a shocking election?


Are there any shocks left in the 2016 US Presidential campaign? Do we have any right to be shocked at what has happened so far?

The American democratic process has morphed into a reality show. As with all successful reality shows, what happens in a one hour episode is further fed by tabloid headlines, commentaries and interviews throughout the week. It’s a basic marketing tactic, ensuring a larger audience for the next show.

Shock sells.

We, the viewers, get sucked in by the outlandish characters. We gasp at the latest absurdities. We try to break free from the shock vortex. We try to look away. Instead, we get sucked in deeper and deeper each week.

The three presidential debates are finally done. Thanks be to God! A couple more weeks and this over-hyped, over-priced, over-reported election will be over. Perhaps news headlines will then begin focusing on real global issues? I’m not that naive. I’m sure we will continue to be bombarded with the latest shock talk from the ever bombastic and ever ungracious loser, Donald Trump.

Here in Canada, we often grumble about the over-sized egos of American politics; both from the candidates and the country as a whole. The United States of America may be a cultural, military and economic Goliath but the president is their leader not ours. No, we do not consider him or her to be the “leader of the free world”. The US is our neighbour and ally, not our feudal lord.

This does not mean that we are indifferent to who becomes the US President. Being a part of a global community requires that we all elect leaders who genuinely desire to work for the greatest good both within their country and on the world stage. We need leaders who understand the value of diplomacy and working with allies. We need leaders who garner respect in international meetings and dealings.

On a recent visit to Canada, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that President Barack Obama was “elected by the world” and that Donald Trump is “rejected by the world”.

The world does care who Americans elect as their leader. The world needs intelligent, experienced leaders more than ever. We need women and men who are well grounded in the complexities of foreign affairs as well as the reality of domestic issues. We need leaders of integrity. They do not need to be saints, but they must reflect basic moral tenets of respect and care for all people in both their daily and public lives.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

The biggest shock, in my opinion, was when Trump announced he was considering running for President. Knowing what we did about this man, how could he even contemplate this? Was it a joke? Who would be foolish enough to support him?

Trump was no hermit billionaire. Narcissism was the foundation of his empire and brand. His poor business dealings and bankruptcies were public knowledge. His unfaithfulness to his wives was well reported.

The Donald was a regular guest on shock jock Howard Stern’s radio show. His conversations with Stern were not “hot mic” moments. They were recorded on public air waves, leaving no room for misinterpretations of his disgusting, sexist, misogynistic views. Why weren’t these tapes brought out at the start of his campaign to demonstrate his unworthiness?

Donald Trump never hid who Donald Trump really is. He flip flops on issues but there is little duplicity in his character. He eschews political correctness and basic rules of respectful, public dialogue. What you see is what you get.

It is disingenuous, therefore, of Republican leaders and others to only express shock now, this late in the game. It wouldn’t have taken much vetting by the GOP to show that he is the most unsuitable and dangerous presidential candidate in history. Many knew this, but lacked the courage to do anything.

Modern history is filled with examples of egotistical, racist, nativist, hate-filled, paranoid dictators. That society can produce such a person is not shocking. What is shocking is their power to attract so many loyal and fanatical followers, followers who are willing to go to extremes for their leader.

God bless America? You bet! I pray that wise minds and right judgment will prevail on election day. I pray that the nation that takes such pride in its democratic process will be blessed with the leaders they need at this divisive time in their history; leaders they can be proud of.

The world is watching….and praying.

empathy, a qualification for president?

I’m still reading and digesting  Amoris Laetitia, and will begin writing some reflections as soon as I’m done. Spoiler alert….chapter 4 is brilliant! In the meantime, I came across an interesting story on CNN this morning that ties in with my recent post on empathy.

The CNN article is titled,  Who’s really qualified to be President? 11 takes. Many of the women and men giving their opinions in the article have had direct access to presidents or worked in high level governmental positions. What struck me was how many times empathy was listed as a necessary qualification for a President.

