Julie Walsh is a married, stay-at-home-mother to four young children. Before her oldest was born in 2010, she worked for five years at the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director for Social Concerns and three years in the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Inspector General. 

Julie holds a degree in political science and German from Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg. She and her family are parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle Church in Libertytown.

 

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This topic follows the "Seamless Garment" idea that all life issues are the same, which is lame. One can disagree with how to help the immigrant or the refugee; however, it is a crime against humanity to kill a baby in the womb. Here, there is no compromise. We have no common ground with those who believe that the right to kill their children should be legal, no apologies. Pro-abortion advocates have tried to silence pregnancy centers (who help woman and their children), helped to enact "buffer zones", etc. and yet we pro-lifers are the ones who are accused of not caring. Other issues are important, but when over a million babies are killed legally by their mothers/doctors, then priority must be given to eradicating this scourge on our country/society.

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There doesn't have to be a division between the "personal" and the "political." I helped my 2nd grader read a book about chocolate as part of homeschooling. She was so upset about child slaves her age in West Africa, that she got our whole family to boycott non-Fair Trade Chocolate. Then she wrote a speech and delivered it to her 4-H club and a Catholic High School Youth Group. She got High School students to give up a trip to Hershey Park out of concern for hurting children in Africa. I work hard on environmental issues. It's a part of my life. I led a prayerful group to study Laudato Si, the same week I attended a public pipeline meeting that could affect the drinking water for Washington D.C, the same week I signed up my children to play at a club that has an ethnically diverse group of neighborhood kids. I am a Catholic woman. St. Teresa of Avila says we can talk to God easily while we wash the dishes. A lot of beautiful saints came out of Nazi Germany and one prayerful pope, Pope Benedict.

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The Space Between

Hard plans changing a hard heart: Empathy for immigrants fearing deportation


When I worked as a lobbyist, I dealt with no issue more wrapped up in emotion and anxiety than immigration. It was the only one I ever had people call and scream at me about, it was the only one that tested my personal relationships, it was the only one that made me feel attacked and betrayed.

But it was also the only issue to really change something in my heart.

Having come from a conservative background, there was something in me that was wary of the immigration question – not opposed, exactly, to immigrants or immigration, but cautious, skeptical, reluctant. Soon after diving into the issue, however, my heart was changed. It was changed by the warmth of the immigrants I encountered and by their anxiety too; it was changed by their stories, their hopes, and their fears.

It was also changed by their plans.



A woman holds a child's hand as they arrive for a rally in support of immigrants' rights in New York City Dec. 18, 2016.  (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 


There is nothing from that immigrant-advocacy period of my life that has stuck with me more than the memory of undocumented immigrants making contingency plans for their own arrest, imprisonment, and deportation. It’s not anything I’d ever had cause to think about before: I mean, if somebody’s doing something illegal, how much is there to think about? They get arrested and they’re locked up or sent away – end of story. Right? (Wrong.)

Back then, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was conducting a series of workplace raids that had the immigrant community very nervous. We are a social animal, we humans – we do not live on our own. We live in families, in friendships, in neighborhoods and communities. We have responsibilities. People depend on us. We help others and we (hate to) ask for help ourselves. So when I say that the immigrant community was nervous, I don’t just mean that undocumented immigrants were nervous; I mean that their documented and citizen family members were nervous, their schools and churches were nervous, their friends and neighbors and daycare providers were nervous.

The advocates I worked with offered training to immigrants to prepare them for the raids. They helped people to understand what their rights were, what they were and weren’t legally required to say and do. They encouraged them to prepare for the possibility of arrest: Put your documents in order; keep them in a safe place; tap a friend or family member to retrieve them in your absence. Organize your financial responsibilities – your rent or mortgage, your insurance, your car and phone and utility bills. Set aside some money to pay the most essential ones.

And here’s the kicker, the one that chokes me up every time I think of it: arrange for someone to pick up your kids from school. Do not leave your children to come to the end of the school day and find no one there to get them because Mommy’s been detained by ICE. Identify a person you trust, in whose care you can leave your children, and ask them to take on that responsibility – possibly for a long time.

