Presidential Debate Musts!

Center of Concern | Thu, Sep 25, 2008

By Jim Hug, SJ
Source: Center of Concern
Presidential Debate Musts!

As you watch and reflect on the first Presidential Debate, there are some essentials to remember.  

First, populist sound bites and easy canned answers do not do justice to the serious needs facing the American public – and the rest of the world with us.  They may appeal to our sense of cleverness (if they favor our side of the debate), but they dishonor our intelligence, our seriousness, and our values.  Demand honest, direct real-life answers to life’s real problems – like the current financial crisis, jobs, outsourcing, health care, poverty, immigration and security.

Next, recall that as Catholics, as Christians – actually, as members of any of the major faiths of the world – we believe that every person is a child of God and therefore that we all are one human family.  Just being concerned about ourselves, our nation, “American national interests” is not enough.

Very practically too, in a globalized world, we need new visions and leadership to take us toward a global political, social and economic order that serves all peoples, especially the poor of the world.  We are one global human family responsible for each other.  

Which candidate better reflects a deep understanding of that reality, those values?  Which one “gets it” that the future of the U.S. and of the planet does not lie down the road of ever more ruthless competition for global economic and political dominance?  Any future we would want to live in requires defining American interests and finding ways to promote them that serve the wellbeing of the whole human community and the planet itself.  Honestly, it is the only really practical long-term political vision for us all.  And it must be done in a way that the planet can sustain ecologically as populations grow.

So, reflecting on the debate, who seemed to understand that all the major problems facing us here at home are shaped by their regional or global contexts?  Who tried to identify paths for U.S. policy that could lead to win-win solutions for all involved regionally and globally?  

Many of our friends and colleagues in other nations around the world feel they should be able to vote in the U.S. elections because the decisions made in Washington have such strong impacts on their lives and on their futures.  Put yourself in their shoes.  If you were an African cotton farmer or a Latin American poultry farmer or factory worker, which candidate would reassure you about his commitment to global fairness to all who are affected by U.S. policies, not just U.S. citizens?

Which candidate do you believe can help Americans face the reality that some of our long-standing assumptions and expectations about our place in the world are outdated and unrealizable now that we have entered the age of globalization?  

As Catholics, Christians, people of faith approaching what could be the most important set of national elections in our lifetimes, we have a serious responsibility to be authentic Citizen Disciples, involved in the political process, working to turn the country toward greater justice for all, guided in addressing the issues and candidates first of all by the values of Jesus and his vision of the human community in the Reign of God.  The debates will provide good places to exercise this critical, discerning role.

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