It’s March and I’m Mad, Mr President

Dear Mr President,

Welcome to Dayton! If you’re not already here in town, you and British Prime Minister David Cameron will be here shortly to attend tonight’s NCAA First Four game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky at the University of Dayton Arena. There are so many things about this confluence I love:

Dayton. I’m delighted that your visit will bring attention to my adopted hometown, which has suffered mightily in the economic downturn of recent years. We used to have NCR–”the Cash”–and a pretty big chunk of GM, but now we’ve got a pretty big chunk of unemployment and foreclosures and no cash to speak of, which I know you didn’t personally cause, but wish you were more serious about addressing. Especially with our being right smack in a swing state, and all.

March Madness! You and I share a fondness for college basketball and this tournament in particular. I have to say that your bracket challenge is kind of corny, but if I were you I probably wouldn’t be able to resist calling it a BARACKet, either. My own bracket obsession is listing all 68 team names by category (animals, birds, people, supernatural beings, forces of nature, and inexplicable stuff like Zags and Shockers). This comes in handy, my old friend Barb Wanamaker taught me, when you don’t know enough about two teams’ records to pick a winner: you just go with whichever team name would beat the other in a fight. In tonight’s game, for example, you gotta figure the MVS Delta Devils (supernatural beings) are gonna whup the hell out of the (ordinary human) Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. Unless, of course, you don’t put much stock in supernatural beings.

Brits. I love my British roots, even though being half English and half Irish makes St. Patrick’s Day a one-woman civil war. My father was born in England, where his Northern Irish family went to escape anti-Catholic prejudice in hiring. They moved on to the US, to Boston, where they learned No Irish Need Apply wasn’t just a pub song. And on my mother’s side, my Puritan ancestors left England to seek religious freedom, which they then ended up denying everybody else once they got here. It was the Catholics of Maryland who taught the colonies what true religious freedom meant, and laid the foundation for the First Amendment, which contains both anti-establishment and free exercise clauses. But I don’t have to tell you that, right? I mean, you actually taught constitutional law. I just took a few classes.

The University of Dayton. I am a passionate member of the UD Flyer Faithful, but my guys didn’t make it to the Dance this year, so I’ll be watching them play in the NIT tonight instead. I’m proud that UD Arena is such an awesome facility that it’s drawn the NCAA First Four, and you. I hear you’ll be giving interviews during halftime tonight. You might want to remember that this platform is being generously provided to you by a Catholic university. Even though UD’s administration has decided to continue its policy of providing contraceptive coverage for its employees, thus complying with your mandate, and even though they won’t be giving you some big ol’ Notre-Dame type award, thus triggering protests and forcing your posse to arrest American citizens for peaceably assembling, it’s something to think about. You’re on Catholic ground tonight, and it could have been common ground–but oh, well, like the Flyers, maybe next year.

There was a time when I would have added you, Mr President, to the things I love about this visit. I’m a card carrying Democrat, the daughter of a union shop steward, New Deal and Civil Rights and Camelot all the way. In 2008 I let my son’s enthusiasm for you and all you represented woo me away from my lukewarm support of Hillary Clinton, even though I thought even then there was something too-good-to-be-true about the way you absorbed all our war-weary, Bush-burdened projections. I put a HOPE decal in my car window right next to my Go, Flyers! decal. I cheered my heart out at your win, which I truly believed was the start of better days for all Americans. (And for my fellow Catholics who want to read this paragraph as evidence for excommunication, that’s for another combox, OK?)

Since then, though, you’ve disappointed me, Mr President. Even before I returned to the Catholic faith I grew up in, and began to reexamine everything in the light of that faith’s teachings, you showed absolutely no sign of being the bridge-builder you rightly said America needed in that fabulous 2004 convention speech. In your relationships with Congress, even when you had a majority, you talked compromise and did none of it. You ramped up the war efforts you had said were stupid. You kept Guantanamo open, and gave the nod to torture. You approved a return to the US-as-assassin model of dealing with dictators you don’t like, while allowing those who serve your interest to continue slaughtering innocents. You added even more restrictions on Americans’ constitutional freedoms than the original Patriot Act dreamed of. And you wouldn’t fight to keep a single-payer health plan on the table, settling instead for a bloated patchwork doomed to displease everyone, just so you could say you passed a health care act.

