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It's Tough Being An American Catholic Right Now

Categories: BLOG | Published: 10/03/2017 | Views: 676

In our latest blog, Justice and Peace Scotland Commissioner for the Diocese of Aberdeen, Jill Kent, gives a personal account of being an American Catholic living in Scotland since the election of President Trump.

I'll be honest. It's not an easy time to be an American Catholic committed to social justice and environmental protection. The difficulty started to build last year when candidate Trump began to be taken seriously. I joined so many here in the UK looking across the Atlantic and wondering how so many of my fellow citizens could hear and see what we were witnessing, and somehow come to the conclusion that the lack of empathy and vitriolic speech was alright.
This new era in American politics has become a reality. Since January we have all watched as cabinet selections were made and ill-thought executive orders were issued.
Now I would like to share how it feels to have an American accent and be myself an immigrant (albeit to the UK). Until recently I was a bit like the Ugly Duckling. I forgot that I was different from everyone around me.  My husband and children are Scots, most of my friends are Scots and I'm the only "outsider" in my place of work. Now with the reality of President Trump it is the thing that many people turn to me and ask me about. And the answers aren't easy.
There is so much that I disagree with.. And there is even more that I find repulsive. Trump’s attitude towards Muslims and his edicts on immigration have had a very unsettling affect on people around the world. What has happened to the proud melting pot of America?  I worry that the fear and hate that is being incited in America will give confidence to others here in the UK, across Europe and around the world. I cannot understand how the facts about immigrants and the contribution they make to society are ignored.
But really I am broken hearted. I am deeply shaken by the negative tone and direction of these early days of the Trump administration. And most importantly I feel frustrated that people who disagree on issues are losing the ability to have civil discussions about differences. I worry that treaties and peaceful dialogue that took so many years to put together can so easily be disregarded
The Paris Climate agreement finally brought America into the fold to commit to reducing our greenhouse gases. Now there is a real chance that with the stroke of a pen the US will withdraw from the treaty or simply not enforce the agreed environmental protections. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) took years of negotiations to give basic healthcare to everyone. If it is repealed, the very people most in need of decent health care will be unable to afford it, or simply be excluded from it due to pre-existing conditions. As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of the NHS, I cannot fathom why the country would want to return to leaving those most in need of health care without any way of accessing it.
The one thing that heartens me is the way so many people across the country and across the world have spoken back. My sister was able to attend the large march in Washington DC the day after the inauguration. She phoned me as soon as she got home to tell me of the solidarity of the (mainly) women in the streets with all their hand made signs, building each other up. The crowd was so large that the subway wasn't able to stop at any of the central stations because there was nowhere on the streets above to hold any more people.
Her elation at the response sounded in her voice.
And so I remember that when I am starting to despair. America is a democracy and we, the people, have many ways to speak up. It's now up to us to do our part. It is more important than ever.
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