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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The Space Between

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.
































***

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


A lot can happen in 90 days


Yesterday was a big day for political types: President-Elect Donald Trump gave his first press conference since the summer, the U.S. Senate held multiple confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominees to cabinet positions . . . and a little closer to home, the Maryland General Assembly opened its 2017 legislative session.

Most of the news outlets I follow focused exclusively on the two former points. (The NPR Politics podcast had a good one-hour overview last night on the radio.) And I’d wager they’re what most of us would have picked up on from our social media feeds. But I think the start of the Maryland General Assembly’s (90 day long) legislative session is a great opportunity to point out that there are other worlds when it comes to politics – worlds that many of us pay little attention to: our states, counties and cities.

For all the focus on national-level politics, many (most?) of the programs and policy decisions that impact our everyday lives are formulated much closer to home than Washington, DC.

Schools, roads, assistance programs, the environment, hospitals and clinics, business incentives and regulations – the State of Maryland (and your state too, if you live elsewhere) has a hand in it all. And in turn, organizations that you and I care about – our faith communities, our schools, labor or business or other advocacy organizations – have a hand in the development of the laws, policies and regulations of the state.

I used to work for the Maryland Catholic Conference, which advocates to the Maryland General Assembly on matters of importance to the Catholic Church. The conference works on issues related to poverty, healthcare, immigration, justice, education, the family, human life and more.

Yesterday the Catholic Review published a story that outlines the conference’s expectations for the next 90 days. This year they include focuses on assistance for low-income students attending nonpublic schools, juvenile justice, paid sick leave, the earned income tax credit and physician-assisted suicide.

If you’re not yet familiar with the conference’s work, I hope you’ll check it out. Maybe attend Catholics in Annapolis Night or join the Catholic Advocacy Network. If you’re in another state, look to see if you have a Catholic Conference where you are. (Most states do.)

Ninety days from now, the Senate will still be debating at least some of Trump’s appointments. We’ll still, I expect, be witnessing a tense back-and-forth between the president and the media. We’ll probably feel stuck on a whole range of issues and relationships.

But in that time, we’ll also have seen much movement at the state level. Maryland will have passed a budget and hundreds of other bills that will impact our lives for years to come. Let’s pay attention, because lot can happen in 90 days.




***
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 12, 2017 12:41
By Julie Walsh


Let’s not hurry the downward spiral: New Year, New Presidency, New Chance


Here we are, at the beginning of a new year and just a couple weeks away from a new presidency. I feel like it’s time for me to gather my wits about me.

Because of the election, and because of holiday stress and other stress and a stomach bug that took too long to wind its way through my family, I feel like I floundered my way through the end of 2016. I was worried and anxious, wrapped up in the moment, unable to see my way out of it.

On the political front (the stomach-bug front is self-explanatory), my problem was that I didn’t know how to feel, or what to do, or whose side I was on. I’d had problems with both major candidates for the presidency, so I was set up to be disappointed no matter the result.

In my disappointment, it was easy for me to sympathize with the millions who were upset about Donald Trump’s victory. I saw (and continue to see) much potential for trouble in his presidency – corruption, injustice, dishonor, a further degradation of our political and civic culture, some very problematic public policy aims.

But I didn’t (and don’t) share all of the Trump-bashers’ fears. I think some are overblown. Others (anything having to do with abortion or Supreme Court justices, for instance) are not fears for me at all – they’re my silver linings.

And anyway, it just feels strange to sympathize with a side that keeps veering off course (in my view), from a focus on Trump and his eager supporters to an attack on conservatives at large.

Why must we choose a side and hold onto it so tightly?

During the campaign, of course, the “side” thing was taken to a frenzied, fevered pitch. Third-party voters like myself were told in one breath that we were essentially voting for Clinton and in the next that we were essentially voting for Trump. (The supposed beneficiaries of our votes aligning perfectly with our critics’ bogeymen.) Our votes – our actual votes – weren’t good enough. We either had to hate Trump enough to vote for Clinton or hate Clinton enough to vote for Trump. People seemed downright blinded by the binary.

