. We are a social animal, we humans – we do not live on our own. We live in families, in friendships, in neighborhoods and communities. We have responsibilities. People depend on us. We help others and we (hate to) ask for help ourselves. So when I say that the immigrant community was nervous, I don’t just mean that undocumented immigrants were nervous; I mean that their documented and citizen family members were nervous, their schools and churches were nervous, their friends and neighbors and daycare providers were nervous.

The advocates I worked with offered training to immigrants to prepare them for the raids. They helped people to understand what their rights were, what they were and weren’t legally required to say and do. They encouraged them to prepare for the possibility of arrest: Put your documents in order; keep them in a safe place; tap a friend or family member to retrieve them in your absence. Organize your financial responsibilities – your rent or mortgage, your insurance, your car and phone and utility bills. Set aside some money to pay the most essential ones.

And here’s the kicker, the one that chokes me up every time I think of it: arrange for someone to pick up your kids from school. Do not leave your children to come to the end of the school day and find no one there to get them because Mommy’s been detained by ICE. Identify a person you trust, in whose care you can leave your children, and ask them to take on that responsibility – possibly for a long time.

I recently found myself struggling with an issue that, while not important in the grand scheme of things, was causing me real anxiety on a daily basis. It struck at my sense of security; it made me feel less than whole. One afternoon as I walked across my back yard, I felt as though I were being swarmed by this issue, like my pack of needy children were chasing me, clamoring for my attention.

Suddenly I stopped short, remembering those immigrant families who don’t know from one day to the next when one of them will be taken. Talk about insecurity, about not feeling whole – can you imagine fearing, day after day, that your husband could be taken from you? That you could be taken from your children? Can you imagine the anxiety of not knowing how long your family will remain intact?

These days too many people know that anxiety. With ICE broadening its enforcement targets to include those arrested or convicted of even minor crimes, it’s been estimated that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants now find themselves prioritized for deportation. (Not because undocumented immigrants are more prone to crime than you or I, but because “minor crimes” include even some traffic violations – and of course the flubs people make when they don’t have legal access to documentation like Social Security numbers.)

This is why so many in immigrant communities across our nation are anxious right now. They’re having to plan for the possibility that their families – their very lives – will be torn apart. What a thing to plan for.

I think that we – as Christians, as descendants of yesterday’s immigrants, as people who have the luxury of expecting our life to continue along the path we’ve set out on – ought to dwell on those plans right now. We ought to think on what we would do and how we would feel if we were suddenly plucked from the home, the work, the family we love. We ought to have empathy for and mercy on those who find themselves in that position today.



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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.

 

February 16, 2017 01:47
By Julie Walsh


Trying to decide when to panic (Part Two)


I used to think of myself as the stubborn, brave, independent type – the type who spoke the truth and stuck up for the oppressed no matter the consequences. After all, I was a kid who stood up to bullies. I regularly stick up for myself. I used to make my living advocating for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger. I write on contentious issues – issues that wrangle with the concept of justice – all the time.

But the older, or the more self-aware, or the more flawed I become, the more I see how gutless I can be.

Last year I read Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. In it, there is a scene in which the students of a Nazi-run military school are directed to abuse a (presumably Jewish) prisoner, whom they’ve been told is an escapee from a work camp. The boys are taken outside at 2 a.m. on a cold February morning, where they find the skeletal, barely-clothed man tied to a stake. At their superior’s direction, the boys approach the man one by one, oldest to youngest, to splash him with a bucketful of freezing water. Each time, a cheer goes up from the crowd.

One of the book’s protagonists, Werner, is an underclassman at the school. He takes in the scene with something like horror; he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. But when his moment comes, when it’s his turn to approach the prisoner, Werner does as he’s told. He splashes his bucketful of water and resumes his place with the first-year cadets. Only Werner’s friend Frederick, a sensitive yet steely boy, has the courage to resist. He pours his bucket of water onto the ground. Handed another, he does the same. Handed a third, he pours it out with an “I will not.”

After I read that scene I felt a dull, gnawing kind of shame because I realized that if I’d been in Werner’s position, I’d have probably done the same as him. I realized that despite the story I like to tell myself – the story of a me who sticks up for the little guy, who stubbornly holds tight to honor and fights injustice – I’m really the kind of person who just wants to get along. I want to get along, move along, keep my head down, cling to whatever comforts I can grasp. I am a Werner, not a Frederick.

I was thinking about that scene the other day as I washed dishes. I was staring out the window, my hands moving under the water, when I suddenly felt a surge of sympathy for the German housewives who turned a blind eye to the build-up to the holocaust. Not because I think they deserve much sympathy (and not because I think we’re in for a repeat of Nazi Germany – I mostly find those fears to be too dramatic or too convenient), but because I now understand how blinded people can be by the mundane.

