Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sharing my story about my own politics and how to frame that as a Catholic Deacon

 This is a post that might seem a bit odd on a predominately Catholic website, inspired by my journey to Holy Orders and my ministry as a Catholic Permanent Deacon.  I would much rather post something about the prison ministry I have missed lo these now 10 months, or maybe a story about our latest Bible study session.  Tonight (posting this Tuesday night, January 6, 2021) I'm going to post something incredibly personal; all about me.  In fact, I'm going to tell you a story about why I am nearly a life-long Republican and what that means to me, especially tonight after the incredible spectacle witnessed in Washington D.C.

I grew up in a very Democratic household but that is no revelation.  In the 1960's and the 1970's if you lived in Louisiana you better be a Democrat.  I don't know why that came to be back then but there were almost no Republicans, especially on the ballot, and to find one locally you needed to head over to the closest country club.  This is no personal attack or criticism, it's just the way it was.  After all, this was the state of Huey P. Long, Jimmie Davis, Earl K. Long and Edwin Edwards, the silver fox.

In high school I cherished all things history and took a Louisiana history class where I learned the only Republican Governor of Louisiana was a fellow named P.B.S. Pinchback.  He happened to be African-American and not a Louisiana native, and yes indeed, he was Republican.

I grew curious as to why Louisiana was a one-trick pony and as I approached the end of high school and the beginning of college, I became enamored with two men, both Republicans: Gerald R. Ford and Bob Livingston.  The later was a local guy who lived in the Algiers community I called home and he was an impressive fellow.  He had the guts to be running for the U.S. House of Representatives in a district that never had a Republican claim the office.  He was young, energetic, and he lived down the road.  He asked to plant a yard sign at my house because we lived on a well traveled street.  I began to do very menial volunteer work for him and was devastated when he lost his first foray into politics.  Incredibly, the victor turned out to be as crooked as can be and Bob Livingston had a second chance; and he won!  I felt like I was something to know someone personally on the way to Washington.  And he did well and worked his way up the ranks and was poised to become the Speaker of the House, the 3rd in line for the Presidency.  Sadly, scandal entered into his own life; not a political failure but a personal failure; an indiscretion and Livingston did the right thing and became what he called a back-bencher until he retired for good to work on his personal life.  Despite the disappointment in the end of this story, Bob Livingston impressed me and was always kind enough to always greet me by my name, an attribute that took my a long time to develop.

Gerald R. Ford was an honorable man, a great Senator from Michigan and finding himself the Vice-President of the United States because the guy in office, Spiro Agnew, was a crook.  This same VP would become an unelected President when the sad and historic event known as Watergate chased one Richard Nixon from the Presidency.  I always thought he did an honorable and respectable job especially in bringing the country together.  Inspired by his integrity, I vowed to my family that I was going to change parties and I did, not long after I originally registered to vote.  And I pledged to get others to change because things were changing in Louisiana and you could actually be active as a Republican.  Incredibly, I actually got more than a handful of people to change parties.

By 1980 I was totally in awe of one Ronald Regan, who I believe was the greatest President of my lifetime.  When he ran in 1980 I was thrilled at the prospect that he might choose Gerald Ford to be his running mate but it ended up being George H.W. Bush.  The election was against a sitting Democratic President from Georgia, Jimmy Carter.  I could not believe he won and won again in 1984 against Walter Mondale.  All the while the Republican party was growing in Louisiana and it was not so crazy to be one.  After all we elected Dave Treen as Governor, the first Republican since that Pinchback fellow.

Now before you get the wrong idea, Mike and his young family were not rich, did not belong to any country club, did not have tons of money to donate but was drawn to the Republican Party because it seemed to honor lower taxes and a healthy environment for small business.  As someone beginning his financial career at a small credit union, this really appealed to me.  Then there is the life issues as Ronald Regan became a full throated advocate for life and wanting to overturn Roe v Wade.  As a devout Catholic and a young dad, this sure appealed to me.  Incredibly, twice in my life I was privileged to be in the same room with President Regan, once at a Jaycee Convention in Indianapolis and once in the Old Executive Office Building in Washington D.C.  That experience had me no more than 10-15 feet away from my political hero.

I've remained a loyal Republican ever sense, even though the Republican Party never did anything personal for me.  I continued to embrace the pro-growth economic policies, lower taxes, fiercely pro-life.  Oh by the way, I finally met a Republican President in person, President George H.W. Bush in Richmond Virginia.  So let's fast forward to 2016.

Remember this is politics, not eternal life.  Politics should never reign over faith and love of Christ.  Maybe that's why I was troubled by the showdown between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.  Despite all of Trump's trouble points, Hilary Clinton was totally and completely unacceptable to me, yes, in large part because of her uncontrollable appetite for killing little babies and other issues I won't go into here.  Basically, I held my nose and my breath and voted for Trump.

If I am being honest we know that the Republican Party of today, the Republican Party after 4 years of Trump is wholly different from the one I fell in love with in the 1970's and 80's.  The political division and the political hatred of today is unsettling to me and should be to all.  It's truly a case of a pox on both houses.  Today was unnerving, and this entire I will never concede thing is doing great damage to the Republican Party.  And it's a shame because as President, Trump did do some incredibly great things, most of them long before Covid19.  No matter how he lost, I believe President Trump could have charted a very powerful course in defeat.  He could still claim "I was robbed" but turning down the rhetoric and then do something for the next four years that would make a difference; maybe a news network, a podcast, writing a great book and helping shape the future of the Republican Party.  He obviously does not want to do this.  My sincere hope is that these last days of a Trump administration does not do lasting harm.  Also, I would like to see the Republican Party re-invent itself.

So tonight, I am still a Republican but hear me good; that does not define me at the expense of my faith, my religious office, my ministries and my relationship with Christ.  And because I'm a Catholic Deacon you will see me preach and teach and opine on all the issues but not endorsing or demonizing any individual.

I understand why so many today choose to declare themselves Independent but I still choose to be a member of one of the two parties.  There are plenty of problems with both Democrats and Republicans but there are many more problems with a multi-party system.

So now you know something very personal and intimate about me; for what it's worth.  Tonight I am sad and disappointed at all that happened today in D.C. and certain reactions and/or lack of reactions to the violence.  May God heal our land and help us to not end our divisions but help us understand how to be respectful and dignified despite our divisions.  May God bless this country and may this country bless God and grow ever closer to Him.

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