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A Coward No More: Friendship and Politics

I have a very dear friend I have known since high school. We were both baptized Catholic as babies, raised in Catholic homes, and received all of our sacraments. I was in her Catholic wedding and she was in mine. We are Godparents of each other’s children.

Where we stray is in our political convictions.  It is a topic that I have avoided discussing with her for decades.

Call me a coward, gutless, ignorant. I was all of those. Was I simply unwilling to risk breaking up our friendship and perhaps driving a wedge into the very heart of it? Yes. Did I consider myself too ignorant of political matters to even broach the topic? Yes.

Notice the past-tense reference.

One of her lifelong dreams was to one day be involved in politics. This year her dream was realized. She worked her tail off, sought funding, and walked the hot summer streets going door to door, getting the necessary signatures and votes. She was hoping for my support; but to back her party’s platform for me would go against everything that I hold non-negotiable as a Catholic. Apparently I was naive to think she held these same beliefs.

It was her running for office that finally made me realize the lost opportunities I could have had so many years ago. However, in the big scheme of things, it is never too late to do the right thing, to say what is on one’s mind, to educate and spread the Good News. So I prayed and I sent her a letter outlining each and every reason why I would not and could not ever vote for what she stood for.

What I received back emanated from a true politician; a redirect, a deflection, and deft counter of carefully worded questions designed to take the offensive. They also had little to do with what I had shared.  I guess it was rather green of me to hope that two long-time friends could have a genuine honest dialogue.

I rather loathe the election years. It is for me exhausting and terribly divisive. People who I normally have great respect for seem to turn into something out of Jekyll and Hyde.  Tempers flare almost immediately, lines are drawn; words fly like arrows aimed to silence an opponent.

The other issue I find most confounding is how intelligent people who appear to know right from wrong, good from bad, ignore that and stick with party lines to the detriment of the family, society, our nation and deeply held American beliefs. How can you say you care for the poor, and at the same time have disdain for the unborn? Pay little or no attention to Catholic teachings on homosexuality, life and freedom of religion?

If we are Catholics, doesn’t that suggest that we hold the same values and beliefs? Are we Catholic first or are we foremost Democrat or Republican and lock our Catholic beliefs out of the public square?

Remaining charitable in the face of those who seem to have a deliberate indifference to Catholic teaching, perverting and twisting it to fit political leanings is a real cross to bear, and I pray another opportunity to grow in holiness.

So to all the other men and women out there who have held their tongue out of fear, rather than risk a friendship or persecution at school or work; I urge you to speak out. Do not delay in sharing the truth that we hold in the Catholic Church, to know it and live it yourself as a tangible, charitable witness.  When we do not speak, evil advances, and more minds and hearts are lead astray in the cryptic, illusory, murmurings of the serpent that always leads to destruction.

Finally, pray with all your strength. It is the mightiest weapon we have in our armory. In the months leading up to one of the most important elections of our history, use all the weapons at our disposal; fasting, novenas, rosaries, acts of mortification. Pray that God will clear the fog that clouds judgments and obscures vision. Join Catholics all over the nation in praying the Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation from September 27th to October 7th. Spread the word of this Novena and entrust our country to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. May she come to our assistance in this time, to convert hearts, change minds and intercede for us at the throne of her Son.

 


Barbara Lishko works full time as a Lay Catholic Marriage Minister. She and her husband Mark, an ordained Deacon, have been married for 35 years and are blessed with five young adult children, whose lives grow and expand through marriage and grandchildren.


Through the inspiration of her family, work in the Catholic Church and wacky life experiences her dream of writing was born. She is the recipient of the Diocese of Phoenix St Terese of Lisieux award. Barbara can be reached at blishko_58@yahoo.com


  • Jared Black

    “What I received back emanated from a true politician; a redirect, a
    deflection, and deft counter of carefully worded questions designed to
    take the offensive. They also had little to do with what I had shared. I
    guess it was rather green of me to hope that two long-time friends
    could have a genuine honest dialogue.”

    *sigh* That is precisely what I have experienced in the last year as my best friend from college and I have drifted apart. The two of us were Evangelicals in the same college fellowship, and remained very close friends after I entered the Church and he got back into his Lutheran (ELCA) roots. We rarely discussed politics but always had lively—and always friendly—theological debates. That changed in 2008, along the same lines as Barb’s friend, except that I became more politicized right along with him, only in opposite directions.

    We disagreed more and exchanged some harsh words more often, but when we weren’t talking politics we still got along fine. Still, over the last year or two my friend began to not only agree with his party of choice in all things, he began to take on their worse vices: never answering any question directly, using ad hominem attacks apologetically, constantly changing the subject to his set of pet issues and diatribes, and ignoring most of what I had to say.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back was when we took opposite sides on the HHS mandate issue. By that time, I could barely recognize the guy I used to love hanging out with and talking to. All I heard was rote repetitions of the party line and soundbite arguments I could’ve just as easily heard on some cable network. I couldn’t communicate with him on a personal level anymore. We’re out of touch now; I had said everything I could say, in every way I could think of, and it all fell on deaf ears. Rather than continue a never-ending loop of argument, we don’t contact each other anymore. I wish things had ended differently, I but I honestly don’t think I could have handled it any differently, so I guess I have to accept this outcome. 🙁

  • RogerW

    Very true, Barb. Gone forever are the days where Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill could disagree vociferously during the day, but then go out in the evening and share a drink and a laugh. Our U.S. culture is increasingly reflecting the divisions between the two political parties — or perhaps the parties are reflecting our culture. “Blue” and “red” dividing lines are as real as ever. People tend to hang out most closely with those who agree with them, reinforcing the “groupthink.” Towns and cities also take on distinctive identities (i.e., San Francisco = very liberal).
    While I say it reluctantly — and with apologies to Abraham Lincoln — I think it may be time for the U.S. to peacefully split in two and go in two separate directions. The “blue” region could pursue big government, high taxes, intrusive regulations, generous hand-outs, abortion on demand, gay marriage, and little to no personal accountability (i.e., few limits on personal conduct). The “red” region, on the other hand, could return to our Constitutional roots, limit the reach of government, respect life, defend the marriage tradition, and encourage individual responsbility and a true sense of community. I’ll go with the “red” team and I assure you it wouldn’t be long before the “blue” country collapsed in on itself. We may be at this point as we seem simply too polarized as a people to remain together for much longer. . .

