In my plus seventy years of life I have lived under 7 Popes, 2 Monarchs, 11 Governor Generals, 14 Prime Ministers and during the same period the United States has had 14 Presidents.
Except for the Popes, the Monarchs, the Governor Generals, [the Popes we believe and trust are chosen by the Holy Spirit, the Monarchs are hereditary, the Governor Generals appointees of the reigning monarch, and like the monarch herself forbidden constitutionally to meddle in politics or be partisan], Prime Ministers and Presidents are creatures of the people.
In other words, democratically elected, of differing political persuasions and thus vulnerable in a radically different way to public opinion than those others mentioned such as popes.
When it comes to Prime Ministers of Canada I am batting 50/50 so half the time my choice has been elected and mostly I have been pleased by how they have governed the country. With the ones, I did not vote for, including the current office holder, I have been/am, decidedly disappointed.
However, it has never occurred to me to go around and declare that the duly elected prime minister is not mine, nor have I ever experienced tens of thousands of Canadians, from the very night of the election and continuing virtually unabated post-election, filling the streets and declaring: NOT MY PRIME MINISTER!
Feelings can/do run deep in this country when it comes to political parties, of which we have usually at least four in parliament, but there is also a deep sense that, if you will, ‘this too shall pass’, because there is always another election.
What I, and people around the world, are observing happening in the United States is not only dangerous for the future of the republic but allows authoritarian regimes around the world, and worse terror groups, to point to the chaos and argue it reveals a fundamental weakness in democratic countries, namely that when push comes to shove the people who see themselves as on the losing side neither respect the results nor the new head of government, actually in the USA, the new head of state since both aspects are in the one presidential office.
The Second Vatican Council in its document on the Church In The Modern World stresses the need for community, participation in same, and the development of what is commonly called politics noting that the political community exists for the common good, stressing then that the resulting state/government which results itself must be directed towards the common good and that we as citizens must obey – so long as the government does not abuse its authority. [cf. op. cit. para 74]
The latter of course – abuse of authority – unless as blatant as happens in non-democratic societies – can be very subjective, hence the importance of transparency in government and of a free press and the absolute protection of freedom of speech.
Pope Francis stressed in his speech to congress during his visit to the United States that everyone in every country has a mission which is both personal and social and stressed that “A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all is members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.” [Sep.24.15]
In many countries citizens and even legislative assemblies ever since the recent American election have been extremely vocal in their attitude towards the current President – leaving one to wonder how those people and governments would feel if Americans were trashing their head of state or government?
Human history is a long and not yet completed journey from the autocracy of tribal leaders, to kings, until finally, starting with the Magna Carter, little by little the difficult, and at times very bloody, process of representative government began to take root and still we have not achieved its full, and necessary, potential.
Unless we learn anew some basic principles of democracy and communal living we will regress, perhaps so far back truly democratic societies will if not disappear, certainly be in extreme peril.
I will note the first principle last.
The second principle is to honour the fact everyone else has the same right to choose for whom they vote, for which party, as I do and the Golden Rule applies here. IF there are legitimate, objective concerns post an election about the way the elected are leading the country or legislating then the right to protest, sacrosanct as it is, MUST be exercised with peaceful respect and avoiding words and actions which divide rather than unite.
The third principle is to temper extremism when it comes to freedom of speech. When, be they university students or members of a political action group, make it impossible by shouting or rioting for someone or some group to speak because their ideology is objected too then those shutting down that speech are, frankly, liars when they assert belief in free speech – in truth what they mean is ‘my speech’ alone is allowed.
Such antics increase the angry division-wounds in democratic societies and if the current trend continues we will be walking ever closer to increased totalitarianism, perhaps not immediately, but inevitably, of government or certain segments of the population who are no different than those historical groups of the past who marauded by night wearing white sheets.
Here, most critically the American media, also that of other countries, not to mention the so-called social media, which as a blogger I am a tiny part of – all who use modern forms of communication need to temper adjectives and rash ad hominem statements.
Classic media – newspapers, radio, television – seem to spend less time reporting factual events and more time rounding up panels of so-called experts to blather on about the foibles and outrages of the current President, thereby exacerbating the ever deepening, and dangerous, divisions within the society which has not yet truly healed from their civil war of more than a century ago.
Those of us who use social media likewise have a common-good responsibility to fact check what we write and to assure while exercising the free speech right of dissent to do so in language that is tempered by charity.
Now the first principle: Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." [Mk. 12: 17]
Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. Give honour to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. [1Pt.2:13-17]
Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. [Rm. 13:1,2]