By James A. Kidney
Whether you are a reluctant or die-hard supporter of Hillary Clinton, or even an increasingly rare “undecided” voter, take the weekend to savor the just-concluded Democratic convention. Enjoy your own post-convention “bounce”. Set aside your serious worries about the Republican candidate, though by-all-means enjoy the dark humor his candidacy has engendered. If you think about presidential politics at all, be sunny. If necessary, suspend your disbelief. The hard and fearful events of the campaign will come again soon, if they have not already begun.
Savor the warm recollections of our gorgeous First Lady and her thanks to the American people for providing love and confidence as she, her husband and two beautiful daughters weathered vicious attacks on their Americanism, heritage and hope from politicians and people who have not a flicker of their good spirit.
Remember the vice president’s speech. He knows the disappointments of life as a widower, and the joys of a happy second marriage. He knows also the loss of a son borne by his first wife. And he knows the burdens of the working man, having been raised in the coal mining districts of Pennsylvania. Joe Biden’s essential goodness and optimism shines through, whether he is praising this nation and its president or stripping the hypocrisies from a self-proclaimed multi-billionaire who is sensitive only to the needs of himself.
Remember fondly our president, who not only has endured eight years of intense truculence from the Goofy Old Party (GOP) in Congress, which is the source of many domestic problems going unaddressed for the last 40 years, but faced unprecedented hatred and racism (often denied, but plainly evident) with grace, calm and leadership. May he be spared in his last months in office from yet another public appearance lamenting the deaths of our young people at the hands of gun-crazed madmen. Forget for a moment the sad hypocrisy that the very people who refuse to consider control of dangerous weapons turn around and blame our president for this violence.
But mostly, savor the optimism that ran throughout the convention, concluding with the speech by Hillary Clinton. She was poised, friendly, humorous and relaxed. While some are disappointed she did not address the issues of personal peccadillos that have plagued her, she recognized that an acceptance speech is a time for vision and leadership, not confession. She spoke of an America that is at once diverse and united. A country that tries to face up to its errors and join together to correct them. A country that is still bright with promise to the world, and not the dark, selfish place that seems to lie in the hearts of too many of us.
Baseball, that most American of games, since 9/11 has sung “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. But only the second, most familiar verse, which is a prayer, is sung. The introductory verse is equally appropriate as we contemplate our times. It goes like this:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
Note the references to storm clouds across the sea, freedom and, most important today, “for a land so fair.” Perhaps the composer, Irving Berlin, meant only a land that is beautiful with mountains and prairies. But I prefer to believe that Berlin, a Jew contemplating the threat of Nazism in 1938 when the song was written, also meant that America is a land that is fair to all.
Contemplate how the much more the Democratic convention speakers reflected the ideals of our best selves than did the other party. This spirit also as reflected in a patriotic song.
The original version of “America the Beautiful” had four verses, later expanded to eight. Only the first of these is familiar to most of us. It was written by Katharine Lee Bates and first published as a poem in 1895. Although she was surprised by the poem’s success, Bates later reflected that its enduring ‘hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.” Here are the last two verses; consider how well these sentiments were reflected in the Democratic convention and in its candidate for president:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Are Americans so hardened by terrorism, so shaken by technologies human costs and so easily frightened that these ideals will be shucked off like a broken toaster? We will know soon enough. But for now, enjoy the weekend knowing that at least one large segment of our society remains confident, hopeful and ready to set group blame aside to tackle our problems together.
God Bless America.