But that was then, back when we were facing a black-and-white choice on a ballot. What about now?

No doubt, many will choose to continue carrying on this way. Some will think we owe allegiance to one side or the other. Some will think that any kindness or concession to the opposing side is a blow to their own. Some will think that their own side’s transgressions must be overlooked in the interest of some Important Ultimate Goal.

But I think this attachment to the binary is the absolute worst course we could take as Americans, as lovers of democracy and liberty and justice. No one wins in the downward spiral of suspicious, spiteful, partisan politics.

I think liberals should choose their enemies carefully. Targeting Trump’s foibles and the dangerous rhetoric of his most devoted supporters is one thing – but painting everyone who voted for him as racist or misogynistic or daft will only lead to liberals’ isolation and ineptitude.

And I think conservatives (we conservatives – I’m one of them) should embrace our near-historic strength* as an opportunity to free ourselves from the power of our bogeymen. Hillary Clinton is gone. President Obama is on his way out. It’s time to stop gauging Trump against Clinton/Obama and start gauging Trump against the good and true and just.

It’s time to stop looking over our shoulder and start looking forward.

If we don’t have an opportunity now – *with the presidency, majorities in both houses of Congress, and a majority of governors’ mansions and state houses – when will we have it? Now is the time to work towards our ideal, not to react to someone else’s.

So at the beginning of this new year and this new presidency, I have one primary goal for myself and one big call for others: Let’s stop feeling an obligation to choose sides. Let’s embrace our freedom. Let’s not hurry the downward spiral.


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 05, 2017 01:38
By Julie Walsh


In this Moment


This past weekend my husband and I went on a tour of (mostly) historic homes all decked-out for Christmas in Frederick. I "ooh"ed and "aah"ed at the lovely decorations, he puzzled over the architectural details, and we both admired the beautiful spaces, generally.

In one of the houses, a volunteer answered our compliments with something like, “You’ll get home and look around and everything will disappoint in comparison.” I just grinned at my husband, because I knew what she didn’t: We too have a historic home, and a pretty fancy one to boot.

But really, she was right. Because as much as I love our beautiful old home, walking into it is not like walking into a home carefully prepared for hundreds of paying visitors. I open the door and trip over boots and boxes and toys. I maneuver around backlogs of dirty dishes and laundry and trashcans waiting to be emptied. I sigh at tabletops covered with papers, which represent a to-do list that seems miles long.

Real life is real life, no matter the home in which it plays out. And of course real life – and the real world in which it plays out – is usually pretty messy.

Right now it seems especially so.

Lately I feel like a failure at pretty much everything I try to do: mothering, managing my household, blogging, being a good friend and an involved member of my extended family. (I know I’m not actually a failure, but it sure feels like it at times, especially as the holidays multiply our obligations.)

I feel like I’m a failure at being an attentive and engaged citizen. My post-election sense of being overwhelmed has not gone away. I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the competing news stories and the competing narratives of single news stories. I haven’t weighed in on anything. I haven’t gotten my little “let’s get people of different political stripes together to talk” project off the ground. (Status: information gathered, dates not yet set.)

I feel kind of like I have writer’s block, except it has to do with the thinking of the whole thing, not the writing. As I become more consumed with events at home (some of them pretty stressful), I pay less attention to news from the outside. And as I pay less attention to the news, I feel increasingly less capable of any sort of mental and emotional wrangling with the world.

But I’ve been trying, when I think of it, to rely on a strategy from an earlier point in my life: putting aside my worries about what I’m not achieving and instead focusing on what I am doing in a particular moment. Usually (but not always), that "doing" is pretty constructive, even if it seems insignificant in the scheme of things.

“In this moment, I’m holding my baby close.”

“In this moment, I’m reading to my son.”

