Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

The Politics of Mercy

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There are many things I avoid – eating excessive amounts of peanut butter, ironing, mom jeans and most of all – politics.

Politics is necessary in any democracy and political liberty is one of the greatest things about our country. However, the way people use it to insult others, promote their platform — no matter how inaccurate or askew, and refuse basic civilities, like listening to another’s viewpoint disturbs me.  I have seen this from the elephants and the donkeys.  I have seen this from presidents, political leaders, media, and from the dearest of friends and family.

All the while I have kept my mouth shut.  Tell me I have no backbone, and I will tell you I have a little scoliosis.   Perhaps my spine isn’t as straight as it should be; nevertheless, I assure you it is there.

So while I have tried to toe the line, change the subject and keep my political convictions confined to the ballot, doing works of mercy during an election year proves to be a particular challenge.

First, I had a horrible fight with a dear friend over the presidential election.  What was so maddening about this was that she has always known where I stand politically, and for the most part it has been opposite of her.  Nothing has changed.

So why now is it a huge issue, when I have continued to stay relatively mum on the subject? She said it was easier to ignore before I considered putting a campaign sign in my yard. Too bad for me, it was not easy to ignore her rant that seemed more personal than political.   The minutia that inflames people these days is startling.

I was hurt that she said the things she did, but I was also frustrated.  I don’t want to have to identify myself with any political party (which is why I was debating putting the sign in my yard in the first place.)  I am so much more than my politics.  I wonder if that is how people end up so far right or so far left, refusing to listen to the other’s point of view because there are so few in the middle capable of true dialogue.

When it comes to politics, it seems impossible for most people to believe that you are a good person, when you dare to vote differently than they do.  My friend is a good person, mother, citizen and friend.  I think she would say the same of me, but suddenly all that is forgotten when the subject of politics arises.  Again look at what is being forgotten – these are things that unlike whether you wear red or blue on Election Day truly matter.

I often hear religious people referred to as “intolerant.”  I can’t think of anything further from the truth when I consider my faith.  Jesus didn’t hang out with the cool kids.  He ministered to lepers, prostitutes, the poor, the crippled, the disavowed and disowned.  I think He was incredibly tolerant.

I am not so dense that I don’t see that people vote their personal and religious convictions, and they are therefore inherently intertwined.  That is how I vote.  However believing something politically or religiously different doesn’t give anyone the right to damn another or judge them.  And let’s be honest there is a lot of damning going on.

Speaking of which, the second damn thing that happened to me was the admonishment I received for protesting in front of a future site of an abortion clinic.  Again, practicing something personal and moral to me becomes distorted by politics.

I didn’t protest to be politically correct; because I am pretty sure it’s not – the politics of popular culture lean in the other direction these days.  I did it as a spiritual work of mercy, to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.  It is what we as Christians are called to do.

I have not protested anything more significant than someone cutting in front of me in the check-out line at Target, so for me this was uncharted territory.

October is the month for the 40 Days for Life campaign (I am not sure when the other 9 days are since the month only has 31, but I figured it best to not get bogged down in the details.) I did inquire when I spoke with the demonstration organizer if the signs I would be carrying were offensive.  It was important to me to not carry a sign with any graphic images.  I was assured that they were appropriate.

Me and the event organizer, Deacon Corky.

I covered the 8 a.m. shift because that is when I was told volunteers were most needed.  My girlfriend, who had never protested anything either, volunteered to join me and since she had not set out to perform a year of mercy work, I thought this was very admirable of her.

So there I was with my friend who chose to wear a cheery pink shirt to match her disposition.  (She said she wasn’t sure what was appropriate protest attire, but decided there was no need to be gloomy.)  I liked her attitude.

I had wondered about this myself – the demeanor of a protester.  Often they seem angry, but I am not angry.  I was relieved to see that no one I met there was angry either.  I believe the people there were advocating for life.  It seemed more an act of love than an act of anger.

I brought my camera to take pictures to share on this site and realized when I was posing I was all smiles.  Oops.  I wasn’t sure if it was okay to smile when demonstrating against something so serious.  But everyone was so kind and welcoming I didn’t really have a reason to not smile.  I did feel like an over-zealous scrap-booker out there taking pictures.  The thought of which made me smile all the more.

I don’t belie the seriousness of abortion.  I think it is sad that people feel like there is no other choice.  There are so many choices in our country.  Good, doable choices.  For so many people to find no other choice on a daily, monthly and yearly basis is undeniably sad.

