Finding Civic Duty In Reconciliation: Part of the “As This Jesuit Sees It” Series

Written by Rev. Matthew Carnes S.J., an associate professor of Government and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies. This article originally appeared on November 11th, 2016, in the Hoya and can be found online here“As This Jesuit Sees It” appears every other Friday in the Hoya.

During my Sunday morning run, the words of the scrawled graffiti script leapt out at me: “The revolution will not be Snapchatted!” It was a jarring proclamation, and it shocked me out of the nervous rumination on the presidential election, just two days away then, that had dominated my thinking during the run.

I understood the graffiti’s message: Really big things, like social change or the construction of a national community, cannot be reduced to a couple eye-catching images or clever turns of phrase. Real progress and real meaning emerge from a long, committed process, more than secondslong glimpses that disappear, by design, from our phones.

The graffiti forced me to pull back and take the long view. I reflected on my more than four decades of life and was struck by the long path of change and progress in our nation, at a time in which our community has slowly, even if sometimes reluctantly, seen the arc of its history bend toward justice.

At Georgetown, we feel intimately connected to this process. With our home here in Washington, D.C., the political process seems to flow in our bloodstream. We welcome leaders onto campus, serve in congressional offices and volunteer in political campaigns. We walk the memorials, inspired by the words and memories enshrined in them.

And like citizens throughout the country, we had the opportunity to stand in line and cast our votes on Tuesday. I was there along with my students, and I could feel their excitement and nervous energy. That evening, I hosted students in my apartment, and together we watched as returns came in. Energy surged and ebbed as the results became clear, with nearly everyone surprised at the outcome.

It was a profoundly important moment, and an exhausting one. There is a temptation to simply Snapchat it, to come up with the perfect summary phrase, send it out to friends who will laugh or cry — or both — along with us, then let it fade as the pressures of school and work and social lives take hold of our energies. But our Jesuit values here at Georgetown remind us that we are part of something bigger than an election, and that the real measure of our efforts comes not simply by
casting a vote, but through our work over the long haul.

Now, the real work of citizenship begins as we continue to champion the causes that brought us out to vote, listen to voices of others and lean our shoulders into the hard work of reconciliation. We can draw inspiration from Georgetown’s efforts to respond to our legacy of slaveholding and racial discrimination, which has pushed us to take a hard look at reality and pour our hearts into addressing the breaches that have characterized our social fabric for too long.

With hope, respectful dialogue and constructive dissent, we now have the task of contributing to the next steps our nation will take, and we will be at our best when we foster the unity in diversity that is at the center of our mission. What we do here matters, and it deserves nothing less than our full selves.

So today, resist the temptation to leave the energy of the election behind. We become who we hope to be not in a single moment of victory or defeat, but in the community we form over the long haul. Be a part of the political change and reconciliation that is the work of this generation, for it will not be Snapchatted.