Hope, change and aspiration
“Do not let trials and pains overwhelm you.”
Pope Francis said this during Mass in Mexico City on the night of last Feb. 13, while at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Moments after Mass ended, news broke that Justice Antonin Scalia had died. I was stunned, as was America.
My friend Bill McGurn at The Wall Street Journal called this the Justice Scalia election. It’s an apt name, in more ways than one. I read his column as I listened to church ladies in Florida tell me they had to vote for Donald Trump, despite their misgivings because “Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court.” The Supreme Court was the place that seemed to make bad laws, affirm unconstitutional laws, and keep good laws from remaining if interest groups were persistent and strategic enough. And that wasn’t quite the way the Constitution sounded in school or “Schoolhouse Rock.”
When Pope Francis was in Mexico last February, he preached on the Gospel of the day, the Visitation. A pregnant Mary went out to meet her cousin Elizabeth, and “She set out without delay, without doubts, without lessening her pace, to be with her relative who was in the last months of her pregnancy.” Mary’s world was somewhat upended when presented with the news that she had been called to be the mother of God. It was the end of the world as she knew it, you could say. But she had peacefulness, confidence and a love that could not be shaken. She went on, she moved forward, she knew who she was in the eyes of her Creator.
Looking around at the reactions to the results of the election, it’s hard to shake the idea that there was a message to take from the convergence of events on February 13.
“Hope” was mentioned six times in his homily during Mass. What did the election of Donald Trump -- and the defeat of Hillary Clinton -- mean for hope and change, the mantra of Barack Obama?
I was thinking about this on the way to Friday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral three days after the election, passing the security all around Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, noticing that most of the people who put Trump over the top -- those difference-makers in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -probably couldn’t afford to shop in many of the stores I was passing.
The people who put their misgivings about Trump aside voted for him because they’ve had it with politics, they’ve had it with business as usual. For most of the people I know and have talked to over the past year-plus who supported Trump, ‘Make America Great Again’ is about a culture of dreams and the hope of them being achieved. They reject hope as a political manipulation. Trump is a bigly gamble, but he’s not more of the same ideological and bureaucratic stranglehold.
In Guadalupe, Pope Francis said “there are so many situations which leave us powerless, which make us feel that there is no room for hope, for change, for transformation.” He encouraged his listeners, saying: “We can build shrines by sharing the joy of knowing that we are not alone.”
Is there any doubt, listening to some of the “cry-ins” on university campuses and grief and grievances on the streets, that the Beatitudes are needed? Could this mess of an election make for a more ordered view of politics? Where we’re not looking for it to give us hope, but to the people who serve out of religious ideals and commitment, people who help make hope real and change less overwhelming.