Jun 28, 2018
Happy Independence Day…again. Aren’t we fortunate that we can celebrate this year after year, fortunate that our independence continues and has not ended?
Oh sure, some days we think it’s all coming apart. When Barack Obama was elected, a lot of people thought it was the end of all things. Every day Donald Trump is president, a lot of people see the end coming nearer.
But here we are. We have survived Bush, Obama, Trump (so far), Watergate, 9-11, World War II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We are not only independent; we are resilient. But we are not as nice to each other as we should be, which is a problem. It’s something the Russians are trying to take advantage of and divide us with. The Russians don’t threaten our independence, but they threaten our strength and moral fibre.
I do worry about the future. (There’s no point in worrying about the past.) I remember opining to a friend back around 1976, after the Vietnam debacle was over, that I didn’t think future generations would be willing to put their lives on the line again and fight at the behest of our government.
Iraq and Afghanistan proved me wrong about that. Despite what anyone thinks about the wisdom or rectitude of our going to war there, our young people (and that’s a big part of the problem, it’s always young people and our future that are risked in war) stepped up and did fight.
You could ask…what were they fighting for? Fighting in Iraq didn’t have any more clarity than fighting in Vietnam. What independence do we stand for in the world today? It was clear in the Cold War. We were one nation under God standing against atheistic Communism. Today, are we just fighting for a bigger share...or just to maintain our current share…of the pie of the good things of the world? Making America great is a worthy goal, but what exactly does great mean? It sounds nice, but it has to mean something specific if young people are going to put their lives on the line for it. We are still a nation under God, but so is every nation…the whole world, whether we recognize it or not. God doesn’t play favorites, but He responds to recognition and cooperation, which is what will really make us great.
Saint Louis Abbey is an independent Abbey, self-governing. On June 8, we elected an Abbot. It was a two-day process. Every single solemnly professed monk (read “citizen”) of the monastery sat together in a large circle in a large room. We nominated whoever we wanted. We talked together for as long as we wanted about each person nominated. Everyone got to speak and could say whatever they wanted. The next day we voted. Ballot after ballot until one candidate received two-thirds of the votes. That is participatory democracy. If we did not use our independence responsibly, if we couldn’t agree on an abbot, the Abbot President would have imposed an authority figure upon us for four years. So much, then, for independence.
Somewhere around 60% of those eligible voted in the 2016 presidential election; 40% did not vote. About half of the votes cast were for the winning candidate, which is 30% of eligible voters. So we are being governed by a President chosen by only 30% of us. Is it any wonder that our social discourse is so acrimonious? How can we retain our independence and integrity if 40% of us don’t participate, don’t weigh the issues, don’t speak up, don’t make an active choice? Imagine the workings of our little monastic community if 40% of us didn’t speak, didn’t listen, didn’t vote for our new Abbot. What support would he have? How effectively could he govern?
God entrusted to each American the precious gift of our independence through the blood sacrifices of many individuals who had put their lives on the line for us. We owe it to them, to ourselves, to our children and grandchildren to recognize that and to cooperate with each other in our democratic processes.
There’s another important election in November. Let’s keep America great and independent.
God bless America, our home. May He stand beside her and guide her through the night with His light.