Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
This election cycle has been trying. I’m putting it easy, huh? This election season was exhausting, demotivating, and sometimes humiliating and infuriating. I’m glad it’s over.
While I’m glad it’s over, I’m thankful for our democratic process. I’m gratified to know that I live in a country where my vote matters, my name is counted, and I am able to help decide the future or our nation. I’m glad I voted.
Voting is an interesting concept as a Catholic. I think it is both splendid and inglorious. On one hand we prayerfully say “may God’s will be done” and on the other we mark our ballot for the “will of the people”. We have tremendous potential to create laws that value life, enable productive labor, and protect strict observance of the natural law. At the same time, we can elect corrupt leaders, promote sin, and destroy the fabric of liberty. Truly, Barabbas was elected through a democratic process. But so is the pope.
Inglorious and splendid, this is why we say that voting is both a duty and a privilege.
Not everyone is so blessed. I spent time in Afghanistan where participating in an electoral process that is in its infant stages and doing so comes with a lot of risk. I’ve never had to actually worry about going to a balloting location. I also have close and personal friends who have run for senate and congressional offices, doing so with grace and without the fear of violence. It’s not always stalwart as we’d like it to be, but we truly have a remarkable political system. My Constitution teacher in high school – I’ll never forget it – called it “the greatest experiment in the history of the world.”
There’s a special paradox in voting because it is both a privilege and a duty. But there’s another privilege and duty that I want to recognize, something bigger than voting, and that’s the gift of being a soldier and public servant.
Other than being baptized and claimed for Christ, I can think of no greater honor than serving in the uniform of one’s country. As for me, I am a fifth-generation veteran of our wonderful armed forces. Sprouting out of Punxsutawney like the famous groundhogs, my fathers have served during every major conflict. We few, we happy few, we band of fathers. Now, just like my father, I am a civil servant. I proudly have transitioned to the uniform of a civilian, but I still and always will strive to serve our country.
Being a veteran is, like voting, both splendid and inglorious. We get the thank you’s and have a terrific amount of personal pride in our accomplishments. The friends we have made are eternal, and the lives we have touched are authentic. The first time my father told me “thank you” for my service is a special memory, and listening to the Star Spangled Banner while watching a flag waving always makes me bite my lip. It’s not all easy, though. One of the worst parts of being a veteran is when politics are involved. It’s very difficult for young men and women to be assured folks “support the troops” while remarks about vain wars are said just as often; a truly demoralizing and crushing thing to say to any veteran or parent of a veteran. Most of us do suffer from some level of PTSD and anyone who has ever deployed reacts instantaneously to sounds and sites that remind them of dangerous events. I can remember when, after being home for a month, a noise like a warning for incoming rocket attacks came on the television and broke me to pieces. I ran out of the room and almost collapsed in my kitchen with cheeks full of tears. It seemed so petty, but I know I’m not alone.
No matter the journey, I am strengthened by the truth of my service. I hold the same sentiment as a Catholic. There is nothing better than serving my parish, my students online, my writers at epicPew.com, and any readers (thank you).
My humble message on Veteran’s Day is this: remember how precious the gift of voting is, and please thank and be mindful of those who make it possible. Stay Catholic, always, and never fear the world for Christ has already overcome it:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33