I never really wanted to write about politics. I am of the belief that both political parties in America--the Democrats and the Republicans--have the same goal in mind. And in effect, it doesn't really matter who you vote for, the outcome is going to be the same. The only difference is one party will wreck the boat faster than the other. So, as a Catholic, I don't really see where it's an absolute imperative that Catholics vote in elections. In fact, it may be an imperative not to participate in any capacity in electing morally questionable people to public office. Perhaps it's a better option, regarding the salvation of one's soul, to just sit it out. But that's just my opinion. What I think is a better use of time, is to examine exactly what these politicians are saying and weigh them carefully with facts and examination. That's what I try to do, and I often find myself recognizing some important things.
Now let me make it absolutely clear--All politicians lie. I am not a supporter of either Republicans nor Democrats. There are numerous ideologies in both parties that are absolutely in direct opposition to both parties. A good Catholic cannot support abortion in any circumstance nor homosexual marriage. However, they surely cannot support the assault on poor people in this country or the lower middle class workers, especially those who work in factories and our roads and highways. As a society, we by definition do not live in a vacuum or independent of all other human beings. When we live and think individually we get a nation like we have today--everybody looking out for themselves and their bottom line. A nation of individuals trying to get ahead without consideration of what is right or wrong, or how personal choices effect the whole of society.
If you will permit, I will use the so-called gaffe of the Presidents latest speech. You know the one. The one where he said, "You didn't build that." The liberals are applauding the whole thing and the Republicans are attacking the President's "anti-business" rhetoric. Both sides are pandering. And while I am NOT a Democrat and think almost all Democratic policies are an abomination, the President is right about this and the Republicans are hypocrites.
You see the truth is---individually we are nothing and we can accomplish nothing. Left alone, very few us ever find the truth, discover something important, or learn anything meaningful. And socially, if we are left alone to figure things out for ourselves, to build things for ourselves, we might be successful at building our own tree house, but how did we get our materials and who will enjoy our accomplishments?
I was recently watching a YouTube video of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He was giving a speech to young people a few years before he died. In his speech, he referenced how our society, our culture, has changed so rapidly in just a short period of time. Once, not so long ago, people didn't lock their car doors or houses at night. They weren't afraid to walk down the city streets at night. They weren't worried that someone would mug them or attack them. We were a moral people, constantly thinking of other people, and how our actions or lack thereof, affected us all. He mentioned a story a business owner told him about a law suit he was involved in, in which a young woman, a union worker, was caught stealing cash from the the cash register. The business owner fired the young woman, but the union returned with a law suit based on the grounds that the business owner had wrongfully fired the woman because he had not told this particular worker that stealing money from the register was wrong. The good Bishop went on to explain the inconsistency and the danger of this attitude. And this attitude seems to be quite prevalent in our society today, on both ends of the political spectrum.
From an economic perspective, if we examine things honestly we might be surprised what the reality is. Aside from a very small group of individuals, most people have many of the things they have, precisely because someone helped them get it. How many people actually got their education, completely on their own? In times past, many young people lived at home with their parents. Their parents fed them and clothed them while they went to school. Sometimes they had jobs to pay for their educational advancements, but they often stayed home living off their parents success. How many people are gifted cars, houses, and cash from their parents or other relatives? What about start-up money for that business? Or the apprentice job at the butcher shop? What about the sheer numbers of companies in this country that are FAMILY businesses, built on the shoulders of fathers and grandfathers? There was a time, not so long ago, where this type of economy was both normal and expected. A son took over his father's business, whether that was the family farm or the grist-mill. This is how our nation was built. Wealth was built over generations of hard work, determination, and family cohesion.
From a spiritual perspective, is it any wonder how this attitude has led our nation to the precipice of complete moral decay? All of Christendom was brought to Christ and His Church through the passing on and teaching of the Catholic faith. Men and women risked their lives to convert whole nations of people to Christ. They replaced superstition with tradition. They challenged pagan belief systems and ideas with Truth and piety. Some of the greatest nations grew up out of Christ's Commission to bring all souls to salvation. Whole families were converted and Christianity, Catholicism, was passed from father to son, mother to daughter for generations upon generations. It was our parents who taught us the Our Father. Our parents who told us about the angels, the saints, Our Lord's commandments. Our parents who taught us to care for our grandparents and elderly neighbors. Our parents who taught us how to love. And where did they learn it? From their parents before them. Whole communities built up around this dissemination of the faith. Catholicism thrived, and culture sprung up with clear demarcations between right and wrong, goodness and evil, mercy and justice, faith and superstition. Neighborhoods grew. Families worshiped Our Lord and shared their blessings with each other, especially the poor and disadvantaged.
