Philly Cheese Stake

This week has been pretty sunny in Philadelphia. I have watched many conventions, but have never been so moved over and over and over each night. Speaker after speaker shared stories that continue to inspire and remind us of possibility, and of what policy can really do for individuals.

The Dems seem to have embraced a traditional kind of American patriotism this week. Like Mohamed Ali’s refrain, “I’m the GREATEST”, Dems embraced American exceptionalism and repeatedly declared how great America already is. This used to be the province of the Republicans, wrapping themselves in the flag (or sticking themselves with flag pins), while any critique was denounced as unpatriotic.. You’re either with us or against us. It was a simplistic patriotism.

The Dems’ patriotism, on full display this week in Philadelphia, included critique and dissent, but mostly a plethora of joy and celebration for the myriad ways one can more fully realize one’s potential, and even transform challenges and tragedies, as long as we find ways to support one another politically. The testimonies of those whose lives were made better because of actual policies, were remarkable. So much courage and brilliance was on display. It was colorful in every way. It was thrilling and amazing. I have never seen or heard anything like it.

Battles that I have witnessed (and some I have participated in) for civil rights for women, African Americans, immigrants, disabled, LGBTQ, first responders, veterans, and more were shared and celebrated. It was impossible not to notice the multi-ness at the Democratic convention. That was a powerful image of America. Sure, there was also plenty of cheese. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I ate it all up.

I think we wanted some cheese. There has been too much acridity in our politics for much too long. Dems seemed to realize what a toll that has taken, and made a concerted effort to feel good; to serve up some comfort food. And they did.

It was an easy contrast to the fear and hate on display at the Republican convention. There were so many outstanding speeches thus far at the Democratic convention, that each day’s ranking of who gave the best speech  became silly. (Ok…The Obamas). But despite the displays of intrepidness, decency, knowledge, experience, compassion, and rhetorical skills, the celebration of our American greatness also seemed threatened. And not by external threats.

What’s at stake in this election is now being called Trumpism. President Obama gave the perfect coda to his political career last night. Having endured the suggestions and attacks from Palin and others that Obama was somehow not American, or against America, and having endured the “Birtherism” that Trump inflamed early on in the Obama presidency, Mr. Obama somehow outdid himself as he outlined the ways in which Trump and his “philosophy” (mostly  attitude) is antithetical to American ideals and to America itself. Obama brilliantly articulated his own American essence and patriotism, while eviscerating Trumpism as unpatriotic. Obama cast Trump (and Trumpism) as un-American! Take that!

Many have found displays of patriotism cheesy. It’s so easy to be cynical. What’s at stake was never better articulated than it was last night, which is saying quite a bit, given Obama’s rhetorical genius.
It is possible to acknowledge the greatness of America and take pride in achievements while still acknowledging that so much more needs to be accomplished in the economy, jobs, healthcare, education, policing, racial issues, veterans’ issues, equal pay, low income communities, restoring the middle class, gun violence and safety, infrastructure, getting big money out of politics, homeland security, cyber-security, environmental safeguards and energy strategies, innovation, international issues, and more.

Tonight will be the last night of the convention, and I anticipate a healthy portion of Philly Cheese Stake. It may be cheesy, but it is necessary to remind ourselves of our better angels, and to have those wings expand. Trumpism, at the very least, divides and contracts. It leaves us bitter and weaker, and worse. Too much is at stake.

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