“In this moment, I’m working to ensure that my family has clean clothes to wear.”

“In this moment, I’m helping a friend.”

“In this moment, I’m smiling at a stranger.”

“In this moment, I’m holding open a door.”

“In this moment, I’m exploring the veracity of a story that came across my newsfeed.”

“In this moment, I’m praying for a friend / a cause / a beleaguered population.”

The strategy helps. I figure that if I can’t manage an overarching, coordinated, obviously-constructive way for going about my life, I can at least move forward in small ways. And I can rest in that knowledge.

Small things are worth doing. Constructive things can move you forward even when they’re not well coordinated. Something is something. Moments matter.
























***

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

December 07, 2016 04:16
By Julie Walsh


An insufficient response to the election




President-elect Donald Trump is seen with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in Washington, Nov. 10. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA) 


I don’t know about you, but the results of last week’s election have left me feeling completely overwhelmed.

First it was the election itself: While I wasn’t totally shocked that Trump won, I was surprised, and I swear it’s taken me lots of mental heavy lifting to adjust from my Clinton-framed view of what the next four years might be like to a Trump-framed view. As I said on Facebook the morning after the election, “I always considered both prospects for the presidency to carry some big negatives and some less-negatives. I'm now trying to get used to a different set than I anticipated.”

Then there are the reactions of my loved ones – everything from despair to giddiness. Many have been thrust into something like mourning. Some are struggling to grapple with what has happened. Some are grasping at straws, trying for something, anything that might undo Trump’s election. Some have taken a more productive course of action, setting the stage for four years’ worth of opposition. Others seem to be pinching themselves, delighted that a culture that has been so dominated by one (progressive) view of the world has been disrupted. They’re eager for their chance to be heard.

There are the broader, wider reactions of people across the country:  those who march, those who riot, those who fight, those who are consumed by fear, those who feed it by marking up public spaces with hateful slogans, those who resent the intensity of it all.

There are the calls to action: To reach out, to stand up, to grow up.

There’s the confusion of the contingent to which I belong – conservatives who oppose the Republican Party’s swing towards populism; who disdain the Trump campaign’s associations with racism, sexism and fearmongering; who value life, liberty and the rights of the individual human person over electoral success. What do you do when your side becomes unrecognizable to you? What are the options for the politically homeless?




An AT&T truck burns as protesters riot in Oakland, Calif., following President-elect Donald Trump's victory in the Nov. 8 election. (CNS photo/Noah Berger, Reuters)

Like I said, it’s been overwhelming. And adding in the demands of my home and my four beautiful, exhausting little children, I feel like I hardly have enough energy for life these days, let alone any Big And Important Response to the election.

So here I stand, almost empty-handed. Insufficient.

The best image I can conjure up to describe what I mean by “almost empty-handed” is that of a woman tentatively approaching the home of a friend who has been grievously injured in an accident.

The woman is sad, she’s concerned, she’s confused. Her mind spins with the particulars of the accident and her friend’s precarious condition. She wants to help but doesn’t know what the family needs or whether she’s equipped to offer it. But she also has hope. The accident was not fatal. Her friend lives. She has loved ones who are willing to help her recover.

So the woman does a little something. She does all she can think to do, fully aware that it’s lacking. She walks up those front steps and knocks on the front door, and in the face of all that fear and anguish, she stands there, insufficient, holding a cake.

After my first, dull, hollow response to Trump’s election, my next response was better, though it was small and insufficient like that cake. I wanted to talk to people. Not to type angry comments into my phone, not to work up a diatribe against the conditions that brought us to this point – just to talk, in real life, to real people.

I thought of the people I’d been trading political points with online, friends from long-ago stages of my life. I thought of the people with whom I’ve felt a kinship, those who have given me hope. And I wanted to just sit with all of them in my parlor, holding a cup of something hot and a plate of something sweet – and talk. Just talk. About where I’m coming from and where they are, about the experiences that have lead us to those places. About why we think we’re right and what we want others to know about us. About the things we don’t understand about the other. I wanted to see faces and hear voices and remember that we’re all struggling for the good, stumbling and imperfect and insufficient as we are.