This model of wealth and education from our families on down is Our Lord's plan. It has always been His plan. His own Divine Family is an example for us. When Our Blessed Mother heard of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, in loving kindness and perfect goodness, She went to her to help her in time. St. Joseph lovingly and patiently taught Our Lord how to be a carpenter, not that Our Lord needed that, really, but because Our Lord was a Perfect Son, he allowed St. Joseph to teach him and guide him. And Our Lord, by the nature of His Divinity, taught His Mother and St. Joseph about God and His law. They lived, loved, and worked together. They gave themselves to each other. And it is by following this example that families thrive and grow strong.
Unfortunately, what has been popular in modern times, is to see ourselves as individuals, disconnected from our families, disconnected from our communities, disconnected from God. This philosophy has destroyed and decimated my own family and countless numbers of others. It began with the so-called Greatest Generation and it adopted by the Silent Generation, my parent's generation. They openly questioned their futures, their pasts, their morals, their religions, and their stations in life. They were willing to leave behind the people and places that "held them back." There were no limits, no boundaries, nothing to stop them from achieving their dreams or their financial successes. They were willing to share it with us, but not give to us, not bequeath it to us. They expected us to do what they had done. In fact, they encouraged us to do so. They told us to leave home, make our own way in the world, to make personal sacrifices, to let nothing get in the way. They reminded us that our success was our own doing and our failures were not their fault. In essence, they loaded us in the Winnebago, took us on a tour, and threw us out to make find our own way. And it is destructive, devastating, and ungodly. It is unnatural. And this is the Republican ideal.
But the Democratic ideal, the one that President Obama touts, is no better. It is only a consolation, a counterfeit, that has to fill the void left behind in the wake of the destruction of the family. It is the federal government. When the family, natural single cell of society, is destroyed and lying in waste, something or someone has to take it's place. And the government has. On the local level, it educates our children in the public schools. It takes care of the sick, the aged, and the poor. It gives young people financial resources to go to college and start businesses. It's given us science, atheism, and political correctness. And we are dependent on it to feed us and take care of us when we cannot work. Our government has replaced our families. And whether anyone wants to admit, or will believe it, President Obama is right---"You didn't build that." No, you inherited it from your parents and your grandparents. It is their legacy, and unwittingly, we are passing that legacy right on along to our children.
Personally, I have carried around a bitter pill for just shy of 4 decades. My father abandoned his religious beliefs, his heritage, for a few years of marriage. My parents divorced when I was 9 because they couldn't solve their problems. My mother signed away her inheritance for a few jewels, without considering the consequences. My parents remarried and started new families, leaving behind the fragments of the old. My father died, leaving nothing to his children for fear someone else might benefit from what was given to him. Ironically, the future my parents created for themselves when they disconnected from their own pasts, is the past that I long for. The family, the traditions, the unity, the wealth, the love, the knowledge; all the things that Our Lord showed us were important in His example within His Holy Family. And yet, I didn't know it, I couldn't know, until I became a traditional Catholic.
This disconnected, disjointed, individualism is the norm in modern society. If you live in it, it's hard to escape it. In fact, most probably don't know they are being shaped, formed, or infected by it. We educated our 2 oldest children in public schools where the indoctrination begins. Children are systematically taught to be independent of their parents' philosophies, values, and tutelage. They are thrust into social groups based on individual ideas or interests. They pair off and peer up. Parents and siblings, if they are lucky enough to have any, are secondary. They seek advice from peers or academic counselors rather than parents and relatives. And we, their parents, hock off our houses and exhaust our savings to pay for them to pursue their individual educational interests. We willingly stretch our budgets to the limits and fill up all of our free time encouraging our children to be independent, willful, and self-centered.
The legacy the Greatest Generation burdened us with has destroyed our society and leaves in its wake economic upheaval. It's this same legacy, because we refuse to open our eyes and follow Our Lord's example, the very same devastation we are certain to leave our children. So the next time we are lamenting how we are worried that our children have lost their faith, the next time we are spending 4 nights a week at soccer practice with Jimmy, racing to get Sarah to karate after basketball practice, the next time the college tuition sucks up the rainy-day fund, remember how we got here and where our children are going.