It is no coincidence that Cleveland is about to erupt in violence. There is a single party, a single man to blame.
There will be blood spilled in the streets of Cleveland.
The host city for the Republican Convention this week is not abuzz with possibility or promise, it is a heavily armed paramilitary police state. Protesters, most of whom have come with good intention, will be in harm’s way.
One rotten, militant, reactionary force among them and there will be the exchange of tear gas and bullets. The rest of America waits for it bloodthirsty, like a grudge match Us vs. Us II: The Reckoning. The (insert end-of-alphabet letter here)-list politicians and celebrities like Chachi Arcola who have stooped so low to align themselves with the brand of evil, divisiveness and incoherency will be not-so-safely stowed inside Quicken Loans Arena under a canopy of balloons ready to drop in drunken celebration of the birth of something truly vile.
The rest of us, me in California, you in Minnesota, he and she in North Dakota, will shake collective our heads, transfixed. And we will cry tears. How can this be? How did our narrative — 240 years on the tightrope of bluster and subtleties — shrink to mere sound bites of hate and misdirection.
I have vivid memories of the political process of yesterday. Mud slinging in the form of slights and barbs and “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” 5 o’clock shadows on TV undoing an entire campaign, Dan Quayle jokes, the Clintons and the Gores inviting us to their key party pouring out copious amounts of chard and turning up the Fleetwood Mac. It was all just a game of bridge then.
Now it’s reduced to a sticky, slimy film that grows on the rubble. It was coming for a long time, the death of conversation, the dearth of ideas and the ever-gaining-in-volume voices. Soft-spoken and precise, calculating and calm, fuck that shit.
Even the pundits who speak of the process, who were coddled by it, made careers digesting and digressing, have been pushed to the corner. The issues of their time, the Cold War, trickle-down economics, the WWF being forced to re-brand as the WWE, 9/11, WMDs and the housing crash, swept aside in favor of a post-fact-era continual shouting match.
Can we save ourselves from disaster, from more killing of one another? Can we talk in the present about democracy itself and all the complicated microscopic pin pricks and tiny chuckles that make it worth continuing? Can we do this when a large sector of the populace has given up? Even a trip to the grocery store to see the good people of the world knocking on cantaloupes can bring back a feeling — slight as it may be — of order, of something sweet and yesterdayish. Instead we are injected, constantly, with fear and threats that don’t exist while the good ship of personal accountability to your family, friends, boss and neighbors is sunk in a sea of anger.
We are a divided state and make no mistake, the mechanism is political.
The Republican party, which for more than a century had been a symbol of puffy chested and sun scorched lips of American virility, is dead. Not virtually dead. All the way dead.
Commandeered by the most base class of citizenry, the cancer-addled rotten teeth gnasher who sees the end is near (or at least thinks he does) and wants to take the whole thing down with him; civility, discourse, his children’s and grandchildren’s right to clean air and water and national parks and a chance to earn a healthy wage.
He’s done with all that. He gave at the office and has limited his own world view to what, exactly, is happening on the glow screen in front of him — the screen that he talks back to angrily as if that makes a difference, as if frustration turned to hate ever made things better. He is diffident and insecure and has no platform but instead of shrinking into the void of his own self-loathing, he is empowered.
It has been one year since the reality TV star Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade giant orange balloon comb over came to us in dramatic full. The man who referred to 9/11 as 7 Eleven. The man who accused Barack Obama of not being born in the U.S., and thus far in this campaign has gone after black people, immigrants, Latinos, Asians, women, Muslims and the disabled. In the meantime, this man has tried to convince through mawkish sloganeering and red hats, that he’s for the people or carries some kind of redemptive elixir in his snake oil.
It is no coincidence that a man who gently stirs the cauldron of our worst fears till it boils over in the streets is behind all this maddening, saddening, heartbreaking bloodshed in our communities. Think of where we were this time last year, before he emerged on the chin of America like an innocent whitehead. We poked at it, had fun with it, but now it’s infected and taking over much of our face. More than 975 people are expected to be arrested this week in Cleveland. More than 2,500 law enforcement officers from many states, including California, Florida and Texas, have been flown in armed and ready because of the man on the dais vividly stirring up all this mess.
There are some citizens, with good intention, making signs and getting ready to march and exercise the basic human freedoms they or their direct ancestors came to this land to enjoy, who will die within the next 72 hours.
That is our reality.
We were NOT at this place one year ago. There has always been ignorance and apathy, both suggested and in real life, but entire races and religions have never been singled out on a national stage and marginalized and beaten into literal submission.
How can any God-fearing conservative align himself with cheering this conflagration, this loss of humility and humanity? How can someone who reads and thinks and feels want this to be their legacy? What the party’s nominee does is piss all over the grave of what was once promised to us by the GOP in exchange for taking certain steps: Get educated, work hard, be strong in your family. Do the right thing. Now it’s hate one another, be obstructionist, don’t trust, look over your shoulder. Make a deal. Get yours and get the fuck out.
Look no further than Atlantic City as the blueprint. The place where the Republican nominee has had the most influence in his career is a crime-addled, drug-addicted wasteland. He destroyed it by investing little of his own money, shifting his own debt to his businesses, collecting millions in salary as investments went bad and putting the fiscal onus on investors.
His companies there visited bankruptcy court four times in less than a decade, each time defrauding lending institutions and persuading bondholders to accept less return in exchange for not seeing their investment eliminated entirely. But debt mounted and he went back to court to seek protection from his same investors.
Now he brags as everything has folded, everyone has left, that he and his money got out at the right time. Is that what America wants? A detached, carpetbagging, sociopath trust funder to squeeze the last bit of juice out of a piece of rotting fruit and to leave it scorched earth and brag about it?
Party politics is about who can electrify. The Republican nominee appeals to a certain sect attracted to a flame because of the same non-informed incendiary off-the-cuff reactionary blazing up of others less fortunate at their expense. It’s a narcosis, appointment television, something to be consumed and then puked out all over the sidewalk on the walk home. Half the poorest states of the union could vanish, quite easily, under such a terrible, ruinous leader and the safe spots on the coast — where there is still hope and a functioning economy — would eventually come under threat.
Ours is a delicate system based on trust and it is all interconnected. There is no political or policy answer, ever — it comes from the people who agree to live in such a society, who buy into the notion that there is still a viable tomorrow for them.
But what if that goes away too? What does happen to a country, to its actual people, when there is not only nothing to lose, but nothing left to fight for.
…We’ll get a preview this week.