I wish I knew how to contact Mrs. Andrews. I would love to send her a much-belated thank-you the Civics class she taught when I was a junior in high school. In addition to learning about the structure and functions of the three branches of government, she emphasized our role in becoming good citizens. Part of that entailed the responsibility to be well-informed, thoughtful, and respectful of the democratic process. With the upcoming national election, Mrs. Andrews’ call to responsible citizenship is on my mind.
Over the years, I have come to better appreciate the cherished right to elect leaders who will represent the best of who we are and can be as a nation. Sadly, the current campaign process has turned into an endurance contest for voters. It thus takes vigilance and an adherence to our deepest beliefs and values to resist the temptation towards cynicism, judgmentalism, and outright despair. Pope Francis reminds us of this responsibility when he calls for participation in work towards the common good and in immersing ourselves “…in politics by offering the best of [ourselves] so that the leaders can govern.”
This statement should pull us all up short. Long before we enter the voting booth, are considering how to develop our best selves? To not simply mouthing the values of the Gospel but drawing them into our everyday interactions. To practice citizenship by agreeing to disagree without drawing into separate camps and attaching labels to those on the other side. To working towards the common good through a recognition that all people are beloved by God who doesn’t recognize red/blue divisions or constricted worldviews. And to pray for an outcome to the election that will foster adherence to the values of human dignity, compassion, charity, and inclusion. This kind of citizenship would do Mrs. Andrews proud.