The race to November’s presidential election kicks into high gear July 18, as the Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland. The Democratic National Convention follows a week later in Philadelphia.
In the recent history of this nation’s electoral process, we are hard pressed to find a more acrimonious and perhaps even dysfunctional political landscape. It leaves us wondering and worrying what will happen in Cleveland and Philadelphia — and in the next four months.
According to news reports, the GOP convention is expected to attract 50,000 people. This does not include protestors, who could number in the thousands. They will be on hand to oppose presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose derogatory words and actions have astonished even fellow GOP lawmakers.
Some people fear that the Cleveland convention could rival the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, where riots and protests broke out, leading to nearly 600 arrests and more than 200 injured protestors and police.
While Trump has divided even his own party’s faithful with disparaging remarks about Latinos, Muslims and women, his Democratic counterpart, Hillary Clinton, has also been facing questions about her leadership. An FBI investigation concluded on July 5 that Clinton acted carelessly, but not illegally, in the handling of classified information in her personal email. The charges — and the investigation’s outcome — leave some doubting whether Clinton can unify and guide the country in these challenging times.
If ever there was a time for presidential candidates to rally his or her party, not to mention the country around their campaigns, it is now. The summer of 2016 has been marred by a mass shooting in Orlando, two police shootings of innocent black men and a retaliatory police ambush in Dallas. In all, 57 people, including the shooters, were killed by gunfire.
With so much division and so much at stake, where can we turn for guidance and hope? As Christians, it’s in our DNA to turn to our Lord, especially in prayer — and to the communion of saints for their intercession.
In our homes and churches, we can offer prayer intentions for political leaders and public servants, those in office and those seeking office. They need wisdom and guidance to help communities overcome a cycle of violence. They need to cultivate the commonalities that unite this nation of many races and religions, rather than focus on what may divide us. They must also find common ground on addressing the unlawful sale and use of guns, especially assault rifles.
In an earlier time, when the nation faced a similar challenge, Robert F. Kennedy offered encouraging words on “the mindless menace of violence.” He spoke these words in Cleveland on April 5, 1968, one day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit (of violence) flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. … Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.”
These are words that all of us, beginning with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, need to embrace.