Thursday, September 04, 2008

Republican National Convention, Night Three

Anger and Loathing in St. Paul

Watching this Republican Convention this week, I've been struck by a number of thoughts -- how different this GOP is from the party I grew up with (in Nassau County on Long Island, NY) and registered to vote with as one their own when I turned 18; how adept this GOP is at projecting their own greatest failings (high taxes, big government, enormous deficits, anger and hatred) on their Democratic opponents; how hypocritical they are in their rhetoric, whether it be in regard to "family values" or "faith."

I also thought about the irony holding this convention in a town named for one of the major forces behind the establishment of the Christian faith as a distinct "Church." There is little, if anything, Christian about this Republican Party, and very little about it that is American, in the truest sense of the term.

I thought about Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he talks about love.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3)
Last night, Sarah Palin was the resounding gong and the crashing cymbal of the week. She professes faith that may, indeed move mountains. Her very appearance on the stage at the Xcel center is something of a miracle, and I have no doubt (unlike earlier in the week) that she will remain with John McCain on this ticket. She was far more competent and compelling a speaker than I ever could have imagined, and I had to admit to myself that she may be inexperienced, but she is no fool, and she is no pushover. This is one tough lady.

But where was the love?

Now, the crowd ate her up. They LOVED her. Many pundits wondered aloud if she might not have overshadowed John McCain himself with both the crowd and the Party.

The delegates at the GOP convention in St. Paul (again, the irony assaults me) were desperate for someone who sounded EXACTLY like Sarah Palin did last night -- angry, snarky, and unapologetically self-righteous. Forget about Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin is one angry lady, and this was one angry crowd. And they got along together frighteningly well.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
Why all this anger? This Republican Party is feeling frustrated, insulted, and quite put upon after being in the ascendancy for the past two decades, but then watching their numbers dwindle so drastically in the last few years. They're convinced they're right, that they have the "one, true way," and absolutely livid at the fact that, because of the abuses of the Bush administration that they've aided and abetted over the last seven years, they're being second guessed, questioned, doubted, and, it turns out, abandoned by the American people.

The result of all this right-wing frustration and brooding over injury is an awful lot of quick-tempered, angry rudeness, some of it directed at Barack Obama:
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.
These are not the words of someone who respects community organizing and social advocacy. These are not the words of someone who respects a candidate as a person. These are words meant to denigrate, to belittle, to insult. If Obama's ONLY experience had been community organizing (rather than hitting Wall Street or the corporate world for big $$$$), it would be a legitimate criticism. But it is not all of his experience. But it's all Sarah Palin would mention.

Some of her anger was directed at the media:

And I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.

But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country.

As though the scrutiny given to Gov. Palin by the media (since there was little evidence that a lot of scrutiny was given her by the McCain campaign) is an unrealistic and irresponsible imposition, an invasion of her privacy. As though it was not important that a woman who claims to be a "maverick" and an enemy of earmarks aggressively pursued -- and won -- those earmarks for her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, when she was its mayor. As though it was not important that an unknown, inexperienced Governor of a state with a population half that of Brooklyn's might become Commander-in-Chief claimed experience as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard -- when she had never issued a single order to the guard. As though it was not important that a nominee who claims to represent change from the current corrupt GOP status quo in Washington is under investigation for using her political power for personal reasons. As though it was not important that a Vice President of the United States claiming to be in a position to shape US foreign policy only got a US passport in 2007.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13: 8-13)
It is easy to be upset with the GOP -- especially that unrepentent roughly 28% who still think invading Iraq was a god idea and still support George W. Bush. But I find it difficult not to feel sorrow for a once-honorable political party -- the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower -- having sunk to such depths. The anger and loathing that has emanated (paradoxically) from St. Paul this week lacks empathy, lacks charity, and lacks love -- for God, for country, or for their fellow Americans.

God bless America.

1 comment:

Tiffany M. said...

Great post. I wasn't too surprised at her ability to come off as competent and compelling, since she had worked in TV news at one point. She knows how to read a teleprompter convincingly. The real test will be how she does when the speech hasn't been written for her, and campaign advisors or the Republican spin machine hasn't had four days to coach her. I will believe she's truly competent and compelling when she submits herself to a real interview, where reporters are allowed to ask the tough questions, and she gives compelling answers. Until then, and sexism be damned, she'll just be another pretty face. But I totally agree with you on the tone of the speech -- angry, belitting, disappointing. I didn't expect a Democratic Lovefest, but instead of insults about community organizing and executive experience, how about some talk about issues? Instead of lies about Obama's time in the state Senate and U.S. Congress, how about telling us how they'll fix the economy? Sorry, I rambled, but I totally agree with your post.