But it’s been your administration’s recent cynical manipulation of “the contraceptive issue”–an agenda mandated by your supporters in Big Pharma and Planned Parenthood, and planted in the midst of the debates in order to make the religious right (which now includes extremist Catholics like Rick Santorum and Catholics-by-marriage like Newt Gingrich) snap at the bait. You have managed this really well from your end, manufacturing a “war on women”–Catholics want women to be pregnant or die!–while waging war on the First Amendment. I sometimes wish the Catholic bishops hadn’t jumped at the bait, too (because I truly don’t think this is the hill we want to die on), but you knew they would, and knew that Catholics are already hated enough (for our own sins, in too many cases) in this country to make dissing us equal an automatic double-digit bump in your popularity stats. That’s my biggest disappointment–that you’re nothing but a Chicago pol after all.

So I can’t love that you’re here, and I can no longer love election season, this poli sci minor’s usual idea of heaven. See, there’s no way I can vote for you, because as Nancy Pelosi, the Lady Macbeth of Catholics, says, I have “that conscience thing.” And I sure as hell can’t vote for any one of the Republicans or anyone else out there, because they’re no closer to being what Americans need and what my Church teaches me is truly just and enlightened leadership than you are. You’ve disenfranchised me, Sir, and that’s one sin I just can’t forgive.

Too bad. I’d have loved, under other circumstances, to sit with the you I thought you were over a beer at Tank’s or The Trolley–a good, complicated American craft beer, Mr. President, not that Bud Light crap you drank at your beer summit–and talk b-ball, and Motown, and how to bring real jobs to Dayton, and why pregnancy is not a disease, and that religion won’t, honest to God, bite you, so you can just quit being so damned afraid of it. We used to have so much in common, I thought. But to use a language we share, you air-balled what should have been a slam dunk. Like whichever team loses tonight, we’re one and done.


Update: Msgr Charles Pope is thinking along some of the same lines, with regard to Catholics’ taking the bait, and writing about it more eloquently. H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra for this, and thanks for linking to me.

  • ElizabethK

    I could have written a lot of this, only for me I'd also add in his love affair with Planned Parenthood. And not totally with you on the single-payer issue, though I could perhaps be persuaded on that one. I've never not voted Democrat, but I don't know when I will again, and I'm in that unenviable "anybody but" place right now. But like I wrote to a friend of mine a while back, if I'd wanted a cynical same old same old, I'd have voted for a pro-life cynical same old same old. I guess this is how people become single-issue voters.

  • Anonymous

    There is simply no justification for EVER having supported Obama. NEVER!!! His record on abortion has ALWAYS been abismal and evidence abounded before 2008 that he has always been an anti-American, anti-Christian, statist totalitarian radical. To rationalize otherwise is delusional. Egregious twaddle indeed. Rod Treat @BrazenPapist

  • Joanne K. McPortland

    I would disagree, of course, but you know that. And I don't normally allow abusive comments–especially when they've already been posted on another blog–but I'm just delusional enough to recognize that you are entitled to be as brazen a Papist as you'd like. Thanks for reading.

  • Anonymous

    I love your honesty. I am a registered Democrat for 44 years because I have believed in many of their policies in the past. I got turned off by how they treated Gov. Casey at the convention but hung in there. Now I hang in as a thorn in their side since I believe they have betrayed what it really meant to be a Democrat. I pray and hope for a return to the values of the party but haven't been able to vote for either major parties in years. Time to change the system and the process. It has all become too insane and unreal!

  • Mike

    I disagree. He tried to build bridges, but the Republicans would have none of it. As to his "cynical manipulation," that cynicism is entirely that of the Papists and the Republicans. He's worked to compromise; his enemies haven't.

