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

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


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.
























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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

December 07, 2016 04:16
By Julie Walsh


Good Bones


I’ve been trying to think of a Thanksgiving message suitable for this blog. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could list off all the things I’m thankful for in our political system, all the things that are looking up, that give me hope?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to that point. I’m not feeling particularly hopeful at the moment.

What I am feeling, however, is an underlying sense of trust. Not trust in the individuals that make up (or will make up) our government, but rather trust in the structure our framers built for us. It has good bones

Over the past eight years, half of our country has grown fearful of an all-powerful executive, a president who governs by fiat. Now the other half will know that fear. But our country’s founders knew it too, and they had it in mind when they designed our spread-out, clunky system.

Our laws are made at multiple levels: city, county, state, national. A seemingly countless number of electorates make decisions, based on the particularities of their location and make-up, on who governs them and how.

Then each level has its own set of checks and balances, and the higher you look, the more elaborate their arrangement. Our president is checked by Congress and the judiciary. Congress needs the president and is checked by the judiciary. The president needs Congress too. The judiciary is appointed by the president and requires the approval of (part of) Congress.

Executive agencies, legislative bodies, and the courts form an immense, complicated machine, wherein one cog can bravely (or stubbornly) decide to put a stop to the whole thing. Our system is better designed to stop than to do, and for one who fears the direction of a new government, that should be a comfort.

(Conservatives saw the value in that uncooperative-cog concept in the last administration; liberals will undoubtedly see it this time.)

So as worrisome as political developments may seem, I retain my basic trust in that spread-out, clunky system. I may disagree with the people who make it up, I may see few prospects for positive developments, but I trust that if things become truly dangerous, some sticky cog will get in the way.

God bless those sticky cogs.

And thank goodness for those good bones.

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A happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May you find yourself as full and food-happy as I’m sure to be after my (massive, just about ridiculous) meal with fifty of my closest family members. But may you also find yourself considerably more relaxed and peaceful than I’ll be. Just kick back and laugh at the thought of me chasing my four over-excited little children through that crowd!



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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

November 23, 2016 12:53
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.



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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.

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.


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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


November 07, 2016 10:26
By Julie Walsh


Why You Should Vote – Even When It Feels Like It Doesn’t Make a Difference


When I was a child, Election Day was one of my favorite days of the year. My grandfather was a local elected official, so for the kids in our family, Election Day not only meant NO SCHOOL, it meant the excitement of holding signs while shouting out, “Vote for my Pop-pop!” It meant handing out campaign materials at polling stations. It meant getting to stay up late at election night parties, watching with baited breath as folks scurried in with boxes of precinct results, which were then written-up on long, papered walls. (Now that results are released online, election night parties are considerably less exciting.)


These days, I greet Election Day with far less enthusiasm. (And this particular year I greet it with no enthusiasm at all. Nothing but dread.)

I’ve grown up. I’ve awakened to the fact that we live in an imperfect world full of flawed people. And I’ve now (mostly through my work as a lobbyist) had a close-enough view of politics to know that its poor reputation is pretty well deserved. I’ve become frustrated with our political system and I’ve given up the idea that any candidate (except my grandfather, of course) can be a knight in shining armor.

But I still vote. I vote in every single election and you should too. Here are some reasons why:




Vote As A Tribute

1)  People died so that we could live in a democracy. I know this argument can sound a little trite, a little tired. But it’s worth remembering. More than a million Americans have died in military conflicts since our country’s first fight for independence. They’ve fought so that we can have a say in our own governance, they’ve fought to keep our country together, to keep (or make) our people free, to protect us from threats. Each and every one of those casualties were real people, with loved ones and interests and struggles and hoped-for futures. We should not take their sacrifices for granted.

2) People struggled for the vote. It took decades of hard work for women to gain the right to vote and decades more for (most) stumbling blocks for minorities to be removed. Those struggles shouldn’t be taken for granted either.

3) Many still do not have the right to vote. Across the world today, billions of people are unable to make their voices heard through fair, secure elections. We shouldn’t pass up our own opportunities to vote when others would love to have them.

Vote To Make Whatever Difference You Can

4) Local elections matter. Though Congress and the presidency may dominate the news and even our political imaginations, our ballots are dominated by candidates and questions on the state and local levels. Which is appropriate, because that’s where most legislating is done. Roads, schools, law enforcement, social services – you name it – most of the decisions that impact our everyday lives are made at the state and local levels.

