Even if it was a psycho-spiritual shell game designed to reinforce the Church’s symbolic dominion over my individual salvation, going to confession did offer an opportunity to periodically relieve my conscience and reflect on my actions. I remember sort of looking forward to it.
There’s something about a national election that feels essentially similar; I’m leery of the entire enterprise but am undeniably relieved as a result of my participation in it.
Here we are, America. On the other side of the most fantastically expensive, media-saturated and maybe the most divisive campaign season in modern political history. What did you get for it? Well, win, lose or draw, I hope you took a week off and experienced at least a moment of relief that the whole affair is over. I feel like I just passed a stone the shape and size of Ohio.
Across dinner tables, around water coolers, in the webbernet and through the looking glass of our television screens, the pundits, the candidates and the electorate have been talking at — if not always to — each other around the clock for the last six months. There’s a chance that the discussion itself, the way it was carried out and specifically the way it was paid for was more destructive to American ideals than any potential outcome, and while I don’t strain to hope for things like actual bipartisan cooperation in governance, just for this moment I hope we as a nation can feel at least unburdened. Everybody just take a damn breather.
So, did we talk it out enough? Does everyone feel like they were given a chance to say their piece and participate in the experiment of democracy? Does anybody feel like they have a better grip on what’s at stake? I don’t know, but after all that, I’m sure there’s enough material for some solitary, quiet reflection. But no confession is complete without penance, and while the power is not vested in me by any organization or institution that would actually have me as a member, the following represent Raised Relief’s discount, bargain-basement brand suggestions for quiet contemplation.
To the GOP: Go sit quietly in a pew, close your eyes, and think of where you — the party of Lincoln — came from, where you’ve been, and, specifically, who your base will be in America’s rapidly changing social, cultural and financial landscape. Think seriously about your recent tendency to select and fund candidates whom you like and believe in only slightly more than your opponents. Now go read the lovely and concise New York Times opinion column by one Maurice Manning (no relation) titled, “My Old Kentucky Conservatism.” Forcibly make Mitch McConnell memorize and repeat it out loud nine times.
To the Democrats: Fold your hands in prayer and intone the following 25 times: “Heavenly Father, please please please don’t let the president screw this up. Keep him to his promises, starting with the ones he hasn’t gotten to from 2008. Guide his hand toward a rational and compassionate foreign policy that includes pointed reflection on America’s position in Israeli/Palestinian affairs and fewer un-manned drone attacks on sovereign nations. Lord, please guide him to contemplate executive orders made under the auspices of the Espionage Act, which are conspicuous, if for nothing else, because they have been employed to prosecute Americans under Obama’s watch more frequently than under all other presidential administrations combined since 1917. On Earth as it is in Sweden, Amen.”
To the American Electorate: Reflect conscientiously on the obvious flaws and conflicts of interest inherent to our two-party system. Think on the following questions with openness and curiosity in your heart: Are the two parties that currently constitute the entire political discussion in America actually enough to represent the complexities of a nation peopled by nearly 400 million humans? Are the representatives who align themselves under these flags accurately representing our ideals and aspirations? Are we constantly being submitted to a compulsory demonstration of the “Punch and Judy” show over and over ad infinitum? Dear Lord, please deliver me from uncertainty and misrepresentation unto the promise land that is both representative and democratic. Amen.
In this brief pause, after the tumult and the anxiety, regardless of the ideologies that we cling to when we are afraid like stuffed cartoon mules or elephants, I hope we can all enjoy a moment of reprieve and quiet contemplation. God bless America and everybody else, too.