Mostly, I think it’s sad that the baby in the womb never, ever has a chance at life.

I used to think that if people were not murdered, aborted, killed in wars or otherwise destroyed by man’s free will — that maybe we would be closer to a cancer cure, world peace or simply a more joyful world.  It’s hard to not lament what would have been when someone’s life ends prematurely.  I think there is a lot of potential that gets buried with all of those bodies.  It is a tremendous loss for our civilization.

So certainly that is nothing to smile about.  Still, protesting wasn’t sad for me.  It just seemed like the right thing to do for someone who doesn’t get a voice, much less a vote.  It was a small gesture to the souls in heaven that never got to live on earth that says you matter to someone here.

The protest site was a vacant building on a busy stretch of Powers Avenue.  It was during the morning commute so there were plenty of passersby.   I found the whole thing, while significant, pretty uneventful.  No one threw paint on us or yelled obscenities.  Occasionally the whir of passing cars would be punctuated with a horn honk.  Apparently horn-honking is good.  While I am not normally a fan of being honked at because I usually associate it with road rage or perverts, holding a pro-life sign and getting a little honk was validating.  (Unless, as one of the volunteers cleverly pointed out, they are displaying their middle finger.)  As luck would have it, that was not the case for us.

While volunteering, my cell phone rang and I ignored it.  I am sure it is not proper protest etiquette to talk on the phone when you demonstrate.  It rang again a few minutes later.  Since I saw that it was the same person as before, I figured I better answer it in case this person really needed me.

It turns out they had a very important question to ask – “What the hell are you doing?”  I suspected that was rhetorical and answered as such.  This didn’t seem like anything I needed to explain, but clearly I was being asked to justify it.  To my disdain, the question I am asking very often at this point in my life is why I need to justify my beliefs.  Don’t you know that I am 40? I wonder if the Catholic Church, thousands of years old, is feeling the same way.

This person kept saying don’t you realize that you are trying to intimidate people – what you are doing is intimidation.

I think what I was doing was a lot of things, but no, I don’t think standing in front of a boarded up empty business advocating life was intimidating anyone.  Not to mention, me and my friend in the perky pink shirt–nor the other mothers, fathers and grandparents holding signs are not even a little bit scary.  The thought of us being intimidating almost makes me laugh.  One of the signs even said to join us.  That seems down- right hospitable if you ask me.

But I didn’t laugh, I got a familiar pit in my stomach that I had a few days before when my political beliefs were attacked.  It took about 15 seconds to realize we were not going to agree, so I ended the call explaining that obviously this was not the appropriate place to debate this.  But for me, neither is any other place.  I stood there for someone who couldn’t.  I stood for life.

I will continue to avoid politics and I know there are many on my left and many on my right who disagree with this perceived apathy, but I do ask you to respect my choice.   Perhaps, consider it is rooted more in the desire for peace than it is in passivity.

My friend who I had the argument about politics with offered a profound and sincere apology, which shows that she too is more than her politics.  Meanwhile, I listened to other disapproving comments about the abortion protest from several people.  I offered no apologies or defense, but I listened.  Ultimately, I am relieved to have this part of my work done.

So, imagine my exasperation when while writing this very entry my seven-year old struts into the living room donning a dapper suit and fedora.  He announces that his second grade class is doing a social studies project and will have a class election.  Even more exciting than that, his good friend is running for president and he has picked my son as his running mate.  I must go now because he has asked me to use the computer.   He needs it to make signs for their campaign.

God help me.

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Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

12 thoughts on “The Politics of Mercy

  1. Beautiful, beautiful post. Your act of mercy, standing for life, is truly appreciated. What a loving act, for those who aren’t given the opportunity to one day stand for a cause they might one day embrace. As one who works for “life,” your participation in the protest is cupid’s arrow in my heart! There is only one flaw in your plan (in my mind’s eye) and it is this: your acts of mercy are never “done.” These beautiful acts cannot be treated as an item checked off a list; they all are on-going and become a part of you in your walk with the Lord. You will undoubtedly feed many homeless people, whether with tangible food you provide, or spiritual food, such as prayer. And you will again stand for life, whether it be holding a sign or answering a phone at a pregnancy center, or even talking with a pregnant woman who doesn’t know how she’s going to take care of her baby. Your heart is huge and tender, my sweet friend. There is so much work to do on this earth for our Lord and we all need to participate in acts of mercy…our work never ends. Your journey into your forties has just begun and you will undoubtedly nourish a great many souls. Just as importantly, I suspect, you will discover the amazing love in which your soul will have been fed while tending to others.

