A mes­sage to unite Amer­ica ver­sus a fear­mon­ger­ing pres­i­dent who aims to tear us apart

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - PHIL KADNER philkad­ner@gmail.com | @scoop2u

It has been a study in stark con­trasts, from an open­ing prayer by a Latino min­is­ter in Florida, who asked God to bless “all of us, Repub­li­can, in­de­pen­dent and Demo­crat,” to yet an­other train wreck of a speech by Pres­i­dent Trump, who warned of “rad­i­cal left” ex­trem­ists try­ing to “abol­ish the sub­urbs.”

We’ve been watch­ing the first nights of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, a strictly dig­i­tal af­fair be­cause of the pan­demic, and we’re be­ing re­minded of the coun­try we love, the one we thought we knew, the one we want back.

The one where most peo­ple care about other peo­ple. Where enough of us un­der­stand we’re in this to­gether, as much as we might give each other fits. Where most of us know our di­ver­sity is our strength, as much as that jabs at our com­fort­able complacenc­y.

“Help us, oh Lord, to be ever mind­ful of the most vul­ner­a­ble among us,” the Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero said in his open­ing prayer at the con­ven­tion.

That’s right. We had al­most for­got­ten. We hon­estly care, as a coun­try, about “the most vul­ner­a­ble among us.” Words like that used to sound per­func­tory. Now they feel im­plor­ing.

Mean­while on Mon­day, Trump stood on a tar­mac at an air­port in Oshkosh, Wis­con­sin, and warned of hell to come if Joe Bi­den — ami­able, cen­ter-left Joe — is elected pres­i­dent, which Trump said will hap­pen only if the elec­tion is “rigged.”

“They’re go­ing to take away your Sec­ond Amend­ment. They’re go­ing to make Amer­ica a sanc­tu­ary for crim­i­nal aliens,” he said. “They also want to abol­ish the sub­urbs by al­low­ing far left Wash­ing­ton bu­reau­crats to force the con­struc­tion of low-in­come hous­ing projects in every neigh­bor­hood in Amer­ica.”

In three sen­tences, Trump hit a scare­mon­ger’s tri­fecta: Democrats will take your guns, let im­mi­grant thugs kill you in your sleep and sta­tion Black gang­bangers on every sub­ur­ban cor­ner.

But back to the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion. Back to the Amer­ica we still be­lieve in de­spite the last 3oe years.

Rep. James E. Cly­burn of South Carolina talked about Amer­i­can unity, which he said he still be­lieves in de­spite the angry ra­cial jus­tice protests filling our streets — or maybe be­cause of them.

“Much like the coun­try as a whole, we are step­ping out from the shad­ows of our past and be­gin­ning to lay the ground­work for a more just fu­ture,” he said. “It won’t be easy. We can only suc­ceed if we move for­ward to­gether. So we will need a pres­i­dent who sees uni­fy­ing peo­ple as a re­quire­ment of the job.”

Gov. An­drew Cuomo of New York, in his own way, talked about unity, too — the kind that de­fies party dif­fer­ences. The les­son of COVID-19, he said, is that we rise or fall to­gether.

“Amer­i­cans learned a crit­i­cal les­son, how vul­ner­a­ble we are when we are di­vided,” Cuomo said. “And how many lives can be lost when our gov­ern­ment is in­com­pe­tent.”

Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama de­plored “some politi­cians” who “try to pit us against each other.” And he in­voked the names of two civil rights icons to re­mind us — Lord, how we need re­mind­ing — what our na­tion at its best is all about.

“It was here in Alabama where Rosa Parks helped ig­nite a move­ment by re­fus­ing to give up her seat on the bus,” Jones said. “And it was here in Alabama where John Lewis marched across a bridge to­ward free­dom.”

Jack Schloss­berg, standing next to his mother, Caro­line, in­voked the words of the grand­fa­ther he never met, John F. Kennedy, to re­mind us that we’re a whole lot better as a na­tion when a pres­i­dent asks what he can do for his coun­try, not what his coun­try can do for him.

In JFK’s fa­mous speech ac­cept­ing his party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, Schloss­berg said, he called for “courage, unity, pa­tri­o­tism” — val­ues “as im­por­tant to­day as they were in 1960.”

Mean­while, back on that tar­mac in Oshkosh, Trump did his best to cast doubts on Bi­den’s cog­ni­tive health, based on noth­ing, in­vok­ing the names of brutes — the au­to­crats he ad­mires most — to make his point.

“He’s shot, he’s shot,” Trump said of Bi­den. “Look, one thing I’ve learned Putin, Pres­i­dent Xi of China, Kim Jong Un, Er­do­gan of Turkey. They are world-class chess play­ers. We can’t have a guy who’s shot and in his best years wasn’t very good.”

Po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions are not the fun they once were. The party’s choice for pres­i­dent is known be­fore­hand and there’s lit­tle in­trigue. A vir­tual con­ven­tion, it turns out, of­fers even less ex­cite­ment. It’s like a telethon.