So I issued a little invitation to my friends and family on Facebook: “I want to get together a group of not-like-minded folks to talk about some big issues that divide us (abortion, gun control, immigration, race, whatever). Not to argue, not even to convince – just to help us understand each other. Just to ask questions and explain perspectives. I'll provide the place and the drinks; maybe others could bring an appetizer or dessert to share? What do you think?”

I was hoping for a half-dozen interested people who were local to me. But I got that and more. Around a dozen locals and more than a dozen people from across the country expressed interest in participating, so now I’m putting together several discussion groups, some to meet in person, some via video chat.

It’s not much. It’s only a little brave, not a lot. It’s an insufficient response to all the fear and frustration our country is going through right now. God willing, it won’t be all I do.

But at this moment, this is what I’ve got. I am by nature a friendly person who reaches out and wants to know people. And right now, overwhelmed as I am, that’s the instinct I’m going to rely on.



***

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.

November 17, 2016 11:17
By Julie Walsh


A prayer for our country


The other day I posted this woeful little snippet on Facebook, along with an incongruously beautiful photo of fall trees:

“This election has left me feeling emotionally exhausted.

I know I'm not alone in that. I know that most are ready for it to just be over, already. But I derive no comfort in the fact that Election Day is just one day away. Everything that divides our country today will continue to divide us tomorrow. And Tuesday's results, whichever way they swing, will be bitterly contested. (If not legally, then in the court of public opinion.)

It seems more appropriate to me than ever before that we do this in the fall. For we have a winter ahead, and we must get through it before spring can come.”



That’s a depressing thought, I know. But it’s a good representation of where I find myself these days. I’m feeling weighed-down and serious. And ironically, I’m feeling far less nervous than I normally do before an election, because we’re sunk so deeply in the mud this time that I can think of no electoral outcome to offer us relief. Nov. 8 will not end our ordeal.

So I’m not praying for Election Day to come at us with greater speed. I’m not praying for one candidate’s triumph. I’m not praying for a particular partisan or demographic turnout. I’m praying something like this:

Dear Lord,

Please be with us. Please abide in our hearts so as to nudge us, the American people, to seek goodness and truth, justice and love. (In other words, to seek You.)

Help us to dispel the anger, fear, and resentment we have been harboring. Help us to heal the wounds that have degraded our relationships and divided our country. Help us to take an honest accounting of our roles in that division and to be brave enough to reverse course.

Help us to listen, to reach out, to speak honestly. Help us to stand up for our own convictions and to try to understand others’. Help us to respond to reason and good will, not provocation and malice.

Help us to value the vulnerable. Help us to speak up for others, especially those who cannot speak up for themselves.

Help us to give generously, to work hard, to understand that our citizenship conveys both opportunity and obligation.

Help us to elect upright, honorable individuals who will put the common good above personal gain.

Help us to remake our political parties so that they reflect different strategies for achieving human rights – not differences as to who deserves them.

Help us to weather this storm. Help us to awaken to its destructiveness and resolve to overcome it. Help us to renew our country, to remember its promise. Amen.


***

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


November 07, 2016 10:26
By Julie Walsh


Nov. 8 is not the end: Sympathy leading me forward


The turning point for me was Wednesday night’s debate. Specifically, the moment it became clear to me that Hillary Clinton was defending the indefensible (partial-birth abortion), I felt a surge in my chest: Sympathy. Every part of my clenched-up heart, which had for so long been agitated at the thought of all those pro-lifers supporting Donald Trump, just… released.

