Dealing with Trump on the Brain

Several times here on my Bahamian honeymoon, my wife saw my wheels turning and asked, "What are you thinking about?" Donald Trump became a regular answer. Second only to "Nothing, why?"

There isn’t a great “Catholic” option running for president in 2016. Neither was there in 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000, etc. Though this year the lack of a “good” option is more pungent, it isn’t new. One of many, I’m frustrated that we are being given an apple and an orange and asked to decide which is more of a fruit while at the same time being distracted by rot. Some offer kiwi as a third choice. I may like kiwi more than I used to.

 

We are right to be frustrated. But having to make a difficult decision isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I’m grateful this year that my normal political criteria are insufficient. It was very easy for me to vote for my presidential picks in the past, but this year my way of deciding hasn’t fully opened the door for me to vote for anyone yet. I have to look at things in a new way.

However I vote this year will require more compromise than past years. Hence the discomfort; politics is no longer easy for me. Some compromise is always necessary in voting. I’ve been OK with this because I understand that compromise is often, as Alan Greenspan wrote, “the price of civilized society, not an abrogation of principal.” But how much compromise remains an inherently difficult and largely personal question. It’s a question to suffer.

Rather than facing the question, it’s tempting to cope by surrounding myself with satire. But satire doesn’t add as much value to anything as Jon Stewart hopes you believe. Much less does another temptation: Whining. They both pick and gnaw until the whole system looks absurd and the participation of a lot of intelligent people is curbed. A lot of the material I consume is whiny or gratuitous satire. And this is when my Trump-obsession becomes unhealthy and self-gratifying.

But depending on the nature of the thought-pattern, so much Trump on the brain may be good sign: I’m taking politics more seriously than I used to because this year’s arrangement is so jarring. And taking politics seriously is part of my vocation because it is a principal way of engaging the culture I’m given to live in. This task is challenging and the Church allows it to be so.

Despite however many, even helpful, articles about whom a Catholic can or cannot vote for I read, the Church does not provide a conclusion. Instead she assists us by providing criteria for deciding, a way of looking at politics that allows us to make a decision proper to ourselves. That is, informed by our values, experiences, assumptions about the world, and, above all, the Love we have encountered. All done, of course, in good faith.

I’m grateful that I belong to a Church that respects my freedom enough not to give me an answer in the November election, but that instead assists me in making the best decision I reasonably can. It’s interesting to me that she does this, because she asks me to abandon no part of me but my sin in the decision, knowing that everything that makes “me” will have to be in play for the decision to be free, human, and mine. I think this means Catholics will (and can) vote in different ways.

I don’t yet know which candidate will get my vote. I’m still hoping and looking for someone to vote for. But my vote will come from a decision that is suffered, somewhat uncertain, and more fully human. I hope that I become more human in this process of deciding, more aware of what I value and need. This suffered decision is a gift to the world that God has given to me. It may end up the “wrong” decision as history plays out, but it will be given with the best of thought, prayer, and attention. It will be a good decision.