I recently found myself struggling with an issue that, while not important in the grand scheme of things, was causing me real anxiety on a daily basis. It struck at my sense of security; it made me feel less than whole. One afternoon as I walked across my back yard, I felt as though I were being swarmed by this issue, like my pack of needy children were chasing me, clamoring for my attention.

Suddenly I stopped short, remembering those immigrant families who don’t know from one day to the next when one of them will be taken. Talk about insecurity, about not feeling whole – can you imagine fearing, day after day, that your husband could be taken from you? That you could be taken from your children? Can you imagine the anxiety of not knowing how long your family will remain intact?

These days too many people know that anxiety. With ICE broadening its enforcement targets to include those arrested or convicted of even minor crimes, it’s been estimated that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants now find themselves prioritized for deportation. (Not because undocumented immigrants are more prone to crime than you or I, but because “minor crimes” include even some traffic violations – and of course the flubs people make when they don’t have legal access to documentation like Social Security numbers.)

This is why so many in immigrant communities across our nation are anxious right now. They’re having to plan for the possibility that their families – their very lives – will be torn apart. What a thing to plan for.

I think that we – as Christians, as descendants of yesterday’s immigrants, as people who have the luxury of expecting our life to continue along the path we’ve set out on – ought to dwell on those plans right now. We ought to think on what we would do and how we would feel if we were suddenly plucked from the home, the work, the family we love. We ought to have empathy for and mercy on those who find themselves in that position today.



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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.

 

February 16, 2017 01:47
By Julie Walsh


Trying to decide when to panic (Part Two)


I used to think of myself as the stubborn, brave, independent type – the type who spoke the truth and stuck up for the oppressed no matter the consequences. After all, I was a kid who stood up to bullies. I regularly stick up for myself. I used to make my living advocating for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger. I write on contentious issues – issues that wrangle with the concept of justice – all the time.

But the older, or the more self-aware, or the more flawed I become, the more I see how gutless I can be.

Last year I read Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. In it, there is a scene in which the students of a Nazi-run military school are directed to abuse a (presumably Jewish) prisoner, whom they’ve been told is an escapee from a work camp. The boys are taken outside at 2 a.m. on a cold February morning, where they find the skeletal, barely-clothed man tied to a stake. At their superior’s direction, the boys approach the man one by one, oldest to youngest, to splash him with a bucketful of freezing water. Each time, a cheer goes up from the crowd.

One of the book’s protagonists, Werner, is an underclassman at the school. He takes in the scene with something like horror; he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. But when his moment comes, when it’s his turn to approach the prisoner, Werner does as he’s told. He splashes his bucketful of water and resumes his place with the first-year cadets. Only Werner’s friend Frederick, a sensitive yet steely boy, has the courage to resist. He pours his bucket of water onto the ground. Handed another, he does the same. Handed a third, he pours it out with an “I will not.”

After I read that scene I felt a dull, gnawing kind of shame because I realized that if I’d been in Werner’s position, I’d have probably done the same as him. I realized that despite the story I like to tell myself – the story of a me who sticks up for the little guy, who stubbornly holds tight to honor and fights injustice – I’m really the kind of person who just wants to get along. I want to get along, move along, keep my head down, cling to whatever comforts I can grasp. I am a Werner, not a Frederick.

I was thinking about that scene the other day as I washed dishes. I was staring out the window, my hands moving under the water, when I suddenly felt a surge of sympathy for the German housewives who turned a blind eye to the build-up to the holocaust. Not because I think they deserve much sympathy (and not because I think we’re in for a repeat of Nazi Germany – I mostly find those fears to be too dramatic or too convenient), but because I now understand how blinded people can be by the mundane.

Day in and day out, my work is to care for my family. I am engaged in an ever-repeating litany of tasks: the dishes, the laundry, the diapers, the meals, the errands, the crawling-around-on-my-hands-and-knees-to-wipe-egg-off-the-floor. There is never enough time. There is always something or someone needing my attention. It is always easy to slip into the lie that this is it – that today’s litany of tasks is all that matters, all that will ever matter.

In this environment, one in which the everyday mundane and the everyday beautiful and the everyday frustrating loom larger than anything else, I have to wonder: Have I become blind to the reality of our day?

Which is it? Is my inclination correct – are constant cries of “Our country is being destroyed!” simply overreactions to disagreements on public policy positions? Or could a more fundamental shift be rumbling beneath our feet?

After all, no human construct is immortal. All governments fall. All societies change. People do real damage to civic institutions and public trust. “Universal” ideals cease to captivate the imagination.

Just as we should be wary of “sky is falling” tendencies, we should also be wary of taking our stable, democratic, republican government for granted. “We the People” are fully capable of messing this thing up.

I have no answers here; I haven’t flipped from “just another day in politics” to “the sky is falling.” I haven’t decided when to panic. But I’m trying to not be dismissive of other people’s panic. I’m trying to remember that no human construct is immortal; I’m leaving open the possibility that our country, or our system of governing it, might really be in danger.

And I’m thinking and praying about who I am – about how empathetic I am to others’ pain, about how I react to injustices, about the role I’m called to play in this world, and about how far this world stretches beyond my kitchen-sink window.



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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.  



 

February 09, 2017 09:49
By Julie Walsh


Trying to decide when to panic (Part One)


I’m trying to decide when to panic.

Standing where I am (somewhere in the middle, I suppose) I turn to face my friends on the left and panic is pretty much all I see. Well, panic and its more sober, productive, currently-popular relation: resistance. I see people who are more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government is heading; they fear that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – is coming undone. They fear that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

Turning to face my friends on the right, I mostly see amusement or bemusement or even satisfaction at the Left’s distress. They think the panic is overblown. If they supported Trump’s “bull in a china shop” campaign persona, they’re thrilled to see it carried over to his presidency. If they weren’t crazy about that persona then, well, they’re mostly just relieved to see Trump heading in the right direction. Clumsy steps in the right direction are better than agile steps in the wrong one, they seem to say.

Personally, I think my conservative friends have too quickly forgotten their own Obama-era panic. And I think my liberal friends are suffering (among other things) the consequence of never really paying much attention to that earlier panic to begin with.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of times in the past eight years I heard someone say that President Obama was destroying our country. Not “I don’t like the guy,” not “I disagree with what he’s trying to accomplish,” but a flat-out “Obama is destroying our country.” I heard, over and over again, from people who were more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government was heading; they feared that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – was coming undone. They feared that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

I’m sure you see what I’m trying to get at here.

(And I expect that if you find yourself firmly on one side or other of the Left/Right divide, you’ll probably find my comparison lacking. “But Obama really was destroying our country,” you might say. Or, “But Trump really is destroying our country.”)

For years, the Right has feared an ever-strengthening executive branch, an activist judiciary, and a degradation of the concept of free speech. (Via a culture that aims to dictate what is acceptable to think and feel and say.) They have feared runaway regulations and the global ambitions of the elite, which they think have been stifling opportunities for the little guy.

And now the Left fears an ever-strengthening executive branch, an activist judiciary, and a degradation of the concept of free speech. (Via a political movement that aims to intimidate its opponents and undermine the very idea of truth.) They fear an institutional entrenchment of the prejudices and tribal-like alliances that stifle opportunities for the little guy.

Regardless of which side you’re on, it seems to be easy to slip into the fear that the sky is falling.

But I’ve never been the “sky is falling” type. I tend to be pretty cool in crises, pretty skeptical of end-of-days fears. Though I disliked many of President Obama’s policy goals and many of his methods for achieving them, I never thought he was destroying our country. I’d answer my conservative friends’ incredulity at that position with something like, “I can disagree with someone and not think they’ll be the death of us all.”

So what am I supposed to do now? My friends on the Left want me to panic, to resist. My friends on the Right mostly want me to shut up, I expect.

Should I do the same for President Trump as I did for President Obama? “I can disagree with someone and not think they’ll be the death of us all.” The line suits me well: My inclination is to be watchful, to be skeptical, to refuse support to either side, to not enflame fears.