I still wasn’t there myself. I still wasn’t planning to ditch my write-in dreams. But when I heard Clinton express her support for that most tragic of offenses, I suddenly felt the weight of the obligation that many feel to support her opponent, whoever he may be. I experienced an explosive growth in the sympathy I feel towards pro-lifers who have come to a different conclusion than I have.

After that first gush of sympathy made its way through my system, more followed: Sympathy for the loyal Republicans who feel like they need to support their nominee come hell or high water. Sympathy for the people so angry with the status quo that they value its disruption over every other consideration. Sympathy for those who are so preoccupied with one candidate’s faults that they see no option but to support the other. Sympathy for those who work in such good faith for their side, with so little prospect that it will one day embrace full, equal human rights.

That one moment, which divided an already-divided country even further like some hammer coming down onto a wedge, splitting a log for the fire – it changed something in me.

This election is coming at us whether we want it to or not. Nov. 8 will come and people will make decisions we disagree with and most of us will find ourselves saddled with a president-elect we dislike. Those are givens. There is nothing we can do to change that outcome.

There is, however, much that we can do to change our collective future. We can pray, we can reach out, we can work. We can mend relationships. We can build up our communities. We can serve the vulnerable. We can support the efforts of candidates and political parties who are playing a long game, focused on the years ahead.

Nov. 8 is not the end. It’s just a stumbling block. I’m ready to look forward and I’m grateful to have sympathy lead the way.




***

This post is part of a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on my personal blog, These Walls, on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction

***

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.

 

October 24, 2016 01:26
By Julie Walsh


Don’t Turn Away: Attempt The Politics You Really Want




In the month that leads up to an Election Day, people always seem to be eager for the campaign season to end. Most years, I hear complaints about TV commercials and telephone calls. This year I’m not hearing that, because of course this is not most years.

This campaign has struck and unsettled and energized and annoyed people like none in our lifetime. We’ve forgotten that little things like televised campaign ads used to get under our skin. Today there are so many more, so much more worrisome things to bother us.

This year we’ve got mistrust and vulgarity and too many scandals to keep track of. We’ve got each side thinking the other will actually, literally destroy the country. We’ve got serious division between neighbors, friends, and family.

I feel like we’re undergoing a collective suffering. (Which, if it came from anything other than our division, might grow into a unifying experience. But no such luck on this one.)

This is all to say: I understand why people want to be done with this thing.

I understand why I’m seeing person after person complain on-line and in-person that they wish people would just stop talking about it. They want their Facebook newsfeeds to return to kids and puppy dogs. They want politics to stop encroaching on their neighborly conversations.

I get it.

But honestly, I don’t think we deserve that. I think we deserve to feel uncomfortable right now.

I don’t mean that as some sort of a punishment, some sort of Catholic guilt thing. (And I should probably find a better word for what I mean than “deserve.”) I just think that we should be present. We should inhabit the time in which we live. We should be attuned to the reality of our day, and today’s reality is uncomfortable.

I think this is a good time for challenging our own complacency, for praying, for considering what we really want for our country. And if we don’t want to be in this awful position again, this is a good time to think on how we can affect change.

As somebody who is naturally interested in politics, I know I’m biased here. But as the collective mood moves toward despair and avoidance, I worry: What will we solve if we shut it all out? How can we deal with a situation that we place off to the side, wanting not to think about it?

I firmly believe that at the core of it all – underneath all the scandal and intrigue and calcified factions – we still live in a great democracy. It’s under there somewhere. It has good bones.

We have the power to form our government into something we can be proud of. So let’s pay attention, let’s think, let’s chew, let’s work. (Let’s not tell ourselves that none of this matters.) Let’s point our minds and our energies towards the good. Let’s attempt the politics we really want.

I have some ideas as to what I can do. Do you?

***

This post is part of a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on my personal blog, These Walls, on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction

***

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.


