It’s Day Three of the Republican National Convention and, once again, I feel like I need to take a shower.
The realization came a bit too late that the RNC presented the perfect opportunity to unplug and go offline for four days. Instead, by force of habit, I let the news reports slosh over me each morning. Even diluted by N(eutral) Public Radio or put through the filter of lefty cable news, I felt my faith in humanity slowly dissolving or eroding away as I watched and listened. I became fixated by a morbid fascination. How bad would this get?
Day One was hope dashing as the Trump stoppers were stopped and the conscience clausers were closeted, thereby setting up the scenario for Day Three when Ted “Call me Custer” Cruz (of all people!) could take his last stand by telling the hostile crowd to consult their consciences.
But it was Day Two that really freaked me out. First there was Chris Christie holding medieval court before the frenzied folk. It reminded me of my students yelling “GUILTY!” and “CUT OFF HER TONGUE!” during our Middle Ages project last April. I was expecting the pitchforks to come out at any moment. Later, when Trump’s face appeared large in the middle of the three-part split screen, some deep-seated past image floated up into my consciousness. I started searching for where I had seen something like that before.
It took me a while to unravel the tangled mess that Orwell (1984), Huxley (Brave New World) and Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) had become in my mind over the years, but eventually I found the thing I was vaguely remembering. The opening scenes of the film “1984” show a convention-like setting featuring its “Two Minutes of Hate” for the Enemy of the State followed by the comforting image in the center of the three-part split screen – the face of Big Brother watching over you. Hence – yesterday’s post. Orwell set his futuristic vision 16 years before the Millennium rather than 16 years after it, but could he be right? Is it possible that Hate can still become a unifying force?
Whatever all this is, I don’t think it has much to do with the average Republican anymore. I know hundreds of Americans and the majority of those people I would guess tend to vote R rather than D. They are all good people who care about others and fairness and justice. A lot of them see self-reliance as a social good: “I will take care of myself so that others don’t have to.” They don’t demonize people with different views. They aren’t averse to helping those in need. I can’t imagine a single one of them with a pitchfork in their hands, believing that Hillary is the cause of their problems or that putting her behind bars would make their futures brighter.
But I do wonder . . . what, specifically, do they want the government to do?
I can’t think of a single concrete policy proposal that has come from the right lately. There has been “repeal and replace” thing, but the “replace with (what?)” has been conspicuously absent. There is the promise to “defeat ISIS”, but the means to do so have been kept a secret. There have been multiple promises of fiscal responsibility and simultaneous tax breaks, as if those two things were synonymous rather than contradictory.
Whether R or D, I think the candidates should have to tell us plainly and specifically what they plan to do. Emotions aside. Just the facts. But we aren’t really getting that comparison to evaluate. From one side there are proposals, from the other, there are emotions.
So let’s be emotional:
Now that a “future to believe in” has been eliminated, here are our choices:
A Past to Believe In (D)
A Mythical Past to Believe In (R)
I am going to come straight out here and say “No” to Trump’s formula for making America great again. Whatever it is that binds the huge and diverse population of the United States together, it certainly isn’t hate. We have our problems but we are not a nation of warring tribes. We do not have to let things fall completely apart before finding the will for truth and reconciliation.