David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN and a White House advisor to four presidents writes,

Empathy and appreciation of differences: In a world best characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, our new President must have an ability to listen and work collaboratively with people of vastly different perspectives.

Anne-Marie Slaughter,president and CEO of New America and director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2011, believes that,

The qualifications that we should be looking for in a president—and I base this on my experience as a leader, a State Department official, and a citizen–are intelligence, grit, courage, empathy, and the ability to listen to what you don’t want to hear…Empathy is undervalued, but if a President cannot walk in the shoes of a citizen, an immigrant, or a human being half way around the world and feel what that person is feeling, s/he cannot lead in the way that people often yearn to be led.

Empathy is the only quality on Paul Begala’s list.

I believe empathy is the most important quality a president can have. This is an impossibly large, unimaginably diverse country. The ability to empathize with people of every race, religion, sexual orientation, region, generation, and ideology is critical. A president must be able to put herself — or himself — in the Guccis of foreign leaders, the cowboy boots of congressmen, the orthopedic shoes of the elderly, and the flip-flops of the young. Obviously brains help and rhetorical skills are a great asset, but for my money, empathy matters most.

Begala is a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator. He was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and a counselor to Clinton in the White House.

It doesn’t take a deep thinker to connect the dots of these reflections to a critique of a Donald Trump style of leadership. Trump’s rudeness and belligerence are obvious and easy to name.  Leaders without basic social graces and manners not only insult the people they serve, they are an embarrassment on the world stage.

Naming empathy  as a necessary qualification for a President points to an issue deeper than a nasty personality; an issue that can have far reaching consequences on both long term policies and critical moments when quick decisions are required. Empathy IS needed for a moral life and moral leaders are needed more than ever. Also needed are moral voters who can look beyond their own back-yard issues and vote for leaders who will work for peace, justice and good governance for all.


when does human life begin? – canadian parliament to vote on studying the question

Last week I wrote a post for the NCR Today blog, on a controversial motion in our Canadian parliament. Motion 312 is a private member’s motion put forward by Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Stephen Woodworth. It calls for the House of Commons to form a special committee to study the question of when human life begins. Presently, under the Criminal Code of Canada,

“A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”

Though a pro-lifer himself, Woodworth insists that the purpose of the motion is not to reopen the abortion debate – something that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised not to do. All Woodworth wants is an “open-minded, evidence-based study” on a 400-year-old Criminal Code definition of a human being.

On Sept. 18, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement in support of Motion 312, inviting “all members of the Parliament of Canada to take into full account the sacredness of the unborn child and each human life.” Also, about 60 high-profile groups and individuals have signed The Declaration of Support for Parliamentary Study of Canada’s Legal Definition of “Human Being.”

A Catholic Register article describes the one hour debate last Friday, and the atmosphere in the House of Commons at the time. According to the article, only 30 to 35 MPs attended the debate which took place during the final hour of the House of Commons’ agenda dealing with private member’s business. The government’s chief whip, Conservative MP Gordon O’Connor, told the House in the previous hour of debate that the government would not support this motion. During the actual debate on Motion 312, O’Conner seemed to be taking notes on Conservative MPs who rose to speak in favor of the motion.

Conservative MP David Anderson defended the motion, “We need to recognize that a majority of Canadians believe that human life begins long before a person is born. We can understand that if the evidence establishes that a child does in fact become a human being before the moment of complete birth, then subsection 223(1) has some major problems and it is actually a law that dehumanizes and excludes a whole class of human beings from legal protection.” (Today, Immigration Minister and a prominent Cabinet Minister, Jason Kenney, announced that he will vote in favor of the motion.)

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen’s argument described the view of most who oppose the motion, “The member for Kitchener Centre’s desire to open up this debate has an end goal of changing the legislation to enable the fetus to be declared a human being…We are all very aware that such a change in the definition will place Canada directly on the regressive path to banning abortions.”

The vote is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

(More thoughts to come….)