October 17, 2016 09:49
By Julie Walsh


On My Mind (Vol. 8)




---1---

Now that we’ve had the first presidential debate of the general election, I feel like we’re entering the home stretch. Which is kind of a relief and kind of a worry. Anyone who has traced this campaign from its beginning is likely to be worn down by now. Yet Election Day, of course, will herald a new presidency and few of us seem particularly enthusiastic about either candidate. How will it feel to sit there on Election Eve, I wonder, weighing which kind of disappointment to root for?

---2---

Onto that debate: I thought about giving you my impression of it the day after, but it turns out that my assessment is pretty mild, and pretty much what I’ve heard from everyone else: Trump sort of impressed and surprised me for the first 20-or-so minutes of the debate. He kept his cool and he managed to dominate the conversation without coming across as obnoxious.

But then Trump seemed to remember himself. Hillary Clinton pushed his buttons and he responded accordingly. Again and again, Trump said things that would have been considered gaffes for previous nominees. (Such as seemingly confirming that he hasn’t paid federal income taxes by bragging that not paying them makes him smart.) It was all sort of typically difficult to take in, and I would be surprised if it attracted undecided voters to his cause. But I wouldn’t be surprised if his performance energized his base. They obviously like what they see in him and he gave them a fresh batch of it on Monday night.

---3---

Clinton was also true-to-form: knowledgeable, wonkish, a skilled debater. I imagine her performance came as a relief to her supporters, because this debate (like the election itself) was hers to lose. Trump has such a well-established, highly-divisive image that people either love him or loathe him. I can hardly begin to imagine anything that Trump could say or do at this point to push his supporters away from him or draw large numbers of undecideds towards him.

That’s not to say that Clinton doesn’t have a well-established, highly-divisive image too. Of course she does. But I think she has more control over the direction of this race. If Clinton makes blunders, her support will decrease. If she manages to come across as a solid, capable, presidential option, her support will increase.

Trump is who Trump is. Once I saw that Trump’s campaign could survive him saying, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," I knew that its future depended not so much on him, but on his opponents’ ability to corral the majority of Americans who aren’t attracted by that kind of bravado.

---4---

I do, however, think Clinton made a mistake in the debate by repeatedly calling on fact checkers to do their job. Fact checkers will do what fact checkers do. Her instructions to them only served to buttress her image as the ultimate insider, one who can direct the powers that be to do her bidding. That’s far from an asset in this race.

---5---

Given all the “post-truth” chatter I’ve been hearing and reading lately (and my own post from last week), I was kind of amused to hear a news clip of Trump telling a crowd of his supporters that the polls showed him as the winner of Monday evening’s debate. At first I couldn’t grasp what he was talking about, because the polls I’d heard of had Clinton winning the night by a wide margin. Was he just completely fabricating this result out of nowhere?

But then… ah, yes. That kind of poll. The kind a newspaper throws up on its website to get you to engage with it. Those polls are great fun, because you can cast your vote and see its impact immediately – 188,743 people have voted, and you’re in the majority! It’s so much fun to vote like that, in fact, that sometimes you feel like voting again and again, just to watch that number tick higher. Those are great polls (even if they’re nowhere near accurate). 

And… that’s it. I can’t make it to seven for this week’s Quick Takes. Ah, well. Have a great weekend, all!

 

***

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.

September 30, 2016 10:14
By Julie Walsh


On My Mind (Vol. 6)


---1---

Like many Americans, perhaps, I’m not very good at honoring the causes for which our federal holidays were established. Sure, we have Christmas and Thanksgiving (and usually the 4th of July) down. But the rest end up being primarily a day off from the daily grind and only secondarily a day for honoring veterans or our war dead or the civil rights movement or… presidents? (Is that what we’re supposed to do with that one?)

Other than Presidents’ Day, the holiday that seems least emotionally significant to me is Labor Day. I mean, Labor Day is the official end of summer, a day for barbecues and last dips in the pool, right?

Of course I know that it has something to do with the Labor movement. But since I have virtually no family heritage of organized labor (and indeed, my political heritage has been skeptical of that movement) the day has just never seemed significant to me.