5) Margins in local elections can be really low. It’s simple math: your vote means more when fewer people are voting. With smaller electorates, state and local elections come down to the wire more often than federal elections do. And when they do, a handful of votes can make all the difference. Be part of the handful.

6) Assumptions can easily throw off a race. Are you assuming that the incumbent in your district is a shoe-in? Lots of other people are probably thinking the same thing. And when lots of people all make the same assumption… that’s when surprises happen. Maybe you like the guy, maybe you don’t – but when enough people stay home because they think he’s a sure thing, there’s a real chance that his opponent will catch him. Take challengers seriously. Don’t assume.

7) Your vote sends a message even when it’s not cast for the winner. Political types don’t just look to see who won a race. They look for how many people turned out, how close the margin was, how third-party candidates fared, etc. Maybe your guy won’t win. But if he does nearly as well as his opponent (or even just ‘better than expected’), that winner is more likely to tread carefully once he’s in office. Also, this election’s results may impact next elections’ prospects: a candidate who makes a good showing in one election cycle will likely have an easier time raising funds and attracting supporters in the next one.

8) National politicians start out as local politicians. If I haven’t pounded home the “local is important” message enough and you’re still not convinced that local politicians are worth paying much attention to, let me point out that national-level politicians come, almost exclusively, from the ranks of local politicians. Start paying attention to your local elected officials now, because your county councilman today might become your county executive tomorrow, your governor after that, and eventually your president. Have as much of an impact as you can on your local elected officials now, because they may influence your future in more ways than you can imagine.

Vote As A Legacy

9) Voting sends a message to your children that civic engagement is important. Maybe you live in a state (like I do) that’s completely dominated by one political party. Maybe you’ve rarely had one of your preferred candidates win an election. Maybe it feels like your vote has never mattered. But your children may find themselves in quite a different situation. They may go on to live in a different state, in a competitive district, where their vote makes a world of difference. Set the precedent now; help them to see voting as normal, as a responsibility and an honor.

Even if your children don’t end up in a district where they feel like they can make a difference, seeing you vote – in every election – will teach them something about stepping up. It will teach them something about doing their part, about trying to make a difference against all odds. Maybe it will even teach them something about bravery. Your example will serve them in more of life than just the voting booth.

So, Election Day is next week – what do we do now?

If you’re registered to vote but you’re not sure where your polling station is, look up your local board of elections. (Google your state board of elections first. It can direct you to your county or other local board.) Their website should let you input your address to find your polling station and maybe even a sample ballot. Find one there, or pull out the one they mailed to you a couple of weeks ago. It’s probably under that stack of paper sitting on your desk or your kitchen counter. (You know you’ve got one somewhere!)

Once you’ve gotten the kids to bed tonight, open up that sucker and do some good, old-fashioned cramming. Google the candidates and take a look at their websites. (But don’t expect too much from them. Maybe you’ll find a few policy statements, but most candidate websites are pretty vague.) More importantly, consider which issues are most important to you. Abortion? The environment? Friendliness to business? Labor? Are you a Catholic who wants to know where candidates fall on issues of concern to the Church? Whatever your priorities, look them up. Some groups make endorsements, others conduct candidate surveys. When you don’t know much about the candidates you’re asked to choose between, consult an organization you trust to see what it says about them.

Better yet, ask a knowledgeable friend. Do you have one of those – a friend or relative who’s been in your community forever and seems to know everyone? Do you trust their judgment? Call them up, ask them what they think. They may know more than any website or candidate survey could ever tell you.

If you can’t find any good information on the candidates of a particular race and they don’t list a party affiliation to give you some idea as to their political leanings, leave that one blank. Don’t resort to choosing the most attractive name or doing the good ol’ eeny, meeny, miney, moe. You might not have been able to do the good of choosing the worthier candidate, but at least you’ll not have done the bad of inadvertently choosing a wacko.

Mark up your sample ballot and stuff it into your purse before Election Day. If your state has voter ID requirements, make sure you bring the required identification with you. (You can look that up on the board of elections website too.)