    Carry on! I look forward to the next act of this spiritual adventure!

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    • Thank you so much Patti.And your right, it can’t end here. None of it can. Hopefully after this year of boot camp for my soul, this stuff will come easier for me in both deed and heart. I look forward to sharing the incredible work that is your mission. in fact, I left you a message yesterday!

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  2. I admire you for your courage to stand up for your beliefs! It gives me the courage to be politically (in?)correct and say: Please people, don’t forget to vote on November 6th for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, a good catholic boy.

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  3. Wow! Your words are truly inspiring, particularly about your desire to be a voice for the voiceless. I think people would be amazed if they knew the whole stories behind the faces that stand in front of abortion “clinics.” How many of those women have lost a child or have had someone in their families lost to the holocaust of abortion. I myself have a brother or sister. A decision deeply regreted and yet healed by God’s fierce and all consuming mercy. That is why I stand with a sign. Thank you for your witness…for those who can’t stand.

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    • AP–What a beautiful testimony. I am sorry for your loss. You are such an amazing person — no doubt your sibling would have been as well. I will remember this especially when I am told the intent to stand is to intimidate someone else. It is for those who suffer with regret and more so, for those who we will never have the joy to know.

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  4. I am very proud of you for taking steps into that uncharted territory and I am proud for not being afraid. I hope I can be strong like you one day!

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    • I am replying to my own comment as this was the day I also experienced a disappointing conversation about politics and religion with a friend of mine. A conversation that I tried to change the topic several times over the phone to the usual questions” how are the kids” and how is your husband” and how was work??”” ” Haven’t talk with you in a while… what’s new???”
      As usual the questions were answered, but the topic of the day for her was the election. I welcome information because I do thirst for knowledge.. beside knowledge is a tool.
      She shared her views with a little taste of insults and a hint of demeaning comments to those who do not agree. My thirst for knowledge disappeared and so did some of my respect for her. We can agree to disagree in an educated friendly manner. Why not use facts and information so that I can learn something I may not know? : I welcome that but insulting people with different beliefs really is waste of time.
      Of course she never knew my true feelings because I was sad. I realized I could not share my true self with her. I wore my mask not proud; she did not want to see my true face; she prefers my mask.
      I spoke with her the other nightby phone and I remained quiet about the subject again. She spoke ill about one of our friends because she was voting for the wrong party.

      I can say this.. I do not care who any of friends vote for; my friendship embraces the differences of the people in my life. I have learned so much from my friendships. I have friends that graduted college, other friends I have did not. I have friends who are doing well financially and other who are paycheck to pay check.. (that is me!!)
      I have also learned that there are people unwilling to accept differences and look at that as an obstacle and a barrier; in turn the friendship suffers.

      As far as my friend and I, I love her. She is good person. I will continue wearing my mask until the election is over.. then what?? who knows??

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  5. Ahhh. Politics. Not since the O.J. Simpson trial have there been such heated debates in my household. I have friends all across the political spectrum but the one thing that resonates with me is the total incivility, intolerance and inability to see/admit the weakness of the candidates I feel is on both sides. I frankly have been totally discouraged and disillusioned by how our government is run, including on the local level. I am glad that you’ve been able to reconcile with your friend and I’m sorry for those who questioned your decision to stand up for life. They should act on their own convictions in a concrete way (as you did) instead of questioning you. To me, it’s the contrast between impacting many people (as you did) or trying to impose one’s ideology on one person (as they were trying to do).

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  6. While I have never considered you especially intimidating, I am glad to read someone did haha. I too avoid the subject of politics because you aren’t really going to change someone’s mind and all you will end up is frustrated and annoyed at the idiocy of your friend. But what you did stand up for – well that could change someone’s mind. The crazy thing is that the more passionate you become about something you will drive some people away. It is just a fact. BUT you will also find that you will help others open their minds. And on that day you stood out there in front of an empty building, you also gave something for each person driving by to think about. Could it have been a teenage girl considering giving in for the first time to her boyfriend? Or a newly pregnant woman unable to afford her unborn child? You never know how far the ripples go from what seems to be a simple act. Whether it is politics or religion or whatever, we need to stop apologizing for our beliefs. The only people who need to apologize are those that believe in nothing and stand up for nothing.

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  7. You are incredible and an excellent writer! Love ya, Maggie

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