But it’s good to be reminded of the ‘reason for the season,’ if you will. These pictures do that. They are mostly of children, working at jobs we can hardly imagine today, in conditions we wouldn’t dream of exposing our own children to. It is sobering to see photos of boys my own boys’ ages and to think of how alone and tired and scared they might have felt.

Next Labor Day I plan to stop to remember those children and the countless others (children and adults alike) who labored under circumstances that I – thank goodness – have hardly had cause to think about, let alone experience.

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I heard a radio segment the other day that really caught my attention. It was about a new novel from Jonathan Safran Foer called Here I Am. (Later The Diane Rehm Show hosted a fuller discussion of the book.) It’s about a Jewish family going through a domestic crisis while a geopolitical crisis unfolds elsewhere. The novel “asks a question that many people wrestle with - how do we put our daily problems in perspective when real problems all over the world cause death, starvation and destruction?”

Come on. That question is just about my bread and butter. I ask it of myself almost every day. (Yet I have no good answer.) So the following line from the book, regarding a doorknob at an upscale hardware store, stuck out to me: “[I]t was elegant, and it was obnoxious. And in a world where the bodies of Syrian children washed up on beaches, it was unethical, or at least vulgar.”

I wrestle with this problem all the time. Here I am in my nice house, washing my nice dishes after preparing our nice meals and washing our nice clothes – all in our nice neighborhood, while the world seems to be burning around us. How can I just go on living my life like people all over the world aren’t suffering while I handle my own elegant, vulgar doorknobs?



Foer seems to wrestle with how to weigh the good of how he spends his time (writing) against the good he could be doing in the world if he spent his time engaged in some other activity:

[W]hy am I doing what I'm doing when I'm a fairly able person? I was fairly well-educated. If I devoted my life to the problem of hunger in my neighborhood I would not solve it, but I would make some kind of dent. It would make - my life would make an impression on that problem. You know, no obstetrician comes home at the end of a week and says, oh, I delivered 13 babies this week. What's the point? The point is so plainly obvious. The point of telling stories is not obvious.

But the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert once said that imagination is the instrument of compassion. That, you know, we can learn all kinds of facts about another person, but when we are able to share our imagination with another it evokes compassion in a way that nothing else really does. And a lot of the - what we would call big problems in the world are problems of logistics, they're problems of politics and they're problems of compassion. It's not to say that, you know, sharing stories is going to help, you know, the poor Syrian immigrant. But it's got to be an important part of any kind of society that's going to be wrestling with the big problems.

This is pretty much why I write, and why I talk about the heavy stuff – politics, society, current events, even death – in my home. “[I]t's got to be an important part of any kind of society that's going to be wrestling with the big problems.”

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The Paulist Fathers have issued a beautiful Statement on Moral Issues in the 2016 Presidential Election. It begins:

It is hard to imagine a more challenging period in recent American politics than the 2016 presidential election cycle.  It has been a year dominated by shocking headlines that have left us disturbed and often disoriented.

Language and methods once considered out-of-bounds for political candidates have been found acceptable by a not-insignificant number of our fellow citizens.

Prejudices that we hoped dead were merely sleeping.  These prejudices have been awakened and given new voice.

As a community of Catholic priests, we do not endorse political candidates or political parties.  But, the issues of 2016 are not just political.  More than ever, the themes of this presidential campaign are moral ones that we, and all people of good will, are compelled to face and address.

Read the rest of the statement and its accompanying commentary. They are well done.

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In this mixed-up, upside-down campaign year, I almost feel like I don’t know myself. I grew up in a stalwart Republican family, yet I find myself writing more passionately on left-leaning issues than those on the right. And while I disapprove of both major party nominees, I’m genuinely more dissatisfied with the Republican than the Democrat. It’s crazy. I hardly know how to describe myself anymore.

