David Russell Mosley
27 September 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire
This isn’t the letter I intended to write today, and possibly, hopefully, I’ll write the one I wanted to, but I feel it is necessary to write this letter right now. I’ve made no secret that I don’t believe either mainline party presidential candidate is worth voting for. Even if I were a single issue voter (and since I am pro-life I certainly could be), I still would not vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Over the past few months, however, I have run afoul of Catholics, and other Christians, on the left and right who seem to read into my disdain for both candidates a secret support for the “other” candidate. That is, when I call out misogyny against Clinton, but also state that I don’t want her for president, I get called a Clinton supporter. When I call out Trump, I get called a Clinton supporter. Now, I haven’t been called a Trump supporter yet, but I was in a rather fierce debate with someone for claiming a friend was (who isn’t, though he does think Trump is precisely the candidate deserve, but that’s not an inherently good thing for him). I’ve been thrown out of Facebook groups, been told my arguments are inane and that I “lack the good will o discuss the actual merits, but want your slanted opinion to be taken as legit regardless of the merits or lack thereof.” Why is this? What is driving people on both sides to attack people such as myself in this way?
What makes matters worse, of course, is that the people attacking me and others like me are Christians. They just happen to believe that their candidate of choice is the right one and anything you say against their candidate of choice is just a way to get people to vote for the other, far worse, candidate. For so many Christians here in the United States there appears to be no room for a middle road. I don’t fully understand this. I don’t fully understand how it is that Christians can read the Gospels and come away with the opinion that Christ would call us to vote for either candidate. Note, I’m not saying good Christians can’t vote for either (though I do wonder). There are, I think, good, Christian, reasons to think voting for either Trump or Clinton would be good. I don’t think those reasons stand up under strict scrutiny but I get it. Many Catholic Trump supporters earnestly believe Trump will at least behave in a pro-life manner (even if he is not pro-life). Many Catholic Clinton supporters believe that despite being pro-choice, Clinton would enact policies that would reduce the reason so many women turn to abortion. And those are just the pro-life reasons for voting for either. I’m sure there are more, maybe. But why the vitriol poured out on people like me who think those reasons aren’t enough, who want better choices and refuse to give their vote to either candidate?
Now don’t misunderstand the purpose of this letter. This isn’t a woe-is-me letter. I’ve got broad shoulders and I’ve faced far worse both in my life and online. I don’t care about myself in this discussion. I care about the Faith. This election isn’t simply seeing the tearing apart of our country, but the tearing apart of United States Christianity. Christians on both sides pour out vitriol against their opponents, even their fellow Christians. I got called such lovely names as shithead for suggesting that we paint Trump with the same brush with which we are painting Clinton (this in a group where Clinton’s husband’s infidelity was almost swept under the rug because of mean and foulmouthed things to people––note the irony here––and yet where Trump’s infidelity doesn’t matter). Trump supporters, meanwhile, are called deplorable, and are all considered racists by virtue of their support of Donald Trump. I mean, I think Trump is racist, but that does not follow that all his supporters are. I think Clinton is quite possibly a war-criminal but that doesn’t mean I think her supporters are war-criminals.
Catholicism (defined as broadly as possible) is a form of Christianity that has an increasingly hard time fitting into the structures of the United States. On the one hand, we are pro-life, many of us have traditional sexual ethics, we think the family is the basic, pre-political foundation of any given society and think there are aspects of our society that require conserving. On the other hand, we believe in preferential treatment for the poor, we combat racial injustices, we believe in the inherent dignity of all human beings (born and unborn), we believe in caring for our common home. We don’t fit. We never will, that’s simply part of Christianity. Even could we enact a truly Christian state we still wouldn’t totally fit in this world because this world has not reached its telos. This is one of the many reasons I try to focus on the local before the national (but to the exclusion of the national or the global). I can’t fix this world, but I can be a light where I am.
So I would like to call for a ceasefire against the supporters of any political candidate. If someone does something actually wicked or evil we should call that out, but let’s stop the blanket assertions that Clinton supporters are evil, that Trump supporters are stupid and evil, and that the rest are stupid and/or secretly supporting the candidate that you don’t like. This election may very well be incredibly important and have long lasting consequences, but the Church will have longer lasting ones. By all means, support your candidate, do your research, talk about the issues with others, but stop assuming the worst of everyone, especially those with whom you disagree.