In this brief, albeit hostile electoral campaign, there are many questions to be asked and many things to ponder about. The one answer we should be able to account for beyond this Saturday’s vote is not, perhaps, who would be representing us in government but, more worryingly, why that would be so. This why might have to do more with who we are than with what proposals are on offer.
The highest compliment one was to expect from Mark Rothko, the Latvian-American painter, was to call you a human being. It sounds strange at first, in that how can you compliment a fellow human with being a human being? That is until one comes to terms with what being human is all about. Is it being about denigrating, disparaging others? Is it about reducing ourselves to our most desperate desires?
We do what we do, therefore, with others and for others. This is what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls “inescapable horizons.” These horizons are who we are, or rather where we are coming from, and though these might either free us or limit us, these very horizons are the background against which our desires and aspirations make sense.
This is what the Incarnation is all about. This is why French writer Fabrice Hadjadj argues that it is no longer enough to say, as in the past, “God became man so that man might become God” but it must also be added that God was made man so that man might still be even more human. Simply invoking God is not enough. The mystery in which Spirit takes on flesh, down to its mortal wounds, is a mystery weighted by history. Pentecost will teach us that Jesus is not elsewhere but right here, in the simplest of gestures.
What do these have to do with this Saturday’s general election? Amidst all the frenzy that comes with such an event it is important not to lose sight of what is at stake (as all contenders agree upon!), lest we are alienated from our own selves. If we live up to our humanity while freely respecting – and challenging accordingly – the context which shapes us, for our own good and for the good of others, our contribution to society would be more meaningful and perhaps even more effective than simply casting a ballot once in a while.