But we’ll be watch­ing this week all the same. We’re ap­pre­ci­at­ing the mea­sured tone, the lack of bom­bast, the pre­mium put on ba­sic de­cency, the re­spect­ful ef­fort to com­mu­ni­cate.

A sense of things we’ve sorely missed washed over us.

And we’ll keep an eye on Trump, too, just as long as nec­es­sary.

Nar­ra­tor: In our last episode, Bull­win­kle was pro­tect­ing the su­per-se­cret Fer­ris Bueller Report that could top­ple the gov­ern­ment.

Bull­win­kle: “Ooops.”

Boris Bade­nov (watch­ing as stacks of pages from the report are thrown into the air): “Quick Natasha, gather up pa­pers.”

Natasha Fa­tale (ap­ply­ing lip­stick to her mouth as her leg re­mains in the of­fice aisle: “I am no longer mem­ber of pro­le­tariat. I voted Repub­li­can 10,704 times in Michi­gan in 2016.”

Boris: (Grab­bing pages of doc­u­ments and stuff­ing them in­side his coat): “Ha, now we give in­com­plete se­cret doc­u­ment to top U.S. of­fi­cials for TV news.”

Moose: “There’s page 7, 9, 12, 16, 33, and …” Rocky Squir­rel: “Hokey smokes Bull­win­kle! What did you do?”

Nar­ra­tor: And just then At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bar D. Door re­veals the re­sult of the report to the wait­ing na­tion.

Bar D. Door: “This report con­clu­sively proves Russia had noth­ing to do with any­thing ever.”

Boris: “I am bril­liant spy.”

Natasha: “Ha! He had orig­i­nal. We could have stayed home and hacked some more on our com­put­ers.”

Boris (shout­ing to news me­dia): “Russia elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence is fake news! In­vented by Moose and Squir­rel.”

Nar­ra­tor: In the mean­time, some­where in Pott­syl­van­nia, Russia’s Fear­less Leader was hatch­ing a new ter­ri­fy­ing plot with Agent X to en­dan­ger the world.

Fear­less Leader: “The liq­uid in this vial will de­stroy Amer­ica. Make sure it gets into the right hands.”

Nar­ra­tor: And those hands be­long to none other than that vilest of vil­lains, Boris and Natasha.

Boris: “We must sneak this into drink of Mr. Big in White House.”

Natasha: “Im­pos­si­ble. Mr. Big is way too big.” Nar­ra­tor: As fate would have it, Bull­win­kle J. Moose, after sev­eral ap­pear­ances on Fox and Friends in the morn­ing, has been ap­pointed the pres­i­dent’s Big Science Moose De­tec­tive, or BSMD.

Rocky: “You don’t know any­thing about medicine.”

Bull­win­kle: “An ap­ple a day keeps the doc­tor away, but if you don’t have health insurance you don’t need an ap­ple.”

Nar­ra­tor: And so one day a Moose, of all peo­ple, found him­self standing next to Mr. Big as the news broke that a world­wide epi­demic had erupted.

Moose: “For­tu­nately, this bot­tle of fluid was just handed to me that will kill 99.9 % of all germs.”

Mr. Big: “Is this true?”

Moose: “It says so on the bot­tle and I saw it on Twit­ter. Also says right here it may cause nau­sea, in­ter­nal bleeding, ter­ri­ble gas and death in some peo­ple over the age of 65.”

Mr. Big: “It’s worth the risk.”

Moose: “It will also bring a high gloss sheen to your car’s tires if used ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tions.”

Nar­ra­tor: For­tu­nately, just at that mo­ment our hero flew in to save the day.

Rocky: “Give me that bot­tle, Bull­win­kle! You should never drink this stuff!”

Bull­win­kle: “Maybe. But it prevents hair loss if ap­plied daily to the scalp.”

Nar­ra­tor: Hav­ing saved Amer­ica from yet an­other cri­sis, Rocky set off for Frost­bite Falls, Min­nesota, where protests had erupted in the streets, cre­at­ing the per­fect dis­trac­tion for even more das­tardly deeds.

Boris: “We throw mail into wrong slots in­side Post Of­fice and all votes go to Fox News for count­ing.”

Natasha: “Am on cig­a­rette break.” Boris: “No time. Put on sand­wich board sign and march for so­cial jus­tice out­side.”

Natasha (march­ing out­side wear­ing sign): “De­fund the U.S. mail. No more let­ters, no more bills. Make Amer­ica Great Again.”

Nar­ra­tor: Can this mean the end of democ­racy as we know it? Is there no longer any­one who can tell right from wrong? Is satire closer to the truth than the news?

Bull­win­kle: “Is this re­ally the most im­por­tant job in our coun­try?”

Mr. Big: “You’re hold­ing the flag. Noth­ing is more im­por­tant than that. Now pull it out while I sink this putt.”

SCREENGRAB­S VIA DEMO­CRATIC NA­TIONAL CON­VEN­TION

From left: Rep. James E. Cly­burn, D-S.C., Gov. An­drew Cuomo, D-N.Y., former first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, speak Mon­day on the first night of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

SUN-TIMES FILES

Rocky and Bull­win­kle, about to be blown up by Boris and Natasha.

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