But – and this feels like a big “but” – I have to admit that I am no longer sure whether I should trust my inclination.

Read Part Two here.


 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.  



February 09, 2017 12:16
By Julie Walsh


Pro-Lifers need to talk about it all


With the recent attention to both the March for Women and the March for Life, I’m noticing an upswing in the chatter over what pro-lifers really stand for. The typical criticism goes something like: “You people only care about babies until they’re born!” or “You’re not pro-life, you’re pro-fetus!”

This is unfortunate.

First of all, because it’s unfair. Yes, there are some sad, strange people out there who are hung up on the issue of abortion though they bear no reverence for human life in the first place. Take abortion clinic bombers. Or some who cheered candidate Trump’s promise to kill the families of terrorism suspects. Or the trolls who recently commented online that my dear friend should have been aborted because they disliked a (maybe/kind of/not really pro-choice) image she was associated with. Thankfully, those people are rare. (And they shouldn’t even be called pro-life.)

And yes, there are some pro-lifers who can be thoughtless and inconsistent in how they conduct themselves. Sometimes the same woman who prays rosaries for unborn babies is decidedly unloving to the women who carry them. Sometimes people seem unable to transfer their affection for innocent, defenseless babies to the somewhat less innocent, defenseless people those babies grow into. I won’t defend this behavior, but I will point out that we’re all sometimes inconsistent. We’re all sometimes wrong. We all have things to work on within ourselves, and we should all get to working on them.

What I really want to talk about is the rest of us. Those of us who genuinely care about human life, who aim to protect it, who try to be consistent, but who differ on which efforts should be emphasized. Here’s what I see in the Catholic pro-life community: (I can’t speak to the rest of it.)

I see social-justice-minded people (you might say liberals) who honestly care about the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, but who think that bishops and other church leaders have focused on abortion at the expense of other issues. They want to see people speak up for vulnerable individuals who have already been born. They want to defend the child living in poverty, the undocumented neighbor, the family seeking refuge from a war-torn country, the man condemned to death. They oppose abortion, but they want to focus on these “least of these” because they feel like too many – including too many pro-lifers – have ignored them.

I see conservatives who honestly care about the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, but who feel that pro-lifers should be aiming the bulk of their efforts at the most elemental right of all: the right to be born. They want more than anything else to see people join together to bring down the legal “right” to abortion and the industry that makes it possible. They may in theory support those living in poverty, or immigrants, or refugees, or those sentenced to capital punishment, but they feel like they will only be able to move on to other issues when their “least of these” – the unborn – have been protected.

(I should admit that conservatives seem to be split further into at least two camps: those who mostly agree with the social justice crew on how we should assist and protect vulnerable individuals, and those who would disagree, whose fiscal conservatism leads them to value private over public efforts to help those in need. This is another discussion for another time.)

I also see the hybrid: the people who can’t be mistaken as those who care about the unborn at the expense of the born or the born at the expense of the unborn. People who march against abortion and stand vigil for prisoners being executed. People who tutor immigrants in English and drop off supplies at crisis pregnancy centers. People who write letters encouraging their legislators to pass restrictions on abortion and to allow refugees into our country. People who embrace, and who are ready to tell you about, the full meaning of the label “pro-life.”

It’s natural that we should vary in our attachment to various issues, so I don’t mean to tell one set of pro-lifers or another that they’re wrong in focusing their efforts on x,y,z. You do you: pray at an abortion clinic, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to Catholic Charities / Catholic Relief Services / National Right to Life. Do your part, whatever it is, to advance the dignity of human life.

But I do think that all pro-lifers should do a better job of talking about it all. Liberal pro-lifers should speak against abortion just as they speak against poverty and discrimination. Conservative pro-lifers should speak for the immigrant and the refugee just as they speak for the babies. Because this divide has become too divisive. There is too much resentment. There is too much misunderstanding. There is too much distrust. There is too much space for evil to sneak its way in.

And there are too many women who hear that pro-lifers “only care about babies until they’re born” and believe it.

