Saturday, July 31, 2004

Monday Night-
First Day of Democratic National Convention 04

One problem with the whole event was how hard it was to get a schedule of events before the event, so I felt like I never really what was going on. Part of it was my fault. I knew that the Sheraton was the were the main office was and that suttle services were free. So I could have gone there and found out what I needed to I suppose.

I arrived at the Fleet center on Monday at about 6 pm. I later found that the actually program started everyday at 4pm. Unless, I was being paid, which I wasn't, there was no way I was going to listen to 4 hours of speeches before the prime time slot of three hours of more speeches.

Besides I got into a rather interesting discussion with my friend about Christianity. I believe that Christianity and Catholicism have failed and that something needs to happen to to move us to a new baseline. Paul says that if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold all things are new. We've had 2,000 years of Christianity and we've fall far short of that standard of newness that it makes one wonder if it is at all possible. Also Paul in Galatians talks about the fruit of the spirit of God which are love, joy, peace, gentleness, temperance, patience, meekness, etc. In Christian history and in the present, we clearly don't see this fruit, in fact Christians are among the most mean-spirited people, unhappy people on the face of the earth, so what gives. Are we meant to simply strive for these goals but never really achieve them? We clearly have not even come close (I don't think the saints are examples of success either-Catholic saints are who they are because first and foremost, they validate the Church's claims and preserve its self proclamations) There is no evidence that Christianity makes people better. We all know wonderful, wonderful people who are atheists or adherents to other religions, and the vast majority of dedicated Christians fall short of the Pauline standard of the standard of the Sermon on the Mount. It seems that one's life is more a function of personality than specific religion. Some people are simply more disposed to peacefullness, gentleless, love, kindness, etc. This is not to say that the
Spirit of Christ is not at work in Christians. I believe he is, it just that we are not bearing fruit. . . .blah, blah, blah. . . anyway, back to the convention. (As you can imagne we got to talking for hours so I left for the Fleet Center later than I wanted to. On this issue, the benefit of talking over this with my friend was that I was able to unearth my assumptions. In terms of self-criticism, I freely admit by dependence on an individualistic protestant view of Christianity which views its successes as a function of the individual and not as a function of community. One could argue that the values brought by Christianity to the world are its success, but my argument is that such values are not the point of Christianity, new creatures in Christ bearing the fruit of the Spirit are the point and so ancillary benefits notwithstanding, wherein can we affirm the success of the Christian faith?)

On my way to the convention I ran across the group Billionaires for Bush. I got a picture in (will be posted later). I also saw quite a few anti-abortion protestors, a few anti-war, a few Larouchers, . . . a few . . .I didn't quite get to see the "free speech zone/pen." I hate free speech zones when they keep Bush-protestors out, but I have to admit liking this one, I really did not think any disruptions of the convention would be helpful to our cause. I didn't get to see the protestor pen/chicken coup, which I was assured was quite embarassing, but that was Menino's idea not the DNC. One reason I didn't venture into the free speech zone was the blaring megaphone. I swear it sounded like Nazi propaganda. Picture Saving Private Ryan, that scene were they come a town and the Nazis are screaming propaganda, where Vin Diesel's character takes the little girl and gets shot-that's what the megaphone sounded like. I thought someone needs to tell this guy that his blaring has a more of a chilling effect than not.

Security was tight, but it was not as bad as every expected. I pretty much breezed through the security lines and got into the Fleet center. The fleet center was a zoo and it was overwhelming trying tal make heads or tails of anything. After walking for five miles I finally found the Maryland delegation entrance. I walked in and promptly got trapped on the steps going down. People were not moving and I was getting irritated. I had just had a huge 100% ground beef burger with fries and a beer and I needed to sit down and relax, put up my feet and listen to more speeches. Well, it was then that I looked up and saw Howard Dean. That's what the problem was, everyone was star struck. Of course, I could have cared less, notwithstanding the open mouth and sttutering and the "oh my God" exclamation. After staring at Howard Dean for about a minute or two, I decided to head on to the MD delegation. Then I realized that I did not have a floor pass. As an alternate delegate, I was not worthy of the convention floor--so much for security. They had tons of people posted at entrances to inspect credentials, so how I got through is a mystery. So I decided to leave and spare myself the embarassing situation of being asked to leave. On my way back up, I noticed a throng headed down-Howard Dean was on the move and by some freak of circumstance he stopped right by me to be interviewed by CNN. So there I was standing infront of Howard Dean. I did not spare Dean the flash. Incredible insightful observation here--he looked just like he does on TV.

I found out that I was correct, I was on the lowest rung of the feeding chain and was condemned to the nose bleed seats and so affirming myself in humility (someday, they'll beg to have me on the first row) I trudged to the 7th floor found a seat.

