Tuesday, August 26, 2008

FIRST NIGHT OF THE DENVER CONVENTION

Some people found it an uninspiring evening. Not me.

Watching Ted Kennedy’s last hurrah, essentially the last hurrah of his generation of Kennedys, brought tears to my eyes, thinking of my father and me watching the 1956 Democratic convention where JFK, a young Senator like Obama then, made his first national impact in his first convention speech (much like Obama) and my old man predicted he’d be our first “Irish Catholic” president.

Then living through that election and the ethnic and religious turmoil and prejudice and fear and insults (one joke at the time was that if JFK became president, he’d put the pope on a U. S. postage stamp so that all Americans would have to lick the pope’s bottom).

I remember having to be held back from punching a sergeant in the Air Force who was making scathingly insulting remarks about JFK while he was president before he was assassinated.

My father carried a newspaper ad folded up in his wallet from his younger adulthood that said: “Irish Catholics need not apply.” The pride that filled us on JFK’s not just winning the election, but giving such a profound and moving inauguration speech (as well as my own excitement over JFK being the first president to have a poet read at his inauguration and the first to invite jazz musicians to play at the White House), as well as the historic significance for us regular Irish Catholic folks down at the street level feeling we had a champion of our own, cannot be explained if you weren’t there experiencing it.

All that and more poured into my heart and soul as Teddy waved farewell, no matter what his words were saying.

Having been the youngest and wildest child in my large family, who made some huge mistakes in my youth and not so youth, I could also identify with Teddy’s life story in some ways. But the ways in which I don’t identify, seem even more significant. Like here’s a young playboy who could have spent his life like many other rich kids, indulging in the pastimes of the wealthy with little thought for others, but instead he became the workhorse of the Senate and in the estimation of several historians, as well as me, the best, most effective Senator in our history.

(There’s a reason the rightwing made him the poster boy for raising funds for so many years, because Teddy was so effective at getting laws passed that used the government to help the poor and the working class and the uninsured and children and women and minorities and all the causes the Democrats have always stood for, sometimes better than others, and rightwing Republicans have been against, for reasons I’m sure will be pointed out by some of them on comments on this post, but the reality cannot be denied.)

So my father and generations of Irish Catholic working people—as well as so many other Americans who had no real representation because they were too poor or weak or too much of a minority, etc.—were in my heart and thoughts as I watched this white-haired, pink-faced Mick wave goodby to a world he made better through hard work, deep commitment, and intelligence (he wasn’t called “the lion of the Senate” for nothing).

Then to see Michelle Obama’s speech not that much later, really got to me. So many of my friends from back when many parts of this country were legally segregated and much of the rest of the country was de facto, as they said, segregated, when racism was a given, accepted as something that would never change, are gone.

We struggled to change that status quo and did, with nothing but resistance from the rightwing of the Democratic Party of those times as well as the up and coming right wing of the Republican Party, but more importantly the indifference by so many fellow citizens to the injustices of those times, so much more blatant than anything we see now.

To witness an African-American woman speaking so passionately (no matter what problems she might have been having with the difficulties and fears and self-consciousness of addressing a vast space filled with thousands of people, let alone the millions watching on TV) about where she came from, as well as her husband, to arrive at this point, and to remember all those I’ve known who fought so hard to get this country to this same point and who weren’t here to witness this achievement, was almost unbelievable.

What can I say, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, joy and sadness all at once, for so much that had to happen before this could be possible. No matter who wins the election, the historic achievement of Obama’s campaign cannot be denied nor reversed. It has been done, and Michelle’s speech, her grace and beauty and confident presence as not just a fellow citizen, but as an African-American woman representing all that, was both moving and enlightening. Can you imagine the weight of that responsibility? How well she dealt with all that.

It was such an historic moment, and so many ghosts seemed to be in my living room watching it with me, I could hardly keep from weeping with relief and joy and wonder at the reality of it as well as the deep sense of so many missing from this milestone, including so many personal friends and lovers and fellow fighters in the battles that had to be fought to get us all here, like it or not.

The next three days will be gravy, as they say. And for all the pundits who kept commenting on how there were little or no attacks on McCain and Bush (and of course as they were saying this they were talking over what well could have been attacks on McCain and Bush by the lesser-known speakers who the networks were ignoring—I can’t believe that in this day and age with thousands of media outlets, there wasn’t one I could find that just showed the convention from beginning to end unedited or commented on) I hope the next three days will take care of that.

And I might add, the short film on Jimmy Carter’s work in New Orleans with the Katrina survivors and his comments on that shown earlier in the evening was a moving piece of work as well, and a tribute to an ex-president who like Teddy Kennedy could have spent his later years on a permanent vacation or retirement (or exploiting his presidency for large fees from corporations etc. like Reagan) but instead has chosen to act on his faith and do good works for the least of our fellow humans.

