Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We're Entering Enemy Territory

I think we've all realized by now that I'm a pretty diehard Democrat. Just about anyone who knows me knows that about me. And so it often shocks people that I watch the Republican convention just about as closely as I watch the Democratic convention. I admit I tend to watch "highlights" of the RNC, letting CNN and its pundits talk over the speeches they don't consider worthy of sharing with us rather than watching the pundit-free gavel-to-gavel coverage on CSPAN. But I do watch -- as much as it hurts. And the hurt strikes a couple different places.

First of all, the RNC hurts my head. It is difficult to sit through speeches which oppose your ideals and beliefs so squarely. Fred Thompson's speech last night, while exceptionally well written and perhaps the best speech I've ever seen him given that didn't have Dick Wolf's name pop up on the screen at the end, was a source of much anger at my house last night as I talked back to him and tried to debate him. Joe Lieberman's speech hurt even more if only because I once really respected and admired him. To see him throw himself on a sword for his bosom buddy was at once admirable and disheartening. Hearing the candidate I admire and respect so much attacked and mocked is unpleasant and infuriating.

And yet I watch.

The RNC also hurts my eyes. All those white faces are a jolt to the corneas. My sis and I like to play a little game we call "Spot the Minority." During the crowd shots, we scan the crowds looking for non-white faces. The media doesn't count. Nor does John McCain's adopted daughter (who looked SO thrilled to be there last night. Geez, even Sasha and Malia Obama hid their boredom a little more effectively -- and they're children!). My sis won last night's round, spotting six non-white faces in the crowd. As she told me, though, last night, "I was really good at Where's Waldo, too." The odds are stacked against my sis and I, though, as I learned today on CNN that there are only 40 African-American delegates at the convention -- out of over 2000 delegates.

And yet I watch.

The RNC hurts my soul. Those "Service" posters in the picture here look a lot like the wrappers of Hershey bars. That's not right. Please don't drag chocolate into this!

And yet I watch.

Most of all, the RNC hurts my heart. You see, the real reason I watch both conventions with nearly the same level of intensty is because I honestly never knew any better. In my house growing up, we always watched both conventions. This was back in the day when the networks gave the convention more than 1 hour of coverage a night, before CNN and MSNBC and Fox News, when watching the convention coverage was really the only option on a summer evening. The lack of other options, though, was not why we watched both conventions in my house, though. It was because my dad believed in fairness; he believed in listening to both sides and then making his choice. Yes, for the majority of his life, he chose to vote Republican, but he did so with an understanding of just what choice he was making. My love of politics stems from those evenings in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992 spent watching the conventions with my dad, learning about the candidates and the parties and their platforms and reveling in the traditions (Dad and I both LOVED the roll calls). As I grew older and heard these parties present their cases, I came into my own politically and really started to think about what I believed and what I wanted my country to be. My decision to become a Democrat was not an act of teenaged rebellion, acting out against my Republican dad. It grew out of an understanding of the issues and the differences between the two parties and a realization that what I believed was not what the Republicans believed. It was not a decision I made lightly if only because I knew how much it would disappoint my dad. And it did disappoint my dad, but if anything, it made our time spent watching the conventions together more fun because we could argue and debate one another. And that all led to that fateful night in 1992 during the RNC as we listened to George Bush rail against abortion, when I turned to my father and asked him, "Dad, as a father who loves his daughters, how can you vote for this guy?" And for the first (and only) time in his life, my dad voted for a Democrat for president.

My dad died in 1996 -- two months before the conventions began. I had a hard time watching the conventions that year and actually watched very little, of either the RNC or DNC. As I watch the conventions now, I think a lot about Dad, especially during the RNC since that was "his" convention, and I miss him. I think a lot about how my dad would have viewed the state of modern politics. I feel safe in saying George W. Bush would have disgusted him. (My dad disdained stupidity) I have a feeling he and I would have been battling this year over Obama and McCain. I think my dad would have loved John McCain -- but the lifelong Illinoisian in him would have struggled over whether or not to vote against the Senator from Illinois. It would have led to some spirited debates, and my own continuing political education and development is poorer for not having them.

And so, for Dad, I watch.

No comments: