Christopher Check, “Happy to Lose the Bet”
Sometime late last Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, I lost 100 dollars.
In September, at a fundraising banquet for Saint Michael’s Abbey, well fueled by a couple of gin-and-tonics, I bet a delightful lady named Bernadette that Hilary would win the election. She backed Trump. The loser would pay 100 dollars to the Abbey.
Never have I been so happy to lose a bet. (I hope the confreres spend it on gin.) The anguished looks on the sanctimonious visages of Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow were worth every single penny. Watching the map grow redder as the evening wore on, Jackie and I were laughing out loud, and since then I have not been able to stop. I think the last time I laughed so hard and so long was decades ago watching an episode of Fawlty Towers. Oh, and while I haven’t seen any of the neocon “never-Trumps” in a lather (there’s only so much time you can spend in front of a screen), I’m sure that would be even more delicious. What? No more stupid, illegal, and immoral foreign wars taking the lives of American sons and daughters (alas!) bleeding out in the desert dust or coming home maimed and insane? Speramus.
So, I was wrong about the election. Please God may I be wrong now: I expect Trump to disappoint, and not just a little. His campaign undoubtedly gave expression to the vestiges of the handful of things about this country yet to admire: putting in a full day, protecting hearth and home, keeping out of other people’s business. Nonetheless, the time for Morning Again in America saw its last gasp maybe during the reign of Calvin Coolidge. Probably long before.
Everything I know about Donald Trump is what I have seen on television, which means almost nothing. Does he share at all in the frustrations, anxieties, and aspirations of the people who put him in office? Let’s say he does. The deeper question is, “Do these largely material concerns constitute a sufficient ethic around which to unite a people?” It’s doubtful.
I don’t blame Trump. Let’s stipulate full-on sincerity on his part, but let’s not look to a boor to unite a nation more divided than ever, and frankly one fractured from the first. I attended the same John Randolph Club meeting in Cleveland at which Chris Kopff and Pat Buchanan and spoke. Both men cited the same passage from Federalist Number 2:
With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.
Chris and Pat have better commands of history than I ever will, but I sure wished I’d had the bad manners to stand up and say: “You all know that John Jay here excludes half or more of this room—the sacerdotal, superstitious papists.” Indeed, Jay, loyal son of the C of E, sought to keep Catholics from holding political office.
Unless you are a Cubs fan, 2016 will go down as the year of an especially unedifying political race. I do pray that the whole mess will yet be redeemed by High Court appointments who honor the sanctity of human life and respect the freedom of the Church, or at least by legislation that looks after American manufacturing and brings the troops home, but we cannot deny that our country is afflicted by a vast cultural divide that shows every sign of widening.
On either side are human persons who, whether they know it or not, are made in God’s image. Still, they cast about for this or that political or social condition the realization of which they are convinced will at last unite us all. To some it’s ever more material prosperity. To others it’s control of the international stage. To others it’s a sentimental utopia in which we all “coexist.” No matter that one’s religion seeks the extermination of another’s or that one’s definition of marriage departs from thousands and thousands of years of human experience, to say nothing of the natural and divine laws.
True unity is to be found only in Jesus Christ and the Church he founded. In her wisdom, the Church calls this unity to our attention every time we recite the Credo. The Church is “catholic,” and she is “one.” Gaudiam et Spes declares that “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross,… restoring the unity of all in one people and one body.”
Nolite confidere in principibus. Every day I worked for Tom at The Rockford Institute, I saw the psalmist’s warning painted on the wall of our classroom. I’m happy Trump won. There’s a chance to slow the progress of evil a bit. Perhaps I’ll get to keep a little more of my paycheck. But I do not think I have any reason to heed King David’s admonition any less.