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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As I think you know, Abigail, I admire you very much! I remain in awe of your ability to live out your convictions and to pass that quality on to your children. I find your example to be so encouraging; thank you for sharing your passions and your efforts with us!

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Thank you! Interesting to know that you, having studied that point in history, have had some similar thoughts to my own. I agree, too, with your point on checks and balances. I think we have a well-crafted, if sometimes clunky system of governance. Hopefully it will continue to serve us well.

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The Space Between

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


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


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.




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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 12, 2017 12:41
By Julie Walsh