The first thing I learned from watching both conventions is how brilliant, oversized and glittering America’s teeth have become - between just Julian Castro and Michelle Obama there seemed to be enough choppers for several extra mouths and that’s before Barack Obama has had a chance to flash his trademark high-beam smile. The Romney/Ryan ticket has a tough fight ahead on this plane, proving that white privilege does not extend to the universal benefits of fluoride and dental bleach. The second thing I learned is that you can’t be a politician without a serious chronic disease to offer. For Ann Romney, it was a twofer of her own multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. While Michelle Obama has only her father’s MS card to play, she trumped with the description of a man who smilingly used a walker in order to get to work each day. It seems that every American who seeks national office must have a required background of poverty or lowly service. The Romneys began their married life in a basement apartment with an ironing board as a dining table but the Obamas had a car so rusty that the pavement was visible through the passenger door. Marco Rubio’s father was a banquet bartender and stood behind his bar so that Marco could one day stand behind the Republican Convention podium. That was nice but Julian Castro’s counterpunch was a grandmother who pushed a mop so that he could one day hold a microphone at the Democratic convention. Of course Ann Romeny’s Welsh gramps would have been happy to trade his miner’s cap for the comparative ease of an above-ground moop or a dimly-lit bar.
Sadly, the audience loves this kind of blather. Conditioned by a generation of bragging about one’s disabilities and dysfunctions on Oprah and Dr. Phil, the folks at both red and blue sites nodded their approval at the escalation of hardships and stories of poverty. Rather than being turned off by this maudlin manipulation of home-made narrative, they dabbed their eyes and gazed empathically at the dazzlingly dressed women and men who came through the hard life knocks of Princeton, Columbia, Harvard and Stanford to stand before them in all their professionally calibrated sartorial splendor. We want America’s leaders to have movie-star glamor but not to forget our legacy of a classless society where just about everybody can become president of the United States.
There used to another iconic image for this country and that was the rugged individual who did what was necessary without complaint, self-pity or self-congratulatory posturing. Clint Eastwood might be the last remnant of that type of American and I wish that instead of playing to his empty chair, he had stood as tall as Abe Lincoln and said, “You won’t hear a word from me about what hurts and how far I’ve come from the dust bowl. What you see is what I am now and here’s what I can offer you - a man who knows how to succeed and make his way in the world.” That’s a lesson that would change the playing field to something meaningful that would truly make our day.
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