Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fear and Loathing at the Republican National Convention

I am no Hunter S. Thompson, nor was meant to be.

I have found myself being increasingly cautious writing about politics, on this blog and on other social media.  In part, it's because I don't want to attract the vitriol that any political post might pull to me.  But in part, it's because I'm not as passionate about politics in general as I used to be.  There are aspects of politics that I am happy to discuss for hours--but I'm not willing to fight with people.

The older I get, the more I see the wisdom of my grandparents' generations who taught us not to talk about politics, religion, or money at the dinner table--or worse, with people you don't really know.

But I also want to record some of the events of history and my reactions to them.  So if you scroll back through this blog, you'll see me react here and there.  Thus, I want to record my reactions to the RNC this past week.

I didn't watch it at all, but I heard clips every morning on NPR.  And driving home on Wednesday night, I listened to some of the speeches--and I felt a growing chill, particularly with the crowd chanting "Lock her up."  I felt a fear for my personal safety, not our collective safety--that mob mentality frightens me.

When I got home, my spouse and I discussed fear and past administrations.  My spouse said that he felt most afraid with Reagan as president.  I felt a fear for the future of civilization with Ronald Reagan--he was much too cavalier about nuclear weapons.

I felt a different kind of fear with the George W. Bush administration.  As I checked out library books or made purchases, I thought about the legislation (primarily the USA Patriot act) that would allow government agencies to know what I was reading and buying.  It seems quaint, now, doesn't it, to worry about privacy in this way?  I am not as worried now, although I imagine that many agencies can get much more information about me.  I assume that anyone who goes searching will be overwhelmed by information.

Or maybe I'm less afraid now because I realize how boring I am.  I check armloads of cookbooks out of the library--and not the Anarchist Cookbook variety.  I am writing about activists much like myself:  once inspired to change the world, now in our 50's, worn out because of these attempts to make lasting social change.

During the Clinton years, when I first began to see glimmers of the new face of terrorism, I didn't feel fear, not the way I feel these days for my personal safety, should Trump be elected or should I ever be foolish enough to go to a Trump rally.  But I did sense the passing of an American age; I remember going to see Apollo 13 and thinking about how we were no longer space pioneers and feeling sad.

But I don't want my political leaders to believe that the U.S. should pull back from its leadership role across the globe.  I don't want my political leaders to believe that we can ignore an attack on a NATO country.  I am deeply uncomfortable with the Trump leadership's Russia connections.

How life cycles around in ironic ways.  My dad and I used to argue about the USSR during the Reagan era.  My dad, who had deeper wisdom, some of it classified, than I did argued that we couldn't trust the USSR.  I admired that Communist ideal of providing for all citizens.  I said, "They may not have freedom of religion but at least they are free from hunger."  There were plenty of hungry citizens in the USSR, but I didn't know that then.

My politics are much more nuanced now.  I am so glad that I don't have a snotty college kid to annoy me the way I must have annoyed the adults in my life when I was at my most idealistic.

I will be interested to see how the Democratic National Convention will proceed next week.  I like that both Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have done social justice work.  I hope the tone of next week's politics will call us to our better selves.  This week's politics made me want to renew my passport and flee.

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