We are finally easing our way into the holiday season and away from the time of endless political advertisements, robo calls, incessant emails asking for money and the vagaries and distortions of campaign rhetoric. We can all give thanks for that.
What we have before us now, in the aftermath of what was an ugly time of conflicting opinions and ideologies, is a chance to heal.
Hippocrates, in days long before mail-in votes, primary debates and months-long campaigns, had a wise thing to say about mending the rifts caused by our society of disagreement.
“Healing is a matter of time,” he wrote. “But it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
Here of course is the problem: We need not only to heal from weeks of sometimes hateful political discourse, but we face the monumental task of dealing with and healing from the worst pandemic of the past century.
And even where the pandemic is concerned, there is hostility and animus. To some the entire notion of COVID-19 is “fake news.” There are people who have said — with a straight face — that after the election the fake disease would disappear. Of course those people haven’t had friends or loved ones sickened or killed by the virus. Their attitude is an example of the gap, the division that illustrates our political and ideological divisions.
Somehow and for reasons known only to the whims of the universe, what was once dialogue has turned into demagoguery. Unity has gone the way of the rotary telephone, and empathy and compassion, at least for some of us, have given way to an “I’ve got mine, you get yours” mentality.
From all of that, we need to heal. From the two great menaces of our time — COVID-19 and societal divisions — we need to recover.
And the church, in its wisdom, provides some guidelines toward healing that our better angels would have us follow.
Pope Francis has noted that church social doctrine provides us with what he called a “guide for healing and building a better future.”
For instance, a proper response to the pandemic must be two-fold, he said in August.
“On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus which has brought the whole world to its knees,” he said. “On the other, we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and the lack of protection for the weakest.”
The pope noted that many governments are providing economic assistance to businesses and industries whose profits have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“It would be a scandal if all the economic assistance we are observing — most of it with public money — were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of creation,” he said.
We must all battle the virus with the common purpose of not only defeating the disease but “promoting the common good.”
For that to happen, at least in the United States, we must begin to talk to one another without rancor or derision. We have to become a nation that once again values substance over illusion; truth over fantasy; helping rather than harming.
It’s all easier said than done, of course. Battling a pandemic while at the same time trying to heal a country as divided as its been since the Civil War is a monumental task. But the church provides us with a roadmap.
First we must believe that it can be done. Then we can work to be part of the solution, the healing, the change for the better.
Record Editor Emeritus