The honest truth is, each side of this divide is incomplete without the other. If human life is to be respected, it’s to be respected at all stages. If human life is to be respected, it is to be respected in all forms. If we Catholic pro-lifers truly believe that each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, then we’d better talk like we do. We’d better dwell on that idea, chew on it, practice it by saying it aloud.


 

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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

January 27, 2017 01:33
By Julie Walsh


Praying on This Inauguration Day

Today as we inaugurate a new American president, I sit at home nervous, waiting, wondering what will come of this all. I haven’t decided whether I’ll watch. I’m more likely to listen, the radio humming in the background as I busy myself with lunch and laundry and little ones.

But I’m sure to be praying.

I’ll be praying for our new president and for his family and staff, that they bear this pressure well. I’ll be praying for Congress, for government officials, for those who guide them. I’ll be praying for the countless numbers of people here and abroad whose lives will be touched by the policies to come.

I’ll be praying for us, the people, that we watch and listen and try to understand. I’ll be praying that we’re brave when we need to be and that we follow the lines of justice and truth more closely than those of partisanship.

I’ll be praying for wisdom, prudence, and mercy to settle upon President Trump and those who wield power alongside him. May they seek the true and advance the good. May they protect the vulnerable. May they manage well and honestly. May they remember the people on whose behalf they govern and may they be humbled in the face of the responsibility they bear.

May ours be a country guided by ideals, not interests.

May we be a people who participate, who chew and work and struggle to make a difference. May we be honest with ourselves. May we be true to the America we wish to see, not the one we fear.
































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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

January 20, 2017 11:55
By Julie Walsh


A lot can happen in 90 days


Yesterday was a big day for political types: President-Elect Donald Trump gave his first press conference since the summer, the U.S. Senate held multiple confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominees to cabinet positions . . . and a little closer to home, the Maryland General Assembly opened its 2017 legislative session.

Most of the news outlets I follow focused exclusively on the two former points. (The NPR Politics podcast had a good one-hour overview last night on the radio.) And I’d wager they’re what most of us would have picked up on from our social media feeds. But I think the start of the Maryland General Assembly’s (90 day long) legislative session is a great opportunity to point out that there are other worlds when it comes to politics – worlds that many of us pay little attention to: our states, counties and cities.

For all the focus on national-level politics, many (most?) of the programs and policy decisions that impact our everyday lives are formulated much closer to home than Washington, DC.

Schools, roads, assistance programs, the environment, hospitals and clinics, business incentives and regulations – the State of Maryland (and your state too, if you live elsewhere) has a hand in it all. And in turn, organizations that you and I care about – our faith communities, our schools, labor or business or other advocacy organizations – have a hand in the development of the laws, policies and regulations of the state.

I used to work for the Maryland Catholic Conference, which advocates to the Maryland General Assembly on matters of importance to the Catholic Church. The conference works on issues related to poverty, healthcare, immigration, justice, education, the family, human life and more.

Yesterday the Catholic Review published a story that outlines the conference’s expectations for the next 90 days. This year they include focuses on assistance for low-income students attending nonpublic schools, juvenile justice, paid sick leave, the earned income tax credit and physician-assisted suicide.

If you’re not yet familiar with the conference’s work, I hope you’ll check it out. Maybe attend Catholics in Annapolis Night or join the Catholic Advocacy Network. If you’re in another state, look to see if you have a Catholic Conference where you are. (Most states do.)

Ninety days from now, the Senate will still be debating at least some of Trump’s appointments. We’ll still, I expect, be witnessing a tense back-and-forth between the president and the media. We’ll probably feel stuck on a whole range of issues and relationships.

But in that time, we’ll also have seen much movement at the state level. Maryland will have passed a budget and hundreds of other bills that will impact our lives for years to come. Let’s pay attention, because lot can happen in 90 days.




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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls


January 12, 2017 12:41
By Julie Walsh


Let’s not hurry the downward spiral: New Year, New Presidency, New Chance


Here we are, at the beginning of a new year and just a couple weeks away from a new presidency. I feel like it’s time for me to gather my wits about me.

Because of the election, and because of holiday stress and other stress and a stomach bug that took too long to wind its way through my family, I feel like I floundered my way through the end of 2016. I was worried and anxious, wrapped up in the moment, unable to see my way out of it.

