Your Assigned Reading for Election Day–UPDATED

It’s all over but the shouting, which I imagine will go on for oh, another four years.

I voted so early this year (on my birthday in October, in a one-stop-shopping visit to the Montgomery County Building to renew my car tags), and so reluctantly (see here and here for why), that this Election Day arrives not with a bang but a whimper. A political junkie in withdrawal, I anticipate a couple of bouts of the shakes tonight as I try not to spin through the spin of the “news” channels or unglue my eyes from the Twitter feed. I am looking forward to the eventual lowering of cortisol levels as my Facebook page presents me with fewer memes inciting me to verbal violence. One way or the other (and I am not convinced there is, in actuality, much difference between those ways), this part is just about over, thanks be to God.

Whatever happens today, it will not be the end of the world. But it will be the beginning of how we live in the world now as people of faith in this particular American regime. And to that end, I want to recommend your reading for today and the days to come, deep wisdom from The Anchoress Elizabeth Scalia. In her column at First Things this morning, Elizabeth puts all the tohu wa bohu, the formless chaotic void that is election season, into sweet perspective, with the long view (the only view, for us Catholics) provided by the telescope of prayer:

The feeling of many is that today’s election is the most meaningful in the nation’s history. More than once in my email I’ve found a missive saying, “okay, I know everyone always says that every election is the most important in their lifetime, but this time I really think it is . . .”

It is not. The election and its outcome is important to the day, of course, but not to forever. Over the course of the past few weeks, I have either been taken to task by some who wished me to declare for Romney or be thought forever weak, and by others who find me overly-brusque in my Obama critique, with both sides fomenting unwanted mental images of bulls and steaming snouts.

But when I cast my vote today, I will do so while pondering ten years worth of praying the Divine Office and those psalms that so perfectly reflect the human condition. As we read them, pray them, we encounter ourselves and the world around us, over and over again. We come to see that while everything seems fresh and fiendishly important to us, there is truly “nothing new under the sun.” Everything happening around us has happened before. Civilizations have come and gone and yet this relationship with what is divine continues, and God’s hand is always present within all that occurs, if we stay alert to it.

We believe that we are the cleverest, most advanced, and therefore most blessed society that has ever lived, and that may be true. But it was true for all of the cleverest, advanced, and blessed societies that passed before ours, usually in tumult. We think that what is before us, solid and material, is real but in fact it all fades away in an instant, should the atoms cease to move. And those spin by the intention and will of God alone, not by anything we do.

Read it all. Read it over and over today and in the days to come. Take to heart these words which Elizabeth enjoins  on you today. Have your children memorize them. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. You know the drill.

Your other reading assignment for today and every day comes from Elizabeth. Read—no, pray, or sing—the Divine Office daily. You can access it online here, and there are apps galore for those, like me, who have as hard a time flipping back and forth in beribboned breviaries as we do making French braids.

Do take time to breathe today, in amongst the reading and the praying and the sneaked peeks at the Twitter feed. And if you get to feeling that the tohu wa bohu is winning, that chaos has come to overwhelm us all (the ratcheted-up rhetoric is not mine, but the regular currency of the interwebz), take a cue from Shakespeare, my other daily office. When Henry V is setting up camp for his bedraggled, muddy, hugely outnumbered force on the eve of what will later be remembered as the glorious victory of Agincourt, his brother Gloucester says of the French, “I hope they will not come upon us now.” Henry’s answer is my prayer today, no matter where we go next:

“We are in God’s hands, brother, not in theirs.”


UPDATE: More required reading, from the How Can She Be This Smart This Young? Calah Alexander, on the mixed sorrow and peace of remembering that we are always strangers and sojourners in this world.


And speaking of Facebook and Twitter feeds I’m trying to avoid obsessing over today, you can follow Egregious Twaddle on both. Click on the icons at the right side of this page. Thanks!


  • Elizabeth Scalia

    I feel much-overpraised, but thanks, Joanne!

  • Billy

    Thanks for using my favorite Hebrew phrase!