I tuned into the Democratic National Convention (DNC), thinking I’d catch a few minutes of the action before going to bed, and I was quickly entranced by the spectacle.
This, of course, is what political conventions are all about. They’re a great primetime opportunity to dazzle the video-feed audience, and energize the base.
I enjoyed watching Deval Patrick, governor of my home state of Massachusetts, give a moving speech focusing on the right of all children to a good education.
I loved meeting a rising political star, Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, Texas, who was winningly introduced by his identical twin brother, state Representative Joachin Castro, currently running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Castro brothers are handsome, talented, and are buoyed by a classic American success story, coming from a poor background, working hard in school, winning scholarships to Stanford and Harvard Law, and moving on and up into politics.
Who wouldn’t be charmed?
And then there was the woman we were all waiting for, First Lady Michelle Obama, looking tall, muscular, vigorous—and very beautiful.
Mrs. Obama was introduced not by a politico, but by an “ordinary woman,” a military mom with four sons serving in four different branches of the U.S. military, and a fifth still in high school, bound for the U.S. Coast Guard. It was moving to hear her tell of how she had written to Michelle and been invited with her husband to the White House, to receive the Obamas’ thanks for the service their family provides to our country.
And it was moving to hear Michelle roll out the by-now familiar story of her humble family background, and how her parents’ hard work enabled her and her brother to go to college and on to graduate school, where she met Barack—himself a scholarship boy who chose to work as a community organizer in Chicago rather than take a high-paying job as a corporate lawyer in New York right out of law school.
Who wouldn’t enjoy hearing Michelle praise her husband as a father, a partner, and a dedicated professional, who truly cares about his country and ran for office not for the glory but because he believed he could make a positive difference?
I came away from the couple of hours of speeches with just the feel-good sensation the scriptwriters had worked so hard to achieve.
But that’s the problem. It all felt too scripted. Too perfect. Too much like entertainment—maybe some kind of weird political reality TV show.
I didn’t watch the Republican National Convention, so I can’t compare and contrast the two, but from all I’ve read about it, it was more or less the same in form, if not in content.
The DNC emphasized the multicultural, hardworking, can-do ethos of the 99%, while the RNC emphasized the white-skinned, inherited-wealth, party-animal ethos of the 1%.
If those are my choices, I clearly belong with the Democrats.
But I can’t help but wonder what I’d see if the Green Party were able to have a primetime convention opportunity like this.
Of course, the Greens probably wouldn’t even want to put on a big expensive consumerist circus typical of our American political conventions, so wasteful of energy and resources.
Looking at the Green Party platform of Presidential hopeful Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala, it’s clear that the Green Party would not just talk about personal rags-to-riches stories of success, but about the structural barriers that keep the 99%–or at least, let’s say, the bottom 50% of our population—locked in generational cycles of poverty and unfulfilled promise.
They would not just repeat the monotonous mantra of jobs creation, but would talk about the most daunting issues facing us today.
The tsunami of climate change that is like the elephant in the room of American politics.
What good will a better K-12 education or the promise of a job be if our climate becomes so compromised that food shortages become rampant?
I want to hear a politician talk candidly about the stranglehold that the chemical companies and the fossil fuel industry currently has on our children’s future on this planet.
I want to hear a politician who is not afraid to talk about the effects we can expect from the rapid melting of the ice packs at the poles.
A politician who is committed to building local resiliency, rather than continuing the death march down the road to globalization, which benefits only the corporate elite and the finance wizards who serve them.
Is Jill Stein that politician?
I wish I knew. The problem is that I have to work pretty hard to find out what she’s all about. And that makes me worry that she, and the party behind her, just don’t have the strength to compete in our political gladiators’ ring.
Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that we are not going to find a political messiah who can part the seas and lead us to safety.
No one person, or even one party, can do that.
We individuals have to assume responsibility for our collective, interdependent future, and begin working harder in our own spheres, where we can have the most impact.
It matters who sits in the White House. I believe the Obamas should get another four years, and hopefully a saner Congress to work with as well.
But it matters just as much what we do in our own states, cities and towns, with or without federal aid.
Mayor Castro and the Governor Patrick and Michelle Obama have been remarkable for working hard to make a difference at the local level.
Thanks to Michelle’s efforts, my son now has a mandated healthier lunch, with no sugary drinks or white bread allowed.
Governor Patrick continues to stand by our Massachusetts state health care program, one of the best in the nation (instituted under Mitt Romney, who now, to please his billionaire buddies, disavows it).
Massachusetts is working on alternative energy sources like wind and solar, with incentives for local municipalities and individuals to convert.
We need to continue to build community resilience and mutual support as we move into the brave new world that awaits us.
It is the only way we are going to make it through the coming climate-driven catastrophes.
We’ve got two more nights of DNC speeches ahead. Is anyone going to acknowledge the climate elephant in the room, move us out of the polished entertainment arena and speak frankly to us about what’s ahead, and how to pull together to get through it?