All in all an impressive night for this old fan of politics.

10 comments:

Another Lally said...

The historic nature of this convention is rather breath taking for us who lived through those transitional years of the 60's.

Sometimes celebrating our growth towards the ideals of the Declaration should transcend party affilliation.

Reagan fell from a horse in Mexico in 1989 sufferring a subdural hematoma requiring surgery. In 1994, when it could no longer be doubted Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Considering the role he played in re-energizing the nation and economy, he was taken from us too soon.

He was the epitome of 'working across the aisle' with Tip O'Neil.

JIm said...

Mary Joe, Teddy's most adoring fan could not be there for his last hurrah. Because of drunkeness or cowardly concern for his career, help did not arrive in time. I prefer Rublican heroes like President Reagan.

Toby Thompson said...

Ted Kennedy's struggles with alcoholism and/or depression, and his determination to work his way back from tragedy and disgrace are lessons for us all. He is a man in full and a great senator--the equal to or better than his brothers.

He also likes the Winch brothers' Celtic Thunder.

Another Lally said...

National Health
Nationalization of Industry
(Big Oil, Raising Corporate Tax)
Guaranteed Employment
Immigration Control
Limits on Free Speech (Fairness Doctrine)
Nationalization of Banking and Finance
(Tight Regualtion)
Limits On the Press
Demand Unlimited Authority (Presidency, Majority in House, Senate and Supreme Court)

The main difference in the Nazi Party platform and that of the Democrats is that the Nazis were against abortion.

Tonight should be interesting.

Lally said...

Thanks Toby, couldn't have said it better myself.
(PS Does anyone besides me get the sense that the commentor who calls himself "another lally" suffers from some kind of multiple personality disorder?—just two being condescending narcissist pretending to be interested in reasoned discussions and compulsive liar obsessed with this blog.)

JIm said...

Denver archbishop Charles Chaput slamed Nancy Pelosi for her outrageous comments on the church and abortion. That has been quickly followed by the bishops and or cardinals in NY and DC. Can a rebuke to Beiden and others who hold themselves out as practicing Catholic politicians be far behind.

It is good to see advertisements examining Obama's character through his associations with people of questionable character and loyalty.

It seems like the Clintonistas are not falling in line for Obama.

Energy development is becoming one of the biggest issues and the Republicans are for the most part on the right side of the issue.

Putin and the resurgent Russians are on the move again and voters are liable to be asking themselves who they want to take the 3:00 AM call.
For many it may be hard to wrap their minds around the picture of Camander and Chief Barack.

I am starting to get a tingle up my leg which may portend a Republican landslide in the congressional and presidential election. Republicans and McCain still have the ability to mess it up. This could be an interesting finish.

Another Lally said...

Nationalization of Oil Companies = Maxine Waters Threat

Pelosi Often States That She Seeks Unhindered Access To Adopting Her Programs (or should I call her Pope Pelosi since she has attempted to re-write the tenets of the Catholic Church)

National Health is obvious (though it has dwindled down to affordable coverage for all)

Limiting the press and free speech via the Fairness Doctrine

Guaranteed employment through nationalized industry or government agencies (including the military)

This stuff is too amazing to make up.

AlamedaTom said...

Memo to: Another Lally & Jim.

Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I am a firm believer in free speech, some would say to a fault. However, there are limits that I recognize and endorse. Among them is the freedom of association and the right to one's privacy. I come to this blog to enjoy the thoughts of my oldest friend and to associate with his other friends and admirers in a friendly and thoughtful milieu. I did not invite you two in and if I had the standing to do so, I would politely ask you to leave at this point.

If I invited you into my living room and we began to have a political discussion that escalated into ad hominems coming from you, I could ask you to leave, and even though you would say I was curtailing your right to free speech, the law says otherwise.

Perhaps if you could tone down the personal attacks against Michael, I might be able to stomach your collective screed. I'm sure you two must basically be nice guys. Please try to show it.

~ Willy

Toby Thompson said...

Hot dog, it's getting personal. I've long held that, despite the quality of discourse, blogging is the equivalent of writing on the washroom wall. One joke is crossed out and replaced by another, one insult by the next, etc. This is not to denigrate bloggers and the blogged, but to celebrate them. Hit it.

Another Lally said...

The personal attacks are obvious, but only my name and Jim's are mentioned.

Should you see some of my mentioning of seeing comedy in the blog, you would have to understand that it is about relating to the blog in many ways. Walking a different path, yet having some of the same penchants and experience, I find it funny that these things seem imprinted in the genes. One would have to be familiar with the Lally (Lali, Lalli, Lally) history to understand. Be it from the European mainland to Galway to France and India and back and then to the USA, some things just seem to remain constant.