I watched most of the Republican National Convention. I wish it had preceded the Democratic Convention. Now I'll have to live with those images, at least until I go shopping and find some healing.
The worst for me was Wednesday night when Giuliani spoke. He scared me. Not what he said. Giuliani scared me. And the crowd scared me. So many white people in cowboy hats with angry looks on their faces chanting slogans. I swear to God, their teeth looked pointy. Maybe it was because they were older, or the lighting, or maybe a lack of dental insurance. And Giuliani was steeped in sarcasm and snarkiness. On my worst days I could never aspire to his level of smallness.
Huckabee was next. There was a long, rambling, "better look that up in Snopes.com" story about "earning your desk. And then in one breath he said,
He doesn't want to change the very definition of marriage from what it has always meant throughout recorded human history. It is not above John McCain's pay grade to grasp the simple fact that human life begins at conception, and he is committed to protecting it.Do not be mistaken. This party is gunning for everyone who isn't white, male, and straight.
Then there was Sarah Palin, a self-described pitbull in lipstick. Again, it was not so much what she said as how she said it, and the crowd's response. You can read the contempt in her speech, especially when she's speaking of Obama's "community organizing" but you can't hear the clipped northern twang that she exploits, not can you hear the condescension.
The crowd went wild for Palin and their "Drill, baby, drill" chanting, at one point, brought her speech to a standstill.
Then she turned her sites on Obama,
This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it.And later, Palin played off the rhetorical reversal in Biden's speech,
History will judge them harshly not for the mistakes made - we all make mistakes - but for the opportunities squandered. Today, we are rightly confident in the example of our power. But we have forgotten the power of our example.with one of her own,
In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.There was a lot of that at the Republican Convention - reversing what the Democrats said at their convention, in an "I know you are, but what am I?" sort of way.
After listening to these three I went to bed, but awakened to troubled dreams. I had to sleep with the TV on, as I had after I watched the movie "Alien" for the first time in the 1980s.
My antidote came from BoingBoing.net the next day. Douglas Rushkoff wrote a thoughtful commentary on the previous night's speeches.
I usually don’t feel uneasy when I put those filters on, but last night - during the Guiliani speech - I realized I was no longer filtering a speechwriter’s intentional manipulation; I was trying to look beyond real hate. These folks were gritting their teeth, shaking their fists, and smiling the way gladiators do when going into combat against barbarians. And this is the incumbent party. The ones currently in power.And later,
What is it they hate? Guiliani and Palin both made it pretty clear: community organizing. Community organizing is energized from below. From the periphery. It is the direction and facilitation of mass energy towards productive and cooperative ends. It is about replacing conflict with collaboration. It is the opposite of war; it is peace.
As I explained in Coercion, having a parent figure on whom to transfer authority allows people to regress to a more childlike state. This not only allows them to feel safe; if gives them the freedom to express their rage. Make no mistake - that's what we're witnessing. And this rage - not America - is the greatest threat to humanity's long-term chances for survival.What can I say about Cindy and John McCain's speeches on Thursday night? They were decidedly uninspired. McCain's timing was off, as was the crowd, chanting at the wrong moments. McCain would lose his place, start over, stutter, and smile, relieved, at the end of long paragraphs when he got it right.
After hearing McCain I couldn't help but feel hopeful that Obama might win afterall. Still, I'm working on my contigency plan and it doesn't include shopping, or alcohol, or a move to France.