The best I can come up with is “bleeding-heart conservative.” I prefer a smaller, more streamlined government. I place high values on personal responsibility and the primacy of the family. Yet I think that we as a society and a government have important roles to play in the world and at home: I prefer a more robust foreign policy and more generous immigration and welfare policies. I place the safety and wholeness of the individual human person (especially the unborn, the poor, the stranger, and others who are vulnerable) higher than any other public good.

Just watch me gush. In pretty much every post I write.

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I’ve been watching the breakdown of productivity in Congress over the past decade or so with a sort of detached disappointment. I mean, it was kind of depressing that those people couldn’t work together, but at least they couldn’t do much harm either – right?

Recently my disappointment has turned to disgust. It’s gone on too long. Too much has been made to wait, and too many inappropriate solutions have been sought because appropriate ones weren’t forthcoming.

Take President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, for instance. I agree with the meat of most of those actions, but I think it was a mistake for him to issue them. That sort of thing must come from Congress. Likewise with our military activities in the Middle East. Here is an interesting reminder that the “authority” (if it is a proper authority) for today’s actions in the Middle East stem from the Use of Force Agreement that Congress passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Fifteen years ago.

We get it, Congress. Your Republicans don’t like Democrats, your Democrats don’t like Republicans, your newbies don’t like the establishment, and your members seem to disdain themselves generally. But it’s been long enough. Let this election – this election of surprises and upsets and angst and sky-high unfavorables – let this be the end of your collective temper tantrum. It has become dangerous to our democracy and to the world.

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Have you been reading about the possibility that Russians are trying to interfere in our election? How scary is that?

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The time has come – as it does every year – for our minds and airwaves and newsfeeds to return to the September 11 attacks. As I write this segment of my post (on Tuesday), I’ve just heard my first commemoration of anniversary week.  And I’m kind of a mess.

Every year, I think enough time has passed since that day for me to surely be able to handle all the fuss, and every year I’m wrong. I was at work in Crystal City, Virginia the day of the attacks – near enough to the Pentagon to be physically disrupted from my intended activities, to be legitimately fearful for my safety, to see and smell and taste the smoke – and yet far enough to not really, actually be in danger. (I was about a mile away.)

Yet here I sit in a cold sweat, my heart pounding, my breathing deep and deliberate – just because I heard someone tell a September 11 story. I think that whatever I’m (still, all these years later) experiencing is probably kind of PTSD-ish. It gives me great sympathy for those who really, truly, fully struggle under that burden.

I once wrote about it – that horrible day and the effect it continues to have on me – on my personal blog: 

I know that my experience is nothing compared to that of those who escaped the Twin Towers, or who were injured in the Pentagon, or who searched frantically for information about their loved ones on that awful day and the ones that followed it. I don’t forget that thousands of people were lost and that thousands more continue to feel those losses acutely. I know that countless people feel like their lives were ripped apart that day.

Mine was not. I lost nothing more than some peace of mind.                                                                     

And yet, to this day the sight of a clear, cloudless sky just about sends me into a panic attack. I don’t dwell on the yearly memorials, because I can hardly handle them. Re-reading my journal entry from that day, hearing a mention on the radio, seeing a “never forget” bumper sticker or Facebook meme – even just thinking about September 11th – it causes the anxiety to mount. I have to switch gears before it overwhelms me.

So, I don’t know – I guess I just felt like I needed to mention it here. As I said elsewhere in that post, this is “my way of saying ‘never forget’ without relying on the memes that sucker-punch me. Never forget: that day was real; its impact lives on; those lives were valuable . . . God bless those who were lost that day. God bless those they left behind. God have mercy on those responsible. And please? Don’t forget the Pentagon.”

 

(I’m linking up with Kelly of This Ain’t The Lyceum for this week’s 7 Quick Takes. Come Friday, be sure to stop by her place to see what she and the other 7-Quick-Taking crowd have been up to.)

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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


September 08, 2016 12:18
By Julie Walsh

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