Saturday, November 15, 2008

I think I have figured out what has been troubling me so much. It seems that as good a candidate as Obama was, he was flawed in one tragic way: his view on abortion. It seems to me that anyone who values life surely would view this as an awful flaw of his. It's hard for me to contemplate those who are passionate about defending life rejoicing vociferously over his election win. It would seem that this one flaw would have to put a damper on an otherwise historic day in America.

What I want to know more than anything is if my closest friends who voted for Obama will weep with me when the Freedom of Choice Act is signed into law. I want to know if they will question the wisdom of their vote, not in a sense of a desire for me to be right, but because that will tell me something about them that I need to know is there, at the very root of who I've always thought they were. I have a hard time seeing my friends who voted for Obama be happy over the election. I wish they were muted and sad. I wish they could view their vote for Obama as the unfortunate clear choice that they felt they had to make, considering who was running against him, but that they regretted with everything in them that Obama was pro-choice.

I've been told that I'm a sore loser. How can any Christian rejoice unequivocally that Obama got into office? Shouldn't the "winners" be shedding tears too? Shouldn't their excitement be tempered by sadness at the mistakes that Obama will make over the issue of life?

I'm having a really, really hard time coming to terms with this. I wish I saw some sorrow in my pro-life friends over the victory of Obama. I don't get it when I don't see any sign of that there.


Dan said...

Oh, how I just wish to know that a vote for Obama was a vote that was very, very hard to cast!

Scott Lyons said...

Dan, of course it was a difficult decision. I didn't vote and then do cartwheels out the door. I agonized over this decision for months, to the point that I didn't know who I was going to vote for on the morning of Election Day. I pushed the Obama button. I would do the same today.

Let me explain, however briefly and inadequately, how I felt about this election. Not to convince you of anything, but to help you understand - if such little space permits it - how I felt and feel. I don't believe McCain would have fought for life. I don't believe that McCain went deeper than political expediency. That's my read of him. That's why he chose Palin over Lieberman, for instance - because of an Evangelical base that he could not energize without her. Votes. Just votes. Furthermore, as I went back and forth about whom I should vote for the fight turned ugly, uglier than any election I remember - that which I've been railing about on my blog for weeks now. Fear mongering - my mother, of all people, telling me how much this man, Obama, scared her, forwarding me e-mails about the Obama-nation and his being Moloch and antiChrist and Muslim. Notes from others calling him a nigger and that blacks who voted for him were dumb niggers. Catholics going beyond the teaching of the Church to tell me that I was no good Catholic, not pro-life, or endangering my soul to vote for Obama - that kind of fear and hate. Judgment. Fear and judgment.

My wife teaches mostly black children. Our parish is filled with immigrants. And I see the hope that Obama inspires in black families (as well as white) and immigrants and poor people. And I see that black children have a role model of a good, intact black family. I see him addressing injustices that McCain and the Republicans refuse(d) to address. Treating people with dignity that McCain withheld, that the Republican platform demanded not be given. And so I have a fundamental issue - life at conception held by a man and a party that seems to value only the life of babies. On the other side, there is a man that provides dignity and hope for people and yet lacks the fundamental issue of protection for the unborn, for innocent life. How does that make sense? Shouldn't those who want to protect babies value the dignity and worth of all life? It doesn't make sense unless you don't care about babies after all. It makes sense to me only in that McCain simply wanted the pro-life vote. On top of this senselessness, lies the fact that I simply don't believe, can't even muster a hint of belief, that the President, whether McCain or Obama, will topple the idol of abortion. That's my belief, and I feel it strongly. And that's not cynicism, I don't believe. Or, if it is, it is so concrete that it no longer feels like it. I pray that some of Obama's efforts to support single mothers, mothers in poverty, teens, will keep some abortions from happening. But it may not. I hope it does. I pray that it does. We are part of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Body of Christ, and it is by our prayers and mercy and love for neighbor and enemy that we will topple this idol. Maybe someday by overturning Roe. Maybe someday by not even needing to. Perhaps that's too idealistic, but it's no more so than believing McCain would have done what far more pro-life presidents failed to do, or refused to do.

Judgment, anger, fear - that is what I heard from Catholic brothers and sisters. Almost exclusively - a steady diet, day after day. And that, my brother, is not Christ. Perhaps I was simply in the wrong places and listening to the wrong people. But it seemed that everywhere I turned all I heard was hate. I did not see Christ in the McCain campaign. I don't know if that makes sense, but it does for me standing in my shoes.

I might, after it is all said and done, have made a bad choice. I pray that I did not. And I pray for mercy. I hope everyone who votes(d) prays for mercy. I think such a prayer is the only appropriate prayer for one walking out of a voting booth, regardless of how the vote is cast.

I pray for President-elect Obama. I hope he does much of what he promises, though I'm sure he will not. I do pray that one of the promises he fails to keep is FOCA. But even if FOCA is signed into law, God will still be God. And I don't say that to make light of such a wicked piece of legislation, or to justify my vote. But we will still need to love those who perform and seek out abortions, we will still need to pray, we will still need to show mercy and not judgment. More so. And yet here we are unable to love our own brothers. Or treat them civilly without wondering at their culpability. I don't, to this day, understand the kind of spite and anger I personally witnessed and received, across the board, from people who called me brother and now, suddenly, wondered at it. I don't understand it.

