Ok, show of hands….who’s had enough of watching the conventions?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Me, too.
The Democratic and Republican National Conventions have long been the penultimate events for each party every four years. This is where candidates for president and vice president are nominated. Much pomp and circumstance surrounds the conventions and as such, they turn into four-day meandering journeys that include speeches, massive audio and visual displays, music, parties and entertainment of many kinds, melding together into one long nightmare.
The weariness of the conventions seems to be especially taking their toll this year. There’s been a lot of talk about shortening future conventions to two days or even a single day.
I vote “yes”.
Speaking of voting, the purpose of the conventions and the all hype and rah-rah is to convince Americans that each party has the best candidates, understands American’s needs better, can provide what is necessary for a safe and strong future for our country, etc. and as such is most deserving of our votes. Each party throws around statistics and rhetoric, which are at best suspect and debatable and at worst, purposely deceptive.
After all, let’s always remember and never forget, politicians are first and foremost interested in one thing – getting elected (or re-elected). This doesn’t mean that there aren’t good-hearted, well-intentioned and competent elected officials out there, but to be in politics, you have to possess deep within you the drive and desire to win elections if you want to have a job.
Politics (and politicians) have become increasingly bitter and combative and as a result, Americans are more divided than ever among two major political parties, with about 15% in the middle who identify themselves as truly independent. Generations of democrats and republicans have voted along party lines – and still do today – mainly because their parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends and co-workers have always voted that way.
This begs the two important questions: How educated are we on the issues that affect our lives in so many ways? And do we really care to invest the energy to become educated or will we be content to rely on rhetoric from the media and politicians to continue to foster our false biases that have existed for generations and will color (literally blue or red) our presidential votes this fall?
As Catholics, we are called to form our consciences for all facets of life. Our consciences are formed by being educated, by learning and by truly taking the time in the case of political elections to understand where candidates stand on the issues and more importantly, where the Church stands on the issues.
In regard to choosing in accord with our formed consciences, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law, or on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them. To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.” (CCC 1786, 1788).
Fortunately, we as Catholics have many resources at our fingertips to form our political consciences. Voting along party lines is not a true option, because the social, economic and religious issues of the day change from election to election and do not all fall completely on the blue or red side of the political spectrum.
So, where to turn?
In addition to the Catechism, the magisterium and our bishops have blessed us with wonderful guidance and teaching on relevant social, moral and religious issues. Check out the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site at www.usccb.org. Additionally, the Maryland Catholic Conference offers well-rounded coverage of such topics as marriage, immigration and religious freedom on its Web site at www.mdcathcon.org. Two other Web sites that provide great information are www.foryourmarriage.org and the Vatican’s Web site, www.vatican.va.
So, go beyond the hype of the conventions and do your homework! Given the events that are taking place in our world, it is imperative for us as Catholics to understand not just what the Church believes and teaches, but why. Take time to educate yourself in the weeks leading up the November election. Doing so will help form your conscience and rightly prepare you to enter the voting booth this fall to exercise your right and privilege as a Catholic American to elect the next president of the United States.