Some Comments on President-elect Obama

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An election is always difficult for those whose candidate has not succeeded. This is particularly true in the last election when the stakes seemed so high. For the unborn they are high indeed.

And yet, if Obama is a principled, thinking man, as his supporters argue, and if he is indeed a man to be president to "all of us"--those who voted for him and those who did not--as he has promised, the time for carping and complaint is over and the time for engagement has begun--at least until the man has an opportunity to take office and give us a sense of how he intends to occupy it.

This man, for good or ill, is now our president for at least 4 years. His ardent supporters expect things from him that no man yet has ever been able to accomplish, and there are early signs that Obama is significantly aware of this. Washington will continue to be politics as usual.

And yet, I do think that the man about to enter the office is of quite a different sort than what we have become accustomed to over twenty years of mismanagement and duplicity. He is something of a cypher--the product of his own propaganda machine-- and so it is difficult to discern how he will serve the people of the United States. By his own words, it seems clear that he will serve the weakest and most vulnerable among us very poorly indeed.

That is a matter for two courses of action. The first is prayer--each of us should be storming heaven each night praying for this man and this congress that will shape the years ahead of us. Rather than complaining and throwing up our hands in disgust, it is even more imperative to become involved in supporting the causes of good and opposing evil. To this end, we also have incumbent upon us the responsibility to make clear to this obviously intelligent man that as leader of the free world, he does not have the luxury of having any "question that is above his pay grade." (This was his famous response to people questioning him about the morality of abortion.) It is now part and parcel of his job to wrestle with each of these questions and to deal with it with integrity and with something more than a lick and a promise. Because if he is to lead us all, he must lead a divided country and he must come to some terms with that division that does not simply dismiss half of its constituents. Will he do this? I suspect not. But without the combined effort of prayer and engagement, it seems certain not to happen.

I was very pleased in this last election when both California and Florida voted to define marriage in the traditional way--Florida within its state constitution. (That's not such a big deal as it may sound--apparently the FL State constitution can be altered on a whim--a few years back we inserted an amendment about conditions in pig-pens.) I was pleased not because I support the causes themselves. I was pleased because at a time when the American people expressed their disgust and aggravation with the present regime and voted for some sort of nebulous and unreliable "change," they also sent a clear message that they are not interested in the entire agenda. We do not wish to have an agenda crammed down our throats. There needs to be a time of discussion with real engagement and real listening rather than talking past each other and dismissing points as though no points have been made. We need to hear what the people who support marital rights for gays have to say and on what they base their reasoning and argument. We need to recognize that both sides have not so much reasoned with one another as they have fumed at one another. Is the "slippery slope" argument against the validation of gay rights reasonable and logical? If the matter is a matter of sin, is it also a matter for legislation? Must everything sinful also be illegal? It is not presently so, etc.

Obama is our president for the next several years. Perhaps through our prayers and through our frequent (let us say constant) vigilance and willingness to inform the government, perhaps we can bring about some of the justice we seek and some of the real change that he has promised--change that is meaningful, right, and which makes us a stronger nation, more dedicated to the principles upon which we were founded and more dedicated to doing always what is right, not what is convenient. We must acknowledge that we are likely to see much good as well as much bad from the next administration. There is little that is unmixed. We will need to pay attention to everything that he says and does and we will need to react to it, not with the nearly senseless vituperation I have seen in some quarters but with constant reasoning and argumentation.

[note: I am dissatisfied with this entry because it fails to capture the spirit of what I'm trying to say. I guess in part that I am arguing that we have now assumed the character of the "loyal opposition." Rather than doing what seems to be the case in recent politics, carping and tearing everything down, it seems we would better serve everyone by engagement and active amd thoughtful conversation. We may not achieve all of our goals, but we can hope to maintain the infamous Washington gridlock that keeps us from progressing too rapidly in the wrong direction.]

Update: entry altered for accuracy. Obviously, this statement proved untrue, and I must have misunderstood my source in reading: "His buckling on Rick Warren is just one such sign." This statement has been removed. Mr. Warren spoke at the inauguration, there could have been no buckling. My sincere apologies.

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I read your posts via RSS and I enjoy them, but this time I take exception to your notion of maintaining the "infamous Washington gridlock." This is why we're in the state we're in; in the last 16 years Republicans have taken great delight in stalling any process that will improve the overall condition of the country. They sure passed laws quickly that allowed a phony war, wiretapping, torture, and the illegal detaining of prisoners though.

I can't understand Catholics' obsession with the Republican party. It seems to be the antithesis of everything Jesus taught. All of you who hold George Bush and the Republicans in such high esteem, let me ask you, "Did abortion go away? Is prayer back in schools? Is gay marriage banned? With a Republican president, a Republican Congress, a Republican Supreme Court, and with Republicans holding most of the state houses, why didn't they act on ANY of these things? I'll tell you why; they never had any intention of doing anything, they merely tell you they will to get your vote, then they do just what they want. Christians, and especially Catholics, wake up! You have no friends in the Republican Party.

Steven, I find these comments to be both thoughtful and apt.

While I haven't quite succumbed to the national optimism (keeping the threat of FOCA in mind, etc.), I do believe that the next quadrennium will not be as dire as many on the Right have predicted. (For instance, the Roberts court may find FOCA unconstitutional, if it passes, which Heaven forbid!)

We did pray for "President Obama" at Mass yesterday; and also, for the preservation of all life from conception until natural death, with the anniversary of Roe coming up.

Dear Friend,

I don't know if comments also come by RSS, probably note, but I hope you will find time to stop by and read this.

I think you misread my comment regarding gridlock as somehow supportive of a republican administration. I believe you will find any number of people out there in blogland who will tell you that I have even less patience for the Republicans than I do for the democrats. I have often said that the soft places in the democratic heart closely approach those that the Church indicates we should have. However, their overwhelming and destructive support for one of the most dire and deadly rights ever wrongfully conceived, does mark them, inevitably with the mark of Cain (as a group, not as individuals). That is unfortunate because it is a stand that could definitely do with some moderation that would provoke more support in Catholic quarters.

One point I would like to make, you generously offered in your comment. I am generally in favor of gridlock in Congress. With proper checks and balances and proper gridlock, only those things requiring the attention of Congress in a urgent manner ever manage to squeak through. Thus nonsense like the so-called "Patriot Act" would be rightfully consigned to the oblivion of eternal debate in any Congress worth its debating salt.

Unfortunately, now the gridlock is broken on the other side and broken gridlock is simply bad policy. Too much agenda-driven nonsense leaks through and important things are still shuffled aside while the party takes its turn at social engineering.

But I did want to make the point that I favor gridlock. Indeed, as Southern as I really am in my heart, I can't help but admire the people of Rhode Island, from Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson to Stephen Hopkins and H.P. Lovecraft. (I know, that's a debatable point, but his library is in Providence.) These were the fiestiest, most recalictrant, most reactionary, argumentative, and least obliging people in the history of the American republic, but if we had listened a bit better to what they had to say, we wouldn't find ourselves in some of the messes we do today.

Anyway, many thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment, particularly for being provoked into discussing the true merits and joys of complete gridlock. Think about it--no Patriot Act, no NAFTA, no questionable decisions to set ourselves up as the world's policemen. Very, very nice.



Dear Dylan,

You rightly point out a very serious problem indeed. On the other hand, I have trouble mustering up a lot of concern over the next four years as well. Unless the social engineering bandwagon gets set in high gear (which given the economic crisis before us seems unlikely), it will be much of the same--with the chief problem being what Obama has promised in the way of delivering up Abortion as you like it.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 18, 2009 11:04 AM.

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