I am not sure if you are talking of someone else when you talk about people rejoicing over Obama's victory. I have not rejoiced. It is all too bittersweet for me. There are things that I am hopeful about with President-elect Obama. But also one issue that makes me weep, would make me weep even if McCain were president-elect. I know the evil of abortion, Dan. I feel it deeply, profoundly, when I look at my children. When I feel the children who aren't there, who ought to be. But I do not believe that McCain was the better answer.

Dan said...

Scott, thanks for taking the time to give such a thoughtful response. I was fortunately immune to all of the diatribe against Obama. I didn't get any email and I consciously chose to have a news blackout during the election. Perhaps I would have felt a bit differently if I'd been more aware of the vitriol focused against Obama. I had glimpses and glimmers of the absurdities spewed against him, but it was all very peripheral to me.

For me, I have never thought that a presidential candidate would topple abortion. I believe that it's possible for a candidate to install a Supreme Court justice who will either help that end, or inhibit that end. I've often said that my vote for Bush was a vote for Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. McCain may have been using the pro-life camp merely for votes, but in order to assuage them, he certainly would have needed to appoint a pro-life justice, if a vacancy occurs during the next four years. I pray it won't now, and I will pray that the justices that are close to retirement will be blinded by ambition and a hunger for power. I viewed McCain as a bumbling pawn who would at least be counted on to appoint a pro-life justice, if for nothing else other than political expediency.

Another friend of mine argued that no Republican presidential candidate has toppled abortion either, and has essentially given up on the possibility that any Republican would. Well, it's a long road to victory and it was finally in reach. If a justice resigns in the next four years, especially a conservative one, it's going to be an even longer row to hoe. You say that Republican presidents have refused or failed to overturn Roe v. Wade. Did you ever expect them to be able to do so? It can only be overturned through the courts. As long as Roe v. Wade stands, not even legislation can overturn abortion. It will only ever happen through the courts, at least from a legal standpoint. A President has absolutely no power to overturn Roe v. Wade, whatsoever. Why have you placed the burden on Presidents when they can't do anything to do ban abortion other than to appoint justices who will overturn it?

All we need is one more conservative justice. One more. And considering the age of the justices, including some of the most conservatives, I fear it will be next to impossible now for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

I don't think many people really did their homework on the Supreme Court.

John Paul Stevens is 88. He's liberal minded.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75 and as far as I'm concerned one of the worst justices on the court.

Antonin Scalia is 72. He's conservative, but who knows how long he'll want to serve?

Anthony Kennedy is also 72.

Stephen Breyer is 70. Liberal.

David Souter is 69...a huge failure of Bush Sr., and one reason why conservatives would have insisted that McCain would install a pro-life juror.

Clarence Thomas is 60.

Samuel Alito is 58.

Judge Roberts is only 53, thankfully.

It's very likely that John Stevens could die or choose to retire in the next four years. We'll probably get a more liberal judge with his replacement. It could have been a conservative. I wouldn't be surprised if Ginsburg also retires during this next term. A lot of these guys try to hold on until someone of their persuasion is elected.

Ah...well, I'm done talking about it. I respect and love you Scott, and always will. And indeed it's absurd to not show mercy to others. But I don't think you need mercy or anything of that nature. I just happen to disagree with you, and it's a disagreement that is impossible for me to reconcile with my own thinking.

Dan said...

Incidentally, I never doubted that you're my brother. My love isn't as fickle as that.

But I am finding it very traumatic to know that some of my closest friends voted for Obama.

Traumatic is not too strong a word.

Anonymous said...

scott, i want a simple yes or no answer to this question:

could you vote for a presidential candidate if he was in favor of protecting American's rights to freely kill Hispanics?

i want a simple yes or no.

Scott Lyons said...

Anon., no. Of course not.

But if I thought the issue were as simple as you suggest do you honestly think I would vote for Obama? Is there anyone you know who would? Do you honestly think our Catholic bishops would be as careful as they are to give us the freedom and dignity to vote according to our consciences (presuming our consciences are well formed) if it were as morally straightforward as you suggest?

If on November 4 I had been given the choice to vote to end abortion, I would have voted to end abortion. If I could, even as the bishops offered this past week, I too would gladly give my life in order to end abortion. I would do so today.

But that isn't the world we live in. There is more complexity and humanity here. Obama is not evil, but just a man like me. McCain is not good, but just a man like me. One is not clearly pro-abortion and the other clearly pro-life, as some continue to argue. Both support abortion (and I'm not speaking of McCain's exceptions, though they would qualify, but of his support of ESCR), both therefore require my "material cooperation with evil" - if we wish to go the route that some priests and bishops would wish.

You and I may disagree on how to best reduce and ultimately end abortion. But I cannot judge you because you came to a conclusion different than mine. I may think you're wrong, but I cannot judge you for your decision.

Dan, I think the the argument about Justices is a strong argument, a good argument. But of the sitting Justices, how many did Republicans appoint? 7 of the 9, and we are where we are today. Do you think the least pro-life candidate we have had in the past 30 years would do better with his appointees than Bush Sr. or Reagan (Kennedy remains a swing vote but has as much as said that he wouldn't overturn Roe)? Your argument about Justices was one of the major reasons I almost voted for McCain, but I just can't convince myself. The other thing to consider is that if McCain had gotten into office and turned decidedly pro-life with his nominations, because of what hung in the balance, he would have had a difficult time, perhaps impossible, in getting the nominee approved by the Senate. Added to that is the propensity of old Justices to hang on until a President who agrees with them on such social issues is in office.