By Ted Furlow
As I write this article, I confess that I have been overwhelmed by the national obsession over the 2016 political train wreck. I allowed myself to be swept up in a hysterical bout of civic OCD, living moment to moment watching the news cycle, reading endless articles, and listening to the talking heads opinionating about our future.
By the time you read this, the election will be days away or perhaps already over. For many of us it will be a time to again breath uncluttered air and get on with our lives. Unfortunately, for those still caught in the endless loop of ideology it will be a time to “over celebrate” or “over commiserate” about the results.
Thinking about this, I flashed back on a moment from my past. It was the spring of 1968 and I had joined my father and one of his suppliers for dinner. I was living in San Francisco at the time, we were going to a great restaurant, and the other guy was picking up the tab… what could be better?
Our host was a sixty something sales rep for an east coast company, charming, intelligent, and a great story teller. We spent the evening listening to him recount experiences as a light bomber pilot in the Second World War; engaging stories laced with scary tales of fighting in the air over Europe in 1944 and 1945. It was a wide ranging conversation over dinner and we talked about everything. Since the ’68 elections were looming, we eventually got into politics. At that point the conversation took a strange turn as our host, an ardent conservative Republican, began to rant angrily about the ’64 elections. He was a staunch Goldwater man and hated everything about Lyndon Johnson and those liberal Democrats. He went on and on about conspiracies, inefficiencies, communist influence, and basic “crookedness.”
I wasn’t old enough to vote in ’64, but I could still remember that Goldwater’s losing was an easy call. This fellow saw it differently, and thought that Goldwater was a sure thing. The high point of the rant came as he told us of an extravagant party he had set up at his house on election night, inviting all of his friends to celebrate a Goldwater victory. As predicted, Goldwater lost big and no one came to the party. The look on his face told it all, it was four years later, he was still crushed, he still felt like a fool, he felt betrayed, and he couldn’t let it go.
On November 9th many of us, including me, may be in the same spot. I have voted in every election since the fall of ’66, and this election has been the loudest and most divisive of my life. I have watched it split family, friends, and acquaintances… I have never “unfriended” so many people. So, in the months to come, there may be a need for fence mending. A need to turn away from the corrosive visual, audio, and political mayhem of the last months. A need to seek reconciliation, solace, and renewal within the broad scope of our Catholic social and moral values. A need to forgive and forget, and to find ourselves again in the Christocentric embrace of our belief in community, brotherhood, and sisterhood.
For some of us this may be difficult, and we will need to pray and ask God for a grace. A reconciling grace that comes from Christ, and not a cheap grace that we bestow on ourselves. A grace of discipleship, and not a grace of finger pointing. A grace of the cross, and not a grace of party affiliation. A grace not to judge others, but a grace that grants the insight to see our own evil. A reconciling grace for ourselves and a grace for others who are just as entitled as we are.
As St. Paul might say, with an unapologetic nod to Frozen, “Let it go, let it go. Step out of the darkness of politics and into the light of faith.” Let us choose to hold the hand of Jesus, and in Christian love be the guarantors of our brothers and sisters right to hold that same hand – even those with whom we have disagreed.
Ted Furlow retired as Director of Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of San Bernardino and continues in marriage preparation ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.