It’s election day in America. Love the candidates or hate them, we the citizens of the greatest nation on earth have the dearly-won privilege of educating ourselves and partaking in the voting process.
It is not a right to vote, it is a privilege.
It is a privilege that woman did not always enjoy. That black men in the 19th century couldn’t have dreamed of. That people without significant personal wealth or land were once denied. That immigrants who arrived on our shores poor and hungry but finally free would work towards for years, obtaining their citizenship and then proudly exercize.
Although we are straining at the social constructs that we once all held dear – or at least true – all hope is not yet lost for this great country of ours.
I was thinking about that this morning while watching my one year old toddle around with newfound ambulatory expertise, his chubby legs and too-small feet barely providing him the ballast to cross the living room. The fact is, no matter how fractured our social order might seem or how angry the media voices bleating out headlines, no matter how much mud the politicians sling at one another, this place we call home is still exceptional. And my tiny son, blissfully unaware of the problems and various national crises that assail us in the year 2016, had the good fortune to be born into the happiest and greatest place on earth.
Walk into a grocery store and smile at a stranger. 9 times of of 10, they will return the smile. Interact with a barista or cashier or other service industry employee and marvel at their friendliness and courtesy. Walk into a church or place of worship and do so freely, unencumbered by government harassment or persecution. Be confidant in the ability to find a place of worship, staffed by a member of the clergy of your faith, to worship with you in your faith tradition.
Put your children into a school that you can volunteer in, where you can advise the school board over the curriculum. Or teach them at home, or in a private school whose values align with yours. You have unprecedented choice and control over your children’s education.
Get a job and work hard, with integrity and timeliness and to the best of your ability, and see if you don’t advance along that career path, maybe even enjoying a raise or two along the way. Expect to be able to keep a significant – perhaps not significant enough, but still better than most places – portion of your income to spend and give and invest as you see fit. Take part of your paycheck and set it aside month after month and maybe in a little while there will be enough for a modest down payment on a little house you can own.
What I’m saying is that for all our problems, for all our difficulties and differences and the real ills that plague us as a people, America is still good. She is good and she is free, and she can continue to be good and even become great again, to the extent that her people do not lose sight of who they are.
America is not great because she is rich.
America is not great because of her many modern conveniences and all the newest technological advances.
America is not great because she is powerful.
America is great because she is good.
Because her people are good. Because there are millions of good Samaritans who inhabit this land between two shining seas who will still do the right thing when it is asked of them. Who will lend a hand and stop for an accident and report a crime and comfort a crying stranger. Who will take up the mantle of freedom won by generations past who sacrificed and bled for an unseen future and will carry it proudly and heroically into the unknown.
We must not forget that in this era of endless breaking news updates and fresh opportunities for outrage, that we are still good. That America is a good place. And that there are very few places like it on earth.
I have been to a few of them, and there is truly goodness and beauty everywhere. But America is something different. We have something special here.
Let us not lose sight of that. Especially tomorrow as our nation wakes in the light of a new administration, a new page turned in our national history. Whomever the heavy mantle of the Presidency falls upon tonight after the polls close, and however great the disappointment of half the country, we can still walk forward together in pursuit of a better, freer future for this great land of ours. We might have to work against our leaders and elected officials to realize these goals, but that does not mean they are unattainable. It just means we have to roll our sleeves up further and bend our knees in prayer more frequently.
Because America is still good. She is not perfect, but she is good. And she is worth fighting for.
On this election day, let us pray together in the words of St. John Paul II upon his visit to our great land 29 years ago:
Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival-yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenceless ones, those as yet unborn.
With these sentiments of love and hope for America, I now say goodbye in words that I spoke once before: “Today, therefore, my final prayer is this: that God will bless America, so that she may increasingly become – and truly be – and long remain one Nation, under God, indivisible. With liberty and justice for all”