In 2012, there are still some puffs of Obama-fervor to be found amid the members and burning-out embers of the mainstream press; here and there you may find someone on the right launching a heavy breath toward the Romney/Ryan coals, but after decades of non-stop partisan sniping and four years of bursting bubbles, economic misery, and constitutional uncertainty, Americans are too worn, too weary, to expend the energy necessary to burnish any more golden calves.
This time around, President Obama’s halo has gone missing, and if his opponents still think he is the devil, he’s become a minor one they can finally laugh at. Candidates Romney and Ryan seem more like stable pedestals than the bronze thing upon which we gaze and so, no, we are not making idols of our candidates.
Instead some of us are simply nourishing our ideologies—holding them close to the heart and feeding them on our stores of distrust and bitterness—and allowing them to steal all of our instincts to charity, to squeeze out mercy. You can see it on social media, most especially on Facebook where respectable, even admirable, people are beginning to lose perspective and attack each other over news stories, and sometimes over simple questions, reasonably asked. Where angry banning won’t do, full-scale attacks are launched in the form of threads full of red-meat, wherein “friends” are invited to feed, so the hatred may grow.
And it is all done in service to a sad illusion that somehow, if we do not post every story that makes us angry or proves our point, if we do not constantly attempt to fix the erroneous thinking of others, this election will fall out of our control. We must be aggressive unto hysteria in our righteousness, or the other side will win.
It is the flip side of the old Bush-as-Agent-of-God thing, only this time, we seem not to believe that God’s hand may be working within our world at all, and so it is up to us. We “pray” as a means of telling God what we want done, but we don’t trust him very much, hence the hysteria. Both left and right are nearly fainting with fear: “What if the other side wins? The other side is evil!”
Look at the crucifix. Is there any greater reassurance that nothing happens—not even the worst things we may imagine—without it working ultimately to God’s purpose?
Let us ponder these words from the Imitation of Christ, which is the second reading in today’s Office of Readings:How can anyone be aroused by empty talk if his heart is subject in the truth to God? The whole world cannot swell with pride the man who is subject to truth; nor will he be swayed by the flattery of all his admirers, if he has established all his trust in God. For those who do all the talking amount to nothing; they fail with their din of words, but the truth of the Lord endures for ever.
Cause for pause.
For me. For all of us.