  • Carol Lokare

    Roger, I will choose the “blue” region. After all, that is where Jesus would reside. Jesus was all about the most vulnerable among us. He was all about ministering to the sick and suffering. He was all about clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless. He was all about feeding the hungry. Jesus was much more a liberal than a conservative. He threw out the money changers from the temple and admonished their thievery. He had no desire to live among the wealthy. Greed was just not embraced by him. I doubt he would ever have much reason to visit the “red” regions. And Jared, maybe the reason you and your college friend had a parting of the ways is because he no longer recognized the Jesus you and countless others have concocted to soothe your own warped sense of what it means to be a true Christian, a Jesus who would choose to live in the “red” region. I never learned about that Jesus in all my years of Catholic school and then catechism. I can say these things because I am the friend Barbara is writing about in this little story of hers. I guess the courage to invite me to read this little essay though, didn’t extend that far. Courage? I think not. I am running for the AZ Legislature because we don’t have many legislators now in elected office who actually are pro-life. Oh, they say they are but their pro-life credentials only take them to the womb but not any further. Case in point…AZ has drastically cut funding to AHCCCS, resulting in hundreds of thousands of adults and children without healthcare. Nothing resembling Christian behavior there. Case in point…AZ has diverted millions upon millions of dollars to build private prisons at the expense of helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. Nothing resembling Christian behavior there. Case in point…AZ has defunded, devalued and demoralized public school children and teachers to the point where we are last in future country when in comes to fu ding public schools. Nothing resembling Christian behavior there. Case in point…AZ has added billions of dollars in hospital debt because of our refusal to provide healthcare to poor people. Nothing resembling Christian behavior there. Case in point…AZ has had to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to individuals who have suffered at the hands of our current sheriff because of maltreatment while confined to his jails. Nothing resembling Christian behavior there. Boy, oh, boy, what would Jesus do? I don’t think he would embrace the Republican ideology. I don’t think he would embrace the Paul Ryan budget plan that was found to be utterly lacking in Catholic principles by the Catholic bishops. They found his plan to be dangerous and mean- spirited, devoid of any humanity. Quite a testimonial! So, reserve me an spot in the “blue” region. It sounds like home to me.

  • Cyndi

    I believe Jesus chooses to live in ALL regions. We are ALL his children and BOTH “blue” and “red” regions need Jesus in their lives, because both “regions” are lacking in human values, dignity and respect. One of my bigger issues in this political sphere is health care. As a nurse, this is a huge concern for me; for the well-being of my patients,my elderly mother and my children. I work very closely daily with AHCCCS patients. Yes, we are lacking in Arizona, but no where near as much as other states. Check out Illinois and what “the boys” of the political “machine” have done for those needing healthcare in my home town of Chicago. We definitely need health care reform, but this Patient Affordability Act is NOT the reform we need. I am curious to ask you, Carol, have you thoroughly read this bill, or are you no different than my other Democratic friends, (not to mention the majority of those who passed it), that have not read the bill, but blindly will support it because your Democratic leader said it is so great. I spent 4 months reading it. It’s not great and would love to have a discussion per section/page, on why I have this opinion. I’ve yet to find a supporter who is ready to do that. As (still) a registered Democrat, I receive no less than 2 emails a day from Pres. Obama or Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi asking me to donate “more”money to make sure the Republicans don’t win. Really? I am suffering terribly to just pay my mortgage and you want more money from me? You haven’t done anything well with the money (aka taxes) I’ve already given you, not too mention what better use all that money could have for supporting healthcare for those who need it, instead of supporting your egotistical agendas!

    • Carol Lokare

      Cyndi, I have read the bill, and as a registered nurse for 32 years now I give all the credit to the Democrats in the US House and Senate, and President Obama, who at least made an attempt to tackle the healthcare issue. Of course it is not perfect, and of course it needs some tweaking, but to do as the Republicans suggest and throw the whole thing away and start over is pure folly. The issue will never be addressed for years and years. Republicans are perfectly happy rejecting universal healthcare, despite the fact that a system like Medicare is one of the most efficiently run and cost-effective programs in existence. And the overhead is nominal compared to private insurance providers. These are indisputable facts. What would you suggest? I want the same healthcare coverage choices that my elected officials currently receive. Nothing more. What could be fairer? Because of my breast cancer diagnosis of eight years ago, I have been tethered to a large healthcare corporation for nursing employment because I cannot qualify for affordable healthcare as an individual. In 2014, under the ACA, that will no longer be the case. Hallelujah! BTW, I have received no requests for money from any political party because I have not signed onto their web pages and such. I am sure Republicans are being inundated with requests for money also…because you know, if President Obama gets re-elected, the end of the world as we know it will soon arrive ( that Socialist, anti-colonial, fascist, Muslim-worshipping, apology-touring, American hating, anti-white man, affirmative action baby, Kenyan, non-citizen president…yeah, that one).