The Program

First, I have to say that it was one heck of a set up. I was very impressed with the stage and everything. Also, there was a live band that absolutely rocked. There was also the 90 ft screen, but my view was blocked by the lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Ah, the life of lowly alternate delegate.

Bebe Winans sang the national anthem. For those who don't know, he is of the famed Winans gospel singing clan, who normally teams up with his sister, CeeCee. I will say hands down, the best ever rendition of the national anthem I've ever heard.

Gore's speech--okay. I'm not a Gore fan and I was deathly afraid that he'd start one of his fanting "how dare they drag . . ." speeches. I know Gore is the darling of the left, but I didn't vote for him. I hoped he would realize that his time had passed and this was now Kerry's convention. He did. He aluded to 2000 to fire up the troops and state the obvious that this would be his convention if all the votes were counted, but he did a good job setting the tone.

Hillary Clinton--Her intro of hubby/speech was okay. As with Gore, I'm not exactly smitten. (I did listen to her on the Tavis Smiley show on Thursday and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed listening to her. She was refreshingly candid, maybe the more I listen, the more I'd like.) Hillary is not a very good public rah-rah speaker. She tends to shout and her cadence and rhythm are off often. She's more a doer than speaker. Nonetheless, everyone was electrified by her presence and speech, except me. I do think this whole situation is a tad dissappointing to her. If Kerry wins then she can't run until 2012, by which time Edwards would be the annointed being the VP for 8 years. The extent to which she wants this ticket to win has been a question that has dogged her. I would say that she did not necessarily hide that dissappointment, in my opinion, in the Tavis Smiley interview. I think she and Bill are resigned to whatever happens.

Bill Clinton--background-I am a Clinton supporter. Even during the Lewinsky affair, I was not embarassed to stand up for a man I thought was a good president and being unfairly demonized. That said, I am not a Clinton worshipper. For instance, I don't have his book. I watched his 60 minutes interview, but after that I couldn't watch him any more. I think I have immense respect for him, but I don't have affection for him. I like him, but I don't think I trust him. The truth is that I feel that he could be lying to you at any point and you wouldn't know it. I suppose that's it, you never know what's a performance and what isn't. (Unlike with Kerry. I've been a Kerry fan for years because you always felt like you were getting the real deal. He's answers were never simple and cliche-ish, he always expressed his mind and sometimes speaks his thinking process out loud. While that doesn't make for bumper sticker cliches, it makes for an honest man that you know is truly speaking his mind and not performing. [I am John Kerry and I approve this message])

Clinton's speech was a definite A plus. The man is quite simply a genius. He is the best politician of our generation and could vie as one of the best ever. He capture the essence of the choice facing this nation and put forth compelling reasons for the Democrats. Nothing was more clever than the "send me" refrain. Clearly biblical, it send shivers up my spine. (The next day I was speaking with a couple of fairly liberal Catholics and we were all saying how we missed Clinton. He knew he had us eating out of his hands and he knew that we knew he had us in his pocket, but that's the pleasure of the seduction. He is so smooth that it is like a guilty pleasure). Clinton's speech capped off a succesful first day and set the tone of the convention-the choice between Bush giveaways to the wealthy few or John Kerry's devotion and service to the many. After his speech, I felt that even if his was the best speech of the convention and overshadowed Kerry's coming speech, it still was perfect, because he had made the case succesfully for Kerry.

Side buzz about Clinton/Kerry. I think this convention and the party is now Kerry's party. There was an obvious struggle between Clinton and Kerry, but inevitably Kerry wins out because he is the nominee. The Kerry Democratic party is one that presents idealism tempered and guided by toughness, common sense, and values. Clinton could not project strength because of his vietnam record and his moral issues. Kerry fought and bled courageously and can stand toe to toe with anyone on the toughness issue. Kerry is also a deeply spiritual man. His faith and spirituality run beneath the surface as opposed to Clinton who peppers his speeches with scripture and holds his bible on the way in and out of Church. Clinton's life however, seems to run contrary to scripture which then gives off the appearance of a performance. Kerry doesn't wear his faith on his sleeve, but when you dig deeper, you find it there. Kerry is also very much a common sense, pragmatic type. He has broken with the party in the past on issues like the budget, welfare, etc. He was something of a lone wolf in the Senate, while you could count on a progressive agenda, you couldn't necessarily give him an easy blanket definition. However, in all this, he is a dreamer and a progressive idealist. And while Clinton may use catchy phrases like building bridges to the 21st century, Kerry seems to be driven by a true vision of what this century should be about, especially in energy independence and science.

There were articles in the Globe about how Kennedy was marginalized by the centrist Clinton in the 90s and now, in Kerry, Kennedy has made a come back and is clearly wresting away control from Clinton and moving to consolidate Kerry's power over the party.


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