In Vietnam they often refer to the War years (1964-75 or so) as "the period of great difficulty". A very polite way of recalling a very painful time when the country was split between North and South and the people were pitted against one another. We are entering our own period of great difficulty. Not a war but a very divisive and likely chaotic time in our country.
Recent events have brought the dividing lines into sharp focus. The Brexit vote revealed very dramatically the massive difference in worldviews in the UK. What is so astonishing is that the powers that be that fought for the UK to remain are so astonished that this could happen. It really shows that they live in their own echo chamber and were clueless that so many of their countrymen didn't see things the way they did. Of course their response was that these peasants were uneducated, xenophobic, racists imbeciles. Things would be just fine if they were only more cosmopolitan and enlightened. Rather than consider that they may have pushed people a little too far and that they need to find ways to bridge the gap, the ruling elite could only react with condescension.
The same fault lines were revealed in the recent primary elections in the US. The rise of Trump truly flabbergasted the Republican establishment. How could the voters stoop so low and ignore so many good candidates, so they thought. The elected Republicans are incapable of admitting that they betrayed their constituents by folding on the very issues that got them elected. Their constituents elected them to large majorities in House and Senate and in a majority of Governorships and State Legislatures and never has a political party done so little with so much.
What set the media aghast was that the Trump supporters pushed back when they were called racists, xenophobes, homophobes etc. The progressive elite in the media knows they can usually count on conservatives to back down when they are accused of being hateful, racist and all the rest. This time they refused to back down. A stunned media elite could not comprehend the push back and so could only cast the usual aspersions upon Trump and his supporters. The Democratic Party leadership is equally shocked that the coronation they had planned got crashed by an old socialist with lots of young friends.
And now we come to the two National Conventions both of which promise to be divisive, chaotic and explosive. It is anybody's guess as to what will happen and if any consensus can be forged or if a candidate in either party will even be chosen and accepted. Saboteurs abound. Based on all of that, things can come crashing down very quickly. Who knows if we will even be able to have an election in November.
I know this sounds rather gloomy but it is not the end of the world. It is a period of correction. It is another chance we are going to be given to set things right. A chance to place God once again in the center of our society and allow the principles that animated our Founding Documents namely that our "rights are endowed by God" and not invented by humans, particularly five black-robed high priests of the Supreme Court. And that those who govern us must do so with the consent of the governed.
As the division hardens and the period of great difficulty arrives we should reflect and hold in our consciousness the words of President Lincoln at his second Inaugural Address. As the country lay in ruins from the devastation of a civil war, and being on the winning side, Lincoln was gracious in victory especially towards those who had fought against him and vilified him:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
And so on the Fourth of July "we appeal to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions" that we may once again be One Nation, Under God.
Love, Fr. John B.