Our national flaws, exposed but ignored


Irving Berlin in 1918 wrote the second verse of “God Bless America,” asking God to “mend thine every flaw.” Believers have sung this quasi-anthem in church on patriotic feasts whether liberal or conservative, north or south, black or white without worrying about being accused of failed patriotism. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang it on the steps of the capitol at the inauguration without hesitation, and you could see thousands of onlookers joining along. Maybe all were so ingrained that all could admit flaws and still reverence the flag.

Flaws we have. To admit it and want to correct them is good. To deny it and want to ignore them is wrong. We need only look at the quickly receding presidential campaign, even as the memories somehow fade of endless TV commercials repeating so no one could forget the statements and charges of the candidates against each other. They filmed their opponents, so there was no hope of saying he or she was misquoted. The statement that I think doomed Hillary Clinton was her proud promise to outlaw the Hyde amendment, the law that prohibits government from paying for any abortion unless for reasons of the life or health of the mother.

Consider that we Catholics are the nation’s largest single denomination even though we are only about 23 percent of the population. Granted this includes everyone from daily communicants to missed-my-Easter-duty-again. Protestant America, a majority of denominations like the Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and many more, forms a large but disunited group divided into mainline and evangelical disciples of Calvin and Luther, mainly, and in that order.

Many Protestants also oppose abortion on demand, but they are opposed by most feminists and liberals. These latter were courted by Clinton, who was not content to assume she could poll them as previous candidates had. She thought it necessary to go beyond what had always delivered for previous liberal candidates. The end result was that 52 percent of Catholics chose Trump. They left their traditional haven of the Democratic Party and went GOP. It did not help that Trump had called Pope Francis “disgraceful” for his criticism of those who build walls. Nor did it matter that Trump disowned several other Catholic pro-life issues like anti-capital punishment, immigration reform, against torture of Islamic prisoners and more. And no candidate has won the presidency without Catholic support in recent elections.

For the past several elections, the U.S. Catholic bishops have issued a guideline a year before the vote. It tries in a non-partisan way to guide readers to a discussion of the moral issues so that they can make up their minds in the privacy of their consciences. They do not specify which candidate or party good Catholics must choose. Overzealous preachers occasionally do this, and congregants usually see what is happening — and vote accordingly. The zealots do not answer when asked why the bishops’ quadrennial treatise does not do that. The bishops leave no room for ambiguity about abortion on demand, but they go beyond that to other mega-issues also responsible for the deaths of millions, like climate change and drug trafficking.

Those national flaws include a newfound contempt for the poor and marginalized. They did not have medical insurance, as do hundreds of millions of people around the world in countries far less prosperous than us, and now for generations. Caring for the medical needs of those who cannot pay the staggering bills charged by Big-Pharma and the competitive medical industry, which wants to see that every piece of newly invented machinery for things like radiography is in every doctor’s office, is certainly a pro-life issue. There would be fewer abortions if women had better medical coverage and social support. Yet the naked bitterness shown to the poor, who were told to pay their own bills without tax-funded medical insurance, was hardly pro-life. The raw anger evident at primary rallies and in vile, calumnious attack-radio tirades toward the needy, shown by furious shouters, gulled by the criminal shout-radio bigots, was hardly pro-life. Why not jail Limbaugh? Not happening.

Channel 12 ran a four-hour series at inauguration time called the “Divided States of America.” It surprised me to hear politicos were blown back by the anti-government fury of town hall meetings and candidate rallies. People denounced anyone remotely governmental as responsible for everything but the rain. I thought they knew that for every shouter, there were 10 who stayed home, for whom they could have presented better candidate choices.