On the political front (the stomach-bug front is self-explanatory), my problem was that I didn’t know how to feel, or what to do, or whose side I was on. I’d had problems with both major candidates for the presidency, so I was set up to be disappointed no matter the result.

In my disappointment, it was easy for me to sympathize with the millions who were upset about Donald Trump’s victory. I saw (and continue to see) much potential for trouble in his presidency – corruption, injustice, dishonor, a further degradation of our political and civic culture, some very problematic public policy aims.

But I didn’t (and don’t) share all of the Trump-bashers’ fears. I think some are overblown. Others (anything having to do with abortion or Supreme Court justices, for instance) are not fears for me at all – they’re my silver linings.

And anyway, it just feels strange to sympathize with a side that keeps veering off course (in my view), from a focus on Trump and his eager supporters to an attack on conservatives at large.

Why must we choose a side and hold onto it so tightly?

During the campaign, of course, the “side” thing was taken to a frenzied, fevered pitch. Third-party voters like myself were told in one breath that we were essentially voting for Clinton and in the next that we were essentially voting for Trump. (The supposed beneficiaries of our votes aligning perfectly with our critics’ bogeymen.) Our votes – our actual votes – weren’t good enough. We either had to hate Trump enough to vote for Clinton or hate Clinton enough to vote for Trump. People seemed downright blinded by the binary.

But that was then, back when we were facing a black-and-white choice on a ballot. What about now?

No doubt, many will choose to continue carrying on this way. Some will think we owe allegiance to one side or the other. Some will think that any kindness or concession to the opposing side is a blow to their own. Some will think that their own side’s transgressions must be overlooked in the interest of some Important Ultimate Goal.

But I think this attachment to the binary is the absolute worst course we could take as Americans, as lovers of democracy and liberty and justice. No one wins in the downward spiral of suspicious, spiteful, partisan politics.

I think liberals should choose their enemies carefully. Targeting Trump’s foibles and the dangerous rhetoric of his most devoted supporters is one thing – but painting everyone who voted for him as racist or misogynistic or daft will only lead to liberals’ isolation and ineptitude.

And I think conservatives (we conservatives – I’m one of them) should embrace our near-historic strength* as an opportunity to free ourselves from the power of our bogeymen. Hillary Clinton is gone. President Obama is on his way out. It’s time to stop gauging Trump against Clinton/Obama and start gauging Trump against the good and true and just.

It’s time to stop looking over our shoulder and start looking forward.

If we don’t have an opportunity now – *with the presidency, majorities in both houses of Congress, and a majority of governors’ mansions and state houses – when will we have it? Now is the time to work towards our ideal, not to react to someone else’s.

So at the beginning of this new year and this new presidency, I have one primary goal for myself and one big call for others: Let’s stop feeling an obligation to choose sides. Let’s embrace our freedom. Let’s not hurry the downward spiral.


Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls




January 05, 2017 01:38
By Julie Walsh


In this Moment


This past weekend my husband and I went on a tour of (mostly) historic homes all decked-out for Christmas in Frederick. I "ooh"ed and "aah"ed at the lovely decorations, he puzzled over the architectural details, and we both admired the beautiful spaces, generally.

In one of the houses, a volunteer answered our compliments with something like, “You’ll get home and look around and everything will disappoint in comparison.” I just grinned at my husband, because I knew what she didn’t: We too have a historic home, and a pretty fancy one to boot.

But really, she was right. Because as much as I love our beautiful old home, walking into it is not like walking into a home carefully prepared for hundreds of paying visitors. I open the door and trip over boots and boxes and toys. I maneuver around backlogs of dirty dishes and laundry and trashcans waiting to be emptied. I sigh at tabletops covered with papers, which represent a to-do list that seems miles long.

Real life is real life, no matter the home in which it plays out. And of course real life – and the real world in which it plays out – is usually pretty messy.

Right now it seems especially so.

Lately I feel like a failure at pretty much everything I try to do: mothering, managing my household, blogging, being a good friend and an involved member of my extended family. (I know I’m not actually a failure, but it sure feels like it at times, especially as the holidays multiply our obligations.)