Day in and day out, my work is to care for my family. I am engaged in an ever-repeating litany of tasks: the dishes, the laundry, the diapers, the meals, the errands, the crawling-around-on-my-hands-and-knees-to-wipe-egg-off-the-floor. There is never enough time. There is always something or someone needing my attention. It is always easy to slip into the lie that this is it – that today’s litany of tasks is all that matters, all that will ever matter.

In this environment, one in which the everyday mundane and the everyday beautiful and the everyday frustrating loom larger than anything else, I have to wonder: Have I become blind to the reality of our day?

Which is it? Is my inclination correct – are constant cries of “Our country is being destroyed!” simply overreactions to disagreements on public policy positions? Or could a more fundamental shift be rumbling beneath our feet?

After all, no human construct is immortal. All governments fall. All societies change. People do real damage to civic institutions and public trust. “Universal” ideals cease to captivate the imagination.

Just as we should be wary of “sky is falling” tendencies, we should also be wary of taking our stable, democratic, republican government for granted. “We the People” are fully capable of messing this thing up.

I have no answers here; I haven’t flipped from “just another day in politics” to “the sky is falling.” I haven’t decided when to panic. But I’m trying to not be dismissive of other people’s panic. I’m trying to remember that no human construct is immortal; I’m leaving open the possibility that our country, or our system of governing it, might really be in danger.

And I’m thinking and praying about who I am – about how empathetic I am to others’ pain, about how I react to injustices, about the role I’m called to play in this world, and about how far this world stretches beyond my kitchen-sink window.



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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.  



 

February 09, 2017 09:49
By Julie Walsh


Trying to decide when to panic (Part One)


I’m trying to decide when to panic.

Standing where I am (somewhere in the middle, I suppose) I turn to face my friends on the left and panic is pretty much all I see. Well, panic and its more sober, productive, currently-popular relation: resistance. I see people who are more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government is heading; they fear that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – is coming undone. They fear that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

Turning to face my friends on the right, I mostly see amusement or bemusement or even satisfaction at the Left’s distress. They think the panic is overblown. If they supported Trump’s “bull in a china shop” campaign persona, they’re thrilled to see it carried over to his presidency. If they weren’t crazy about that persona then, well, they’re mostly just relieved to see Trump heading in the right direction. Clumsy steps in the right direction are better than agile steps in the wrong one, they seem to say.

Personally, I think my conservative friends have too quickly forgotten their own Obama-era panic. And I think my liberal friends are suffering (among other things) the consequence of never really paying much attention to that earlier panic to begin with.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of times in the past eight years I heard someone say that President Obama was destroying our country. Not “I don’t like the guy,” not “I disagree with what he’s trying to accomplish,” but a flat-out “Obama is destroying our country.” I heard, over and over again, from people who were more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government was heading; they feared that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – was coming undone. They feared that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

I’m sure you see what I’m trying to get at here.

(And I expect that if you find yourself firmly on one side or other of the Left/Right divide, you’ll probably find my comparison lacking. “But Obama really was destroying our country,” you might say. Or, “But Trump really is destroying our country.”)

For years, the Right has feared an ever-strengthening executive branch, an activist judiciary, and a degradation of the concept of free speech. (Via a culture that aims to dictate what is acceptable to think and feel and say.) They have feared runaway regulations and the global ambitions of the elite, which they think have been stifling opportunities for the little guy.

And now the Left fears an ever-strengthening executive branch, an activist judiciary, and a degradation of the concept of free speech. (Via a political movement that aims to intimidate its opponents and undermine the very idea of truth.) They fear an institutional entrenchment of the prejudices and tribal-like alliances that stifle opportunities for the little guy.

Regardless of which side you’re on, it seems to be easy to slip into the fear that the sky is falling.

But I’ve never been the “sky is falling” type. I tend to be pretty cool in crises, pretty skeptical of end-of-days fears. Though I disliked many of President Obama’s policy goals and many of his methods for achieving them, I never thought he was destroying our country. I’d answer my conservative friends’ incredulity at that position with something like, “I can disagree with someone and not think they’ll be the death of us all.”

So what am I supposed to do now? My friends on the Left want me to panic, to resist. My friends on the Right mostly want me to shut up, I expect.

Should I do the same for President Trump as I did for President Obama? “I can disagree with someone and not think they’ll be the death of us all.” The line suits me well: My inclination is to be watchful, to be skeptical, to refuse support to either side, to not enflame fears.

But – and this feels like a big “but” – I have to admit that I am no longer sure whether I should trust my inclination.

Read Part Two here.


 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.  



February 09, 2017 12:16
By Julie Walsh


Pro-Lifers need to talk about it all


With the recent attention to both the March for Women and the March for Life, I’m noticing an upswing in the chatter over what pro-lifers really stand for. The typical criticism goes something like: “You people only care about babies until they’re born!” or “You’re not pro-life, you’re pro-fetus!”

This is unfortunate.

