|The Execution of Marshall Ney by Jean-Leon Gerome (1868)|
Pondering the election Tuesday of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton and her progressive coalition, seems to me like another chapter (a dark and dangerous one, to be sure) in the contest for ascendancy between those who support self-described progressive spiritual, social, political and cultural revolution that began in the 1960's (or 1860 or 1789 or even 1517, depending on how far back you want to go) and those who oppose the overthrow and destruction of a spiritual, social, political and culture order they cherish and believe in.
In another bitterly divided society, following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo , the exiled Bourbon monarch Louis XXVIII and his supporters took power and proceeded (not suprisingly) to exact revenge on those who had supported the French revolution and then the self-styled 'Emperor' Napoleon. Marshall Michel Ney, who had rallied to Napoleon when he briefly seized power in 1815, was convicted of treason on December 6th, 1815 and executed by firing squad near the Luxembourg Gardens the next day. He was the most prominent of those who were executed or forced into exile after the Bourbon restoration.
Talleyrand, commenting on the restoration of the Bourbons famously said: "They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing." Our new President is not Louis XXVIII and our outgoing President is not Napoleon, but for the side which is ascendant comes the temptation to remember every insult, every slight and every injury and punish those believed to be responsible. The temptation for the side which is now subordinate is stop listening and refuse to face up to the weaknesses and failings that led to their defeat.
This may be the way of the world, but is not the way of the Gospel. As Christians we must work together for justice. Of course we must be adamant in our unconditional repudiation of racism and of hatred of immigrants and Muslims, our unflagging defense of the creation and our solidarity with those who are impoverished, vulnerable and on the margins.
But Gospel teaches us that only the love of Christ, made incarnate in this fallen world by our admittedly imperfect magnanimity, forebearance, forgiveness, humility and mercy, has the power to truly transform our lives and this world, whether we find ourselves as his disciples (temporarily) in power or out of power, politically, socially or culturally.
It is easy comfort to recognize and denounce the blindness, failings and offenses of our neighbors. It is much more difficult and humbling to try to see one's own blindness, failings and offenses against our neighbors and repent of them.
That's the hard part.