I feel like I’m a failure at being an attentive and engaged citizen. My post-election sense of being overwhelmed has not gone away. I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the competing news stories and the competing narratives of single news stories. I haven’t weighed in on anything. I haven’t gotten my little “let’s get people of different political stripes together to talk” project off the ground. (Status: information gathered, dates not yet set.)

I feel kind of like I have writer’s block, except it has to do with the thinking of the whole thing, not the writing. As I become more consumed with events at home (some of them pretty stressful), I pay less attention to news from the outside. And as I pay less attention to the news, I feel increasingly less capable of any sort of mental and emotional wrangling with the world.

But I’ve been trying, when I think of it, to rely on a strategy from an earlier point in my life: putting aside my worries about what I’m not achieving and instead focusing on what I am doing in a particular moment. Usually (but not always), that "doing" is pretty constructive, even if it seems insignificant in the scheme of things.

“In this moment, I’m holding my baby close.”

“In this moment, I’m reading to my son.”

“In this moment, I’m working to ensure that my family has clean clothes to wear.”

“In this moment, I’m helping a friend.”

“In this moment, I’m smiling at a stranger.”

“In this moment, I’m holding open a door.”

“In this moment, I’m exploring the veracity of a story that came across my newsfeed.”

“In this moment, I’m praying for a friend / a cause / a beleaguered population.”

The strategy helps. I figure that if I can’t manage an overarching, coordinated, obviously-constructive way for going about my life, I can at least move forward in small ways. And I can rest in that knowledge.

Small things are worth doing. Constructive things can move you forward even when they’re not well coordinated. Something is something. Moments matter.
























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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

December 07, 2016 04:16
By Julie Walsh


Good Bones


I’ve been trying to think of a Thanksgiving message suitable for this blog. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could list off all the things I’m thankful for in our political system, all the things that are looking up, that give me hope?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to that point. I’m not feeling particularly hopeful at the moment.

What I am feeling, however, is an underlying sense of trust. Not trust in the individuals that make up (or will make up) our government, but rather trust in the structure our framers built for us. It has good bones

Over the past eight years, half of our country has grown fearful of an all-powerful executive, a president who governs by fiat. Now the other half will know that fear. But our country’s founders knew it too, and they had it in mind when they designed our spread-out, clunky system.

Our laws are made at multiple levels: city, county, state, national. A seemingly countless number of electorates make decisions, based on the particularities of their location and make-up, on who governs them and how.

Then each level has its own set of checks and balances, and the higher you look, the more elaborate their arrangement. Our president is checked by Congress and the judiciary. Congress needs the president and is checked by the judiciary. The president needs Congress too. The judiciary is appointed by the president and requires the approval of (part of) Congress.

Executive agencies, legislative bodies, and the courts form an immense, complicated machine, wherein one cog can bravely (or stubbornly) decide to put a stop to the whole thing. Our system is better designed to stop than to do, and for one who fears the direction of a new government, that should be a comfort.

(Conservatives saw the value in that uncooperative-cog concept in the last administration; liberals will undoubtedly see it this time.)

So as worrisome as political developments may seem, I retain my basic trust in that spread-out, clunky system. I may disagree with the people who make it up, I may see few prospects for positive developments, but I trust that if things become truly dangerous, some sticky cog will get in the way.

God bless those sticky cogs.

And thank goodness for those good bones.

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A happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May you find yourself as full and food-happy as I’m sure to be after my (massive, just about ridiculous) meal with fifty of my closest family members. But may you also find yourself considerably more relaxed and peaceful than I’ll be. Just kick back and laugh at the thought of me chasing my four over-excited little children through that crowd!



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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls

November 23, 2016 12:53
By Julie Walsh


An insufficient response to the election




President-elect Donald Trump is seen with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in Washington, Nov. 10. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA) 


I don’t know about you, but the results of last week’s election have left me feeling completely overwhelmed.