  • Anonymous

    We are almost the same age – why, why after all these years would you actually 'hope' in a politician. The best you can get is they don't do too much damage. How about voting for an executive (which is what the president is supposed to be) rather than projecting dreams and hopes on an administrator? Class of '65PS Love your writing

  • Joanne K. McPortland

    Dear Class of '65, thank you! And I know, I know . . . but after all these years I tend to find any excuse I can to hope. I figure the Holy Spirit still has surprises up the miracle sleeve. :)

  • Anonymous

    "He tried to build bridges but the Republicans would have none of it." The man who turned to the GOP on their first meeting and said, "I won." Right. The man who said every bill would show up online five days before it was voted on. Right. The man who filled his administration with lobbyists after saying he wouldn't. The man who has done nothing but demonize the "loyal opposition" at every turn. Yeah. The man who kept scratching his face with his middle finger, like a 14 year old. Yeah. He tried to build bridges.

  • Wine in the Water

    I don't really see how he tried on this issue. He repeatedly promised that the conscience rights of Catholics would be honored and protected. Then when Catholics gave him formal comments to the proposed HHS mandate detailing how it did not protect their conscience rights .. he ignored them and implemented the mandate as is. Then when Catholics (even Catholics friendly to him) objected to the finished mandate, he announced an accommodation that accommodated very little and was just an accounting trick that actually would infringe on religious liberty even more. But here's the kicker, he announced the accommodation but never actually implemented it. The HHS mandate will be going into effect with no changes. He said they would try to work something out in the next round. Broken promises, ignored input and an accommodation that doesn't help and wasn't even implemented anyway hardly count as bridges.I agree with you about the cynical manipulation of the Republicans, but I don't see how the label doesn't also apply to the administration in this instance.

  • Anonymous

    I'm so glad to have found you blog. I too voted for President Obama as an anti-war former Bush supporter (I voted for Kerry for the same reason). I bought into the hope and change that was promised. I'm also glad to read that I'm not the only one who can't seem to find any candidate for 2012 worthy enough of my vote. Right out of the gate…I don't believe in abortion or capital punishment; I find both to be intrinsic evils. Contraception though to me is a "conscience thing" made by the individual. Yes, 98% of Catholics are using it, they have decided its okay for them. It is not okay for the government to tell the Catholic Church that they now need to drop their moral teachings because many of the faithful have decided they don't think it is immoral. Thanks for the blog, another blog to be bookmarked and followed daily.Peace…Andy

  • Renee

    Thank You!Living in Massachusetts, I've watched the Democratic Party to morph into something so different then what many older family members still see it as. No one dares stands up within the local Democrats circles on how Catholics are mistreated.I understand they don't want to vote Republican (I've voted blank in the past and at times strongly supported a local Republican candidate), but to even stand up against any policy on the Democratic Platform is social suicide for them.

  • Theodore Seeber

    May I suggest doing what I've done during my move from liberal Catholic love-the-poor hippie to conservative Catholic hate-the-gays bigot (NOTE: without changing a SINGLE political opinion, I've made this move- in fact, I can trace it to March 4, 2004, because I'm an Oregonian and that's the day Multnomah County started their war on the sacrament of marriage and my position of being for separation of church and state and civil unions for secularists made me an anti-gay bigot):Vote third party. Good choices are usually either the Constitutional Party Candidate or the Working Families Party Candidate, both of which are often not just pro-life, but honest-to-goodness conception-until-natural-death pro-life. From what I've read in JUST THIS POST, I'd suggest WFP for you, though I've voted Reform and Constitution for the past 4 elections. Vote your conscience, not your chance of winning. Follow the Holy Spirit, not the corruption of mammon that our elections have become in the United States.I may still yet follow you- because though Rick Santorum is tempting to me, I strongly doubt he's tempting to any non-Catholic GOPer out there. And Gingrich? Until he shows some intelligent sign that he's repented of his open-marriage-serial-adultery stance and that his wife Calista has returned to the faith she was raised in in the same way, I will NOT be voting for that blowhard.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!!!I haven't voted Democrat for a long time. I have been forced to be a single issue voter whether I like it or not. I just can't stomach the Democrat's love affair with abortion. I deeply sympathize with your sorrow. Good luck.

  • Anonymous
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