Post-Election Introspection as a Filipino American Catholic
The recently concluded presidential election in the United States yielded some very interesting nuggets for me as a Filipino American Catholic. President, Donald Trump and former vice president, Joe Biden split the popular vote with Biden garnering over 80 million votes against Trump’s over 73 million. Biden is the second Catholic to become president since John F. Kennedy.
Biden won the popular and electoral votes but Trump garnered more than 3 million votes than he did back in 2016 when he won the presidency. This potent reality does not bode well for the Republican Party who will most likely have to deal with another Trump presidential run in 2024. In between, he will continue to menace what was touted previously as the party of conservatives. What it also means, is that Filipino American Trump followers will continue to be part of this reality show and blindly worship this deeply flawed man.
Even before the election, I was troubled by Trump supporters who hijacked the American flag as a de facto fashion accessory for their MAGA hat to show their fealty to the man at the White House. The fashion statements of flying the Old Glory on pick-up trucks and motorcycles alongside Trump flags deeply offended me. First, for the outright desecration of the American flag and hijacking it for political football. And second, as an affront to my patriotism having faithfully served the U.S. Navy for 28 years.
Perhaps the worst part is the attitude that they were willing to look the other way on Trump’s transgressions. Back in 2016, I understood the logic that every Christian is entitled to a second chance like we all did. Trump’s infidelity, racism, bigotry, corruption, lying and con games were forgiven at the time.
For the next four years since taking his oath, however, Trump remained true to the old self but only this time around, he was more cunning and was habitually lying. He disturbed the status quo and scuttled alliances in the name of making “America First.” He coined a bumper sticker phrase to “Make America Great Again,” although in the process, America lost global prestige. He presented a dark America to sell himself as the knight in the shining armor.
He was closely associated throughout his presidency with Catholics, Protestants, and evangelical Christians who gave him the majority vote in 2016. His strategy clearly was to keep that stronghold among white evangelical voters while he openly spurned mainstream America. The 2020 vote confirmed the validity of such a strategy when he garnered 80% of white evangelicals and 50% of the Catholic vote while Biden got 49% of the Catholic vote. Let that sink in.
Thrice married, Donald Trump was not religious. He grew up a Presbyterian but now considers himself a nondenominational Christian thus excusing himself from belonging to a particular church much less going to church on Sundays. The nearest he got to a church was at the height of the “Black Lives Matter” uprising where he used a Catholic church near the White House for that upside down bible photo op.
I ask my fellow Filipino American Catholics, why? Why were you blinded by this man’s fast talk and cunning ways? In past elections, I had no problem moving on regardless of who won the presidency. But not this time. Filipino American supporters of Trump made me realize that their vote is really nothing more than a vote for party ideology versus being a good Catholic.
It made me rethink about their Christian beliefs and my relationship with them. Their singular obsession of marching to the drumbeat of abortion clearly blind them to other more pressing concerns for Catholics on the preciousness of life. They called Democrats as “baby killers” and branded Joe Biden as being one. Think about that. Joe Biden, a life-long Catholic who raised a decent Catholic family and who has been true to his faith.
Abortion is legal in America, constitutionally protected according to previous Supreme Court rulings. Much in the same breath as gun ownership as protected by the Second Amendment. Many Republicans would fight tooth and nail to protect their 2nd Amendment right than fight for some gun control measures to prevent future school children massacre. In the same breath, their strong support for a military blinds them from the fact that weapons of war kill innocent children regardless of how justified wars are.
And so, I struggle being with friends who clothe themselves Christians but would blindly follow a false messiah who fancied himself as the “chosen one.” I feel a sense of betrayal and hesitance to partake with them on religious celebrations, much less call myself one if Trump is their barometer of a Christian. But, I’m clear-eyed as to what the pope said about resisting a throw away culture – a culture that doesn’t follow a consistent life ethic. A culture that fosters a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable.
Pope Francis wants Catholics to resist such culture. He, much like Paul John Paul II believes that the dignity of a person has an inherent social dimension. That besides abortion, Catholics must give special consideration to what Republicans call liberal ideas like protecting God’s creation from birth to death or welcoming undocumented immigrants and refugees (especially those persecuted in their own countries because of their Christian beliefs).
God’s commandment of “Thou shall not kill” is more than just texts engraved on some granite stone and displayed in state capitols or schools. Pope Francis insists that this commandment applies to conscious exploitation and oppression (like doing away health protections under Obamacare for persons with pre-existing conditions). My ardent prayers for Supreme Court justice Amy Vivian Coney Barrett is for her to listen to the pope when presented with such a case by affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act or more popularly known as Obamacare.
The pope also has some harsh language for those protesting lockdowns and mandated use of masks, social distancing, and advocating for opening the economy for business reasons. This is akin to discarding or ignoring human beings in the process like the front liners who work in housekeeping, bus/train drivers, restaurant workers, and others who must work amid a brutal pandemic, or the exhausted healthcare workers and emergency response people who must deal with people’s indifference to public health.
Finally, I find it hard to encounter Jesus “in the least among us” with fellow Filipino American Catholics still blinded by Trumpism and Trump’s alternative universe while still sporting that MAGA hat. Trump has shown wanton disregard to the truth, the powerless on the margins and those who dare to speak up (are branded trouble makers, domestic terrorists). Mama Mary has given us enough clues while still on earth about the mutuality of God’ creations (human beings and non-humans) that must be protected. An elephant is not for us to hunt or a “Black Lives Matter” protester, for that matter.