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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

Now this year’s voting is over, some lawn accessories will have been taken down and others soon will follow suit. We will get a break for a few weeks before campaigning starts for the next election.

U.S. elections have been contentious since John Adams and Thomas Jefferson wanted the same new-construction house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The pattern has been the same — negative advertising and hard feelings — and will likely remain that way until charcoal sprouts and battleships fly. It just seems more nasty today thanks to modern technology making these messages more accessible.

Let’s remember we all have to live together in these three inter-related communities. So here’s my suggestion: If you wanted ABC to win and your neighbor wanted XYZ, no gloating or mocking your neighbor if your candidate is elected.

Your neighbor is more important than any election or candidate. Trust me, if you need a hand, the politicos won’t be lining up at your door. Well, at least not until the next campaign. You and your neighbors wield more power for a happy life than anyone in Lansing or D.C.

My parents’ votes probably canceled each other out. After one election when Dad’s choice won, Mom smiled and said, “Well, Fabian, if you’re happy, then I’m tickled to death.” I’m never sure about metaphors, but it was clear that they were going to remain happily married. They stayed that way for 55 years.

If we don’t work at getting along with everyone, especially those whose views are different from our own, the decibel level of anger will ratchet up ever higher.

Sooner or later it can out of hand and we’ll want to turn someone’s nose to 12. Except now, it’s more likely a weapon gets put to bad use.

We need to help bring this to an end. I know it’s fair game to blame a politician or party (never our own, of course) for the anger and violence, but we all have a hand in stopping it.

Every act of violence has an impact on us. It makes us a little more wary, a lot more cautious and sometimes just plain jittery.

That came home to me on the morning after the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. We had just started our worship service and I was facing the altar when I heard the latch on the church door.

It’s a sound I’ve heard every Sunday for 28-plus years. It always has been a welcome sound that means someone from the parish family is running a few minutes later, but they’re here now and that’s all that really matters.

That morning it was the same sound, but this time I hoped it was a latecomer. It was, of course. We are fortunate to be in such a safe area, but even that flicker of a thought was a reminder that so much of what we treasure and embrace here can be so easily destroyed.

We’re better than living with even a small dose of anxiety. We deserve better — and so do our neighbors.