The republican National Convention was, despite conservative objections to the contrary, a dark affair. But to say that is not to be critical. To say that is to be practical, clear-eyed, and observant.
Donald Trump earned his nomination by playing on the justified fears of his audience, Americans who had been served a steady diet of terror, bloodshed and angry protest both here and abroad. San Bernardino, Orlando, Nice, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Munich, St. Paul, Dallas. It was not just about ISIS, or Islamic jihad. It was about anger in our own city streets, cops shooting civilians, and those same civilians targeting police officers like a sniper hunts its prey.
Whether the motivating factor of the violence was a belief in a warrior god who hates the infidel Christian, or a sense that the white man hates his black brothers, and the black man his white brothers, the end result was death and division. So those sunny-souled Pollyannas who were quick to point fingers at the ghoulish Republicans singing their partisan dirges were naive.
I came out of the RNC depressed, disturbed, but not surprised. To believe that everything will be all right and that, as that red-headed orphan sang, the "sun will come out, tomorrow," is the height of arrogance and shallow Hallmark sentiment. For many, it will not come out. The New York Times recently carried a front-page story accompanied by a pictures of some of the 247 people murdered by global terrorism during a two-week period in March. They are forever deaf to the happy sounds of renewal and hope, which permeated the next convention, the one that was praised for its light and uplifting message.
I watched both conventions, the dark one in Cleveland that played to our fears and our reality, and the glittering spectacle in my own hometown of Philadelphia that asked us to reject pessimism and embrace the philosophy synthesized in these words from a man I do love, Joe Biden: "We must rekindle the fire of idealism in our society."
I listened to speaker after speaker, to Michelle Obama with her maternal focus on what is good for our children, to Corey Booker who has the looks of a movie star and the histrionic delivery of a silent movie star, to Bill Clinton, who sang a pitch perfect but incomplete love song to his wife, to Tim Kaine, who is sweet but found a way to bore me in two languages, to a president who led a pep rally for the woman who waited her turn, and to mothers who'd lost their sons to gun violence, but not to the widows of police officers, and I was struck by one thing: There was no mention of those who had been killed by ISIS. It wasn't until deep into third evening of the convention that there was a reference to the assassination of Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by Islamic jihadists in the middle of celebrating the sacred Mass.
I waited for some reference, some moment of silence, some raised prayer in song or uplifted hands. All I got was Alicia Keys in some kitchen towels and no makeup wailing away about something, or a slickly executed video with a DNC "Fight Song."
But, you will probably say, why would the Democratic National Convention show respect for a priest who had been beheaded by Islamists in church? That's so dark, and Democrats don't do dark. They do sunshine, lollipops and flowers, except when they are talking about brutal police officers, bigoted religious conservatives or rich one-percenters. Then, they are fully capable of going to the dark side, raining invective down on those who disagree with them.
But usually, they look to mountaintop of human experience, and advocate for those things that elevate the spirit and increase the potential of everyone regardless of color, class and creed. As a recent caller to my radio show said, liberals are all about fairness. That, in fact, is why the Democratic platform includes a provision that would nullify the Hyde Amendment and allow for taxpayer funding of abortion. After all, poor women and rich women should have the absolute same right to kill their unborn children. Oh, sorry, that's dark and this is the DNC. I'll rephrase: All women should have equal access to reproductive healthcare. Better?
So I listened to this high-minded rhetoric about how united we are, how decent we are, how we can't let petty irrelevancies like race, and religion, and "who we love" divide us into the armed camps that are exploited by conservatives. According to the Democrats, all we need is love.
Well, excuse me for thinking that love wasn't enough to save Father Hamel as he fought for his life at God's altar. This is a dangerous world, and to ignore that fact in pursuit of some rosy fantasy that smells of patchouli and resounds with Kumbaya is suicide.
I am not a fan of Donald Trump, or his less than eloquent sound bites. I do not share his nihilism, his expectation of the worst from us instead of his hopes for our better angels. He is a pragmatist, a businessman who has not always managed his affairs wisely and well, an opportunist and even, in some ways, a grifter.
But he is a realist, and he doesn't pretend that the murder of a Catholic priest in France is irrelevant to our necessary actions at home. Not one of the major speakers at the DNC had the courage to promise that the evil soldiers of an evil cult would face annihilation. They held hands, spoke Spanish (Tim, you need to work on your accent), chanted about historic firsts (with the people of Pakistan, India, Germany, Great Britain, Myanmar, Israel, Liberia and even Iceland smirking) and acted like the "grown-ups."
Grown-ups would have mentioned that a priest had been martyred. But they were too busy crowning a queen and living happily ever after.
Christine M. Flowers
Philadelphia Daily News