First of all, because it’s unfair. Yes, there are some sad, strange people out there who are hung up on the issue of abortion though they bear no reverence for human life in the first place. Take abortion clinic bombers. Or some who cheered candidate Trump’s promise to kill the families of terrorism suspects. Or the trolls who recently commented online that my dear friend should have been aborted because they disliked a (maybe/kind of/not really pro-choice) image she was associated with. Thankfully, those people are rare. (And they shouldn’t even be called pro-life.)

And yes, there are some pro-lifers who can be thoughtless and inconsistent in how they conduct themselves. Sometimes the same woman who prays rosaries for unborn babies is decidedly unloving to the women who carry them. Sometimes people seem unable to transfer their affection for innocent, defenseless babies to the somewhat less innocent, defenseless people those babies grow into. I won’t defend this behavior, but I will point out that we’re all sometimes inconsistent. We’re all sometimes wrong. We all have things to work on within ourselves, and we should all get to working on them.

What I really want to talk about is the rest of us. Those of us who genuinely care about human life, who aim to protect it, who try to be consistent, but who differ on which efforts should be emphasized. Here’s what I see in the Catholic pro-life community: (I can’t speak to the rest of it.)

I see social-justice-minded people (you might say liberals) who honestly care about the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, but who think that bishops and other church leaders have focused on abortion at the expense of other issues. They want to see people speak up for vulnerable individuals who have already been born. They want to defend the child living in poverty, the undocumented neighbor, the family seeking refuge from a war-torn country, the man condemned to death. They oppose abortion, but they want to focus on these “least of these” because they feel like too many – including too many pro-lifers – have ignored them.

I see conservatives who honestly care about the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, but who feel that pro-lifers should be aiming the bulk of their efforts at the most elemental right of all: the right to be born. They want more than anything else to see people join together to bring down the legal “right” to abortion and the industry that makes it possible. They may in theory support those living in poverty, or immigrants, or refugees, or those sentenced to capital punishment, but they feel like they will only be able to move on to other issues when their “least of these” – the unborn – have been protected.

(I should admit that conservatives seem to be split further into at least two camps: those who mostly agree with the social justice crew on how we should assist and protect vulnerable individuals, and those who would disagree, whose fiscal conservatism leads them to value private over public efforts to help those in need. This is another discussion for another time.)

I also see the hybrid: the people who can’t be mistaken as those who care about the unborn at the expense of the born or the born at the expense of the unborn. People who march against abortion and stand vigil for prisoners being executed. People who tutor immigrants in English and drop off supplies at crisis pregnancy centers. People who write letters encouraging their legislators to pass restrictions on abortion and to allow refugees into our country. People who embrace, and who are ready to tell you about, the full meaning of the label “pro-life.”

It’s natural that we should vary in our attachment to various issues, so I don’t mean to tell one set of pro-lifers or another that they’re wrong in focusing their efforts on x,y,z. You do you: pray at an abortion clinic, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to Catholic Charities / Catholic Relief Services / National Right to Life. Do your part, whatever it is, to advance the dignity of human life.

But I do think that all pro-lifers should do a better job of talking about it all. Liberal pro-lifers should speak against abortion just as they speak against poverty and discrimination. Conservative pro-lifers should speak for the immigrant and the refugee just as they speak for the babies. Because this divide has become too divisive. There is too much resentment. There is too much misunderstanding. There is too much distrust. There is too much space for evil to sneak its way in.

And there are too many women who hear that pro-lifers “only care about babies until they’re born” and believe it.

The honest truth is, each side of this divide is incomplete without the other. If human life is to be respected, it’s to be respected at all stages. If human life is to be respected, it is to be respected in all forms. If we Catholic pro-lifers truly believe that each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, then we’d better talk like we do. We’d better dwell on that idea, chew on it, practice it by saying it aloud.


 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

January 27, 2017 01:33
By Julie Walsh


Praying on This Inauguration Day

Today as we inaugurate a new American president, I sit at home nervous, waiting, wondering what will come of this all. I haven’t decided whether I’ll watch. I’m more likely to listen, the radio humming in the background as I busy myself with lunch and laundry and little ones.

But I’m sure to be praying.

I’ll be praying for our new president and for his family and staff, that they bear this pressure well. I’ll be praying for Congress, for government officials, for those who guide them. I’ll be praying for the countless numbers of people here and abroad whose lives will be touched by the policies to come.

I’ll be praying for us, the people, that we watch and listen and try to understand. I’ll be praying that we’re brave when we need to be and that we follow the lines of justice and truth more closely than those of partisanship.

I’ll be praying for wisdom, prudence, and mercy to settle upon President Trump and those who wield power alongside him. May they seek the true and advance the good. May they protect the vulnerable. May they manage well and honestly. May they remember the people on whose behalf they govern and may they be humbled in the face of the responsibility they bear.

May ours be a country guided by ideals, not interests.

May we be a people who participate, who chew and work and struggle to make a difference. May we be honest with ourselves. May we be true to the America we wish to see, not the one we fear.
































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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

January 20, 2017 11:55
By Julie Walsh

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