Study the ‘Signs of the Times’ of this Election Season
While Presidential elections are often described as consequential, the Tuesday, November 8, 2016 election surely ranks as one of the most important of our time.
As members of Pax Christi USA, and of its anti-racism team (PCART), we approach the upcoming national election with the lens of PCUSA’s Vision Statement, in which we affirm that:
“guided by the spirituality of nonviolence, we advocate and provide leadership for disarmament, demilitarization and reconciliation with justice, inclusiveness, economic and interracial justice, human rights and care of creation.”
The competing candidates’ views on these and other critical issues vary sharply, as evidenced by their differing positions regarding:
• The desirability of national policies designed to mitigate global climate change
• The appropriate role of government in improving the lives of the poor and elderly
• The role of diplomacy in international relations
• The proper function and beneficiaries of targeted tax policies
• The degree to which our immigrant nation will embrace new citizens from other lands
• The government’s role in redressing hunger and homelessness
• The composition of the judiciary
• The appropriateness of enhanced regulations governing financial institutions
• The future of the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, and other aspects of our nation’s social safety net
• The need for, and proper focus of, environmental conservation
• The need for widespread prison reform
• The proper response to the killings of unarmed Black citizens by police officers
The fact that the candidates espouse dramatically differing positions on these and other key issues is not itself unusual, in a national election. But what is notable this year is the intense heat of the political rhetoric, which is disturbingly abrasive, dismissive, divisive – and dangerous.
Equally disturbing are the many overt efforts in voting districts around the country to disenfranchise voters. The targets of these efforts continue to be largely people of color, and the poor. Yet, while the courts have recently overturned a number of those efforts, still, blatant actions to prevent individuals from exercising their right to vote persist.
We reject these efforts to divide us. As members of the Beloved Community, we accord equal respect to all, and recognize the imperative of empowering those among us who — by virtue of race, class, or other social constructs — have been repeatedly denied the opportunity to help determine the policies that impact their own lives. Those among us who have benefited by greater access to the halls of power, or to the workings of government, have a moral duty to share our access with our Sisters and Brothers who have been denied them.
The right to vote — with each person having an equal right to cast a ballot – is the hallmark of a democracy. Our democracy plays a critical role in the protection of human rights, both here and abroad. Yes, as in past years, it is anticipated this year that concerted activity will take place in a number of election districts across the country to undermine that democracy, by actively discouraging, frightening, or even preventing voters from casting their ballots.
These unscrupulous activities take many forms:
• Closing the polls early
• Failing to provide a sufficient number of working voting machines in low-income neighborhoods
• Trying to convince a would-be voter that he or she has gone to the wrong polling station
• Falsely claiming that someone is not properly registered to vote
• Failing to provide provisional ballots to mark, in the event a challenge to a voter’s legitimacy is later shown to be unfounded
• Spreading the rumor that the polling place will be heavily policed, which may frighten away voters
• Other tactics of intimidation and deterrence.
The Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team came together to respond to the presidential election in the method of Prayer, Study, and Action. To say the least, this election process has been tumultuous. As people of faith, grounded in a spirituality of nonviolence, we hope this three-part message will bring healing, insight, and just action. Monday we shared our Prayer. Today we share our Study. Friday we will share our Action.