First it was the election itself: While I wasn’t totally shocked that Trump won, I was surprised, and I swear it’s taken me lots of mental heavy lifting to adjust from my Clinton-framed view of what the next four years might be like to a Trump-framed view. As I said on Facebook the morning after the election, “I always considered both prospects for the presidency to carry some big negatives and some less-negatives. I'm now trying to get used to a different set than I anticipated.”

Then there are the reactions of my loved ones – everything from despair to giddiness. Many have been thrust into something like mourning. Some are struggling to grapple with what has happened. Some are grasping at straws, trying for something, anything that might undo Trump’s election. Some have taken a more productive course of action, setting the stage for four years’ worth of opposition. Others seem to be pinching themselves, delighted that a culture that has been so dominated by one (progressive) view of the world has been disrupted. They’re eager for their chance to be heard.

There are the broader, wider reactions of people across the country:  those who march, those who riot, those who fight, those who are consumed by fear, those who feed it by marking up public spaces with hateful slogans, those who resent the intensity of it all.

There are the calls to action: To reach out, to stand up, to grow up.

There’s the confusion of the contingent to which I belong – conservatives who oppose the Republican Party’s swing towards populism; who disdain the Trump campaign’s associations with racism, sexism and fearmongering; who value life, liberty and the rights of the individual human person over electoral success. What do you do when your side becomes unrecognizable to you? What are the options for the politically homeless?




An AT&T truck burns as protesters riot in Oakland, Calif., following President-elect Donald Trump's victory in the Nov. 8 election. (CNS photo/Noah Berger, Reuters)

Like I said, it’s been overwhelming. And adding in the demands of my home and my four beautiful, exhausting little children, I feel like I hardly have enough energy for life these days, let alone any Big And Important Response to the election.

So here I stand, almost empty-handed. Insufficient.

The best image I can conjure up to describe what I mean by “almost empty-handed” is that of a woman tentatively approaching the home of a friend who has been grievously injured in an accident.

The woman is sad, she’s concerned, she’s confused. Her mind spins with the particulars of the accident and her friend’s precarious condition. She wants to help but doesn’t know what the family needs or whether she’s equipped to offer it. But she also has hope. The accident was not fatal. Her friend lives. She has loved ones who are willing to help her recover.

So the woman does a little something. She does all she can think to do, fully aware that it’s lacking. She walks up those front steps and knocks on the front door, and in the face of all that fear and anguish, she stands there, insufficient, holding a cake.

After my first, dull, hollow response to Trump’s election, my next response was better, though it was small and insufficient like that cake. I wanted to talk to people. Not to type angry comments into my phone, not to work up a diatribe against the conditions that brought us to this point – just to talk, in real life, to real people.

I thought of the people I’d been trading political points with online, friends from long-ago stages of my life. I thought of the people with whom I’ve felt a kinship, those who have given me hope. And I wanted to just sit with all of them in my parlor, holding a cup of something hot and a plate of something sweet – and talk. Just talk. About where I’m coming from and where they are, about the experiences that have lead us to those places. About why we think we’re right and what we want others to know about us. About the things we don’t understand about the other. I wanted to see faces and hear voices and remember that we’re all struggling for the good, stumbling and imperfect and insufficient as we are.

So I issued a little invitation to my friends and family on Facebook: “I want to get together a group of not-like-minded folks to talk about some big issues that divide us (abortion, gun control, immigration, race, whatever). Not to argue, not even to convince – just to help us understand each other. Just to ask questions and explain perspectives. I'll provide the place and the drinks; maybe others could bring an appetizer or dessert to share? What do you think?”

I was hoping for a half-dozen interested people who were local to me. But I got that and more. Around a dozen locals and more than a dozen people from across the country expressed interest in participating, so now I’m putting together several discussion groups, some to meet in person, some via video chat.

It’s not much. It’s only a little brave, not a lot. It’s an insufficient response to all the fear and frustration our country is going through right now. God willing, it won’t be all I do.

But at this moment, this is what I’ve got. I am by nature a friendly person who reaches out and wants to know people. And right now, overwhelmed as I am, that’s the instinct I’m going to rely on.



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Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.

November 17, 2016 11:17
By Julie Walsh

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