Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Republican National Convention (Sunday)

"Life Is Sharing The Same Park Bench" (1969)
Six years ago I spent a lot of time at the library reading newspapers from 1936, which was the last time Cleveland hosted a national political convention. Technically, it hosted three the same year, for the Republicans, the Socialists, and also Father Coughlin’s National Union for Social Justice.

Now, it wouldn’t matter whether the Republicans or Democrats chose to have their convention here this year, I did not anticipate getting involved. Not that I am not political. Of course, I am. But I am not a delegate, and political tourism is not my thing.

In fact, as it became more evident that Donald J. Trump would be their nominee, Cleveland’s moment in the sun began to look harsh and bleak. The kind of people who support Trump are angry people, and wilfully ignorant people. They admire him for the way he talks, which doesn’t make any sense because what he says is dull, obvious, arrogant, steeped in unearned entitlement and a braggadocchio that can only be appreciated by one who feels eternally at odds with perceived enemies.

There were rumors of hate groups from across the country, descending on Public Square, and legions of officers, and anarchists to oppose them. Downtown would be an unwelcoming police state. As the security fences began to go up, to keep all but those authorized from the convention venues, this possibility was appearing more evident.

Offices downtown declared they would be closed for the week, mine one of them. I would work at home and avoid this spectacle, which was a pity because the summer had started with such strength and hope. It seemed a shame to miss out on this historic moment, even if it was shadowed by an angry, orange cloud.

Can you imagine? In 1936 baseball games were happening in that great, new stadium on the lake (and yes, also League Park) adjacent to the Great Lakes Exposition, through which thousands of tourists passed daily, and the Republicans were able to accomplish their business in the Public Hall, which was within walking distance, and still take in, for example, the Marx Brothers performing live in a stand at the Palace Theatre. Everything! Downtown!

Sisters with different parents.
Yes, yes. I know. The good old days. What a simpler time.

As it has turned out, however, we have not stayed home. We have not even stayed on the east side. Since just before the convention began, we have been out, in the city, and all because these things are happening in our midst.

Sunday morning the entire family headed to the Near West Side to join thousands of others for a demonstration of peace and hope, called Circle The City With Love. Put simply, we were to span the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, hold hands and be silent for thirty minutes. And we did. The moment was not without drama, as it was over eighty degrees and a few members passed out or nearly did so. But it was a surprisingly effective event and left me feeling a bit more optimistic.

Everyone who participated was invited to a free concert starring The Roots at the Wolstein Center. We didn’t know who the sponsoring producer was, it turns out to have been the AIDS Health Foundation and Keep the Promise USA to raise awareness and funds to combat HIV/AIDS around the world.

Keynote speaker was Dr. Cornel West, which was a major attraction for the wife. Early in the proceedings, however, I saw Brother Cornel and his associates fill out a row near the rear to enjoy the powerful gospel performance of Mary Mary. He was accompanied by a gaunt woman with a severe, silver cut.

Yes. It was Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president. I was worried we had been punk’d into attending a Stein rally, but the AHF is a real thing, and though the good doctor introduced her, he didn’t say anything about her other than she is a candidate, and she said nothing at all. Anything perceived as campaigning would have violated FEC rules.

There were numerous acts, including B.O.B and Raheem DeVaughn, Teyana Taylor, and Questlove and The Roots played for about an hour. They were truly spectacular, a powerful, energetic musical ensemble. Their singer (I can’t find his name, not the lead rapper, he was like a special guest and I can’t find him online) sang a beautiful rendition of John Lennon’s Mother which was truly moving. It’s a powerful song, but I have never heard it performed by someone with a beautiful, clear singing voice. And in light of recent events, it was chilling.

I was surprised by my children. It was a long day, but they were awed by the event on the bridge, and thrilled by the long afternoon's concerts and speeches. It was quite an overwhelming day. Walking back to our car, down Prospect and through Playhouse Square with my family in tow, we could see black liveries with tinted windows veering down the streets, and there was a definite stillness in the air, a Sunday evening calm perhaps, or a calm before the storm?

Regardless, we were ready.

To be continued.

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