Next Tuesday (or before, if you can vote early), make the time. Just do it. And don’t forget to take your kids with you. Let them go in the voting booth and press a button or two. Let them insert that card or tap that touchscreen or mark that paper. Talk to them about what you’re doing and why it’s important.

Because it is indeed important. Voting is an honor, a precious opportunity to guide the future of our communities and country – let’s treat it that way.

A version of this post first appeared on my personal blog, These Walls



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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.


November 01, 2016 02:23
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.




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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

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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.

 

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?

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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

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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.


October 17, 2016 09:49
By Julie Walsh


Tipping Point


Within a span of just a few minutes Wednesday evening, I read George Matysek’s excellent article in the Catholic Review (“When the choice is Clinton or Trump, what’s a Catholic to do?”) and I looked at the stack of mail my husband had dropped on the kitchen table.

It contained my sample ballot for the presidential election.

Normally I get a little thrill of anticipation when I receive my ballot. I open it up and see my preferences listed there in black and white, and I’m satisfied at the thought that I’ll get to cast a vote for my guy. That I’ll get to have a say.

As a conservative on many issues, I’m used to feeling politically lonely in Maryland. I know that most elections aren’t going to go the way I want them to. But when I look at that ballot, somehow I always have a little hope. I guess it’s the egalitarianism of paper and ink: those two (or more) names sit right there on the page together, listed as equals.

For a moment, the polls and commentary and lopsided campaign treasuries fade away. There are simply a couple of names on a piece of paper, and I get to choose between them.

This year when I opened the ballot, however, I didn’t so much experience the thrill of anticipation as I did a funny kind of curiosity. Was I really, truly, going to see Donald Trump’s name on that page? How would it look next to Hillary Clinton’s? What sort of write-in candidates and instructions would I find? And what about the rest? This presidential campaign has so dominated our imaginations that it’s been easy to overlook the other races we’ll get to determine on Election Day.

Opening the ballot, the first thing I saw was the list of officially-filed write-in candidates. I don’t know if that page is always first or if it’s just first this year because there are so many. (I counted at least thirty.) Maybe I only noticed it because that was the page I was most interested to see. But at any rate, my finger followed the print after the large “Notice” heading and I was grateful to find at least two write-in candidates I could support. (Including the candidate for the American Solidarity Party, which is mentioned in Matysek’s article.)

The article leads me to stop and reflect, again, on my priorities as a voter.

In a normal election year, I tend to think on my broadest policy priorities, rank them, and then choose the candidate who best represents the ones I’ve ranked highest. For presidential candidates, this has always lead me in the past to choose a pro-life Republican.

But this is no normal election year. This year my old method just doesn’t work.

For one, I honestly do not think there is a pro-life candidate at the top of either ticket. And for another, my priorities aren’t only about policy.

I value honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, character, capability, practicality and savvy. And I suppose I’m an anomaly in this, but I want a president who knows and can work within the political system. I think one of President Obama’s greatest weaknesses has been his limited experience in Washington. I think he would have been better served to have a more realistic, more complete idea of how to get things done in that environment.

No one person, of course, could ever live up to all of my priorities. I might like to expect that one could exhibit all the virtues I listed, but I definitely can’t imagine finding a major party candidate whose policy positions align entirely with my own. (That is, against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment, but not against immigration and social supports for the poor.)

This year none of it seems to work. Neither of the two major party candidates seem to be pro-life, neither of them seem to exhibit many of the virtues I seek in a president.

So this year, I’m simply throwing out my old method. This year, I’m refusing to choose between two terribly flawed candidates. This year, I refuse to be part of the problem.

This year I won’t really be voting for a president, I’ll be voting for an idea.

I’m not going to suggest some particular person for you to vote for, but I am going to suggest that if you’re really, truly unhappy with the Trump/Clinton match-up, you should cast your vote for a write-in or third-party candidate. (But do cast your vote – don’t just stay home. Elected officials need to see an upswing in votes for something other than what they’re offering.)

If I don’t like where either of the major parties are right now and I don’t like the directions in which they are heading, then I shouldn’t be supporting them. It’s as simple as that. There has to come a point where we stop propping up systems we dislike.

I think we’ve reached that point. If we haven’t, well… how bad does it have to get before we do?



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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.

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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.

 

October 08, 2016 08:57
By Julie Walsh

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