Democratic America vs. Republican Indecency
American politics has entered the Twilight Zone when the Republican Party’s presidential nominee is allying himself with the totalitarian ruler of the government Ronald Reagan called an “evil empire” while delegates to the Democratic National Convention break out into patriotic chants usually heard from inebriated sports bozos: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
The Democratic convention was a welcome relief after a four-day Republican hate fest portrayed America as a smoldering ruins overrun by raping and pillaging bands of brown-skinned immigrants and blood-thirsty terrorists.
That left it up to Democrats to celebrate all the good things about our country without trying to pretend America had magically achieved equality and justice for all.
But Democrats provided a great visual every night of the nation’s rich diversity of races, religions and social classes compared to the blindingly white Republican convention, with only 18 African Americans sprinkled among its 2,472 delegates.
Democrats had all the stars, too. Riveting, historic moments featured not only Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president, but also among the best speeches of their lives from President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and the underrated working-class hero, Vice President Joe Biden.
The radiantly successful First Lady Michelle Obama set the upbeat tone lighting up opening night. Michelle was totally transformed from the reluctant political partner who entered the White House only to be brutally assaulted by the right-wing Republican attack machine that has pilloried Hillary Clinton and every other progressive woman in politics.
The racist bombardment was perfectly satirized on that famous New Yorker cover showing Michelle with an enormous afro, an assault rifle slung over her shoulder and a bandolier of ammo across her chest, fist bumping Barack as they burn an American flag in the Oval Office fireplace.
Boy, has she overcome. Her speech expressed her appreciation and pride in the meaning for America—and for families of all races—of her beautiful daughters growing up and playing on the lawn of a White House built by slaves. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again,” she said. “Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!”
A Joe McCarthy Moment
But among all the political heavy hitters, it was two everyday Americans few people in the room knew who stopped the convention cold with their personal story. Khizr Khan is a Harvard-educated lawyer and Muslim American immigrant from Pakistan, now living in Charlottesville, Va. With his hand over his heart and his grieving wife Ghazala in a hijab standing silently at his side, Khan said:
“We are honored to stand here as the parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.”
In 2004, their 27-year-old son told his men in Iraq to take cover as he approached a suspicious vehicle that exploded, killing him instantly. Last December, Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Khan, calling him “the best of America,” one of 14 American Muslims killed serving in the military since 9/11.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he [Humayun] never would have been in America,” Khan said. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims … He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.”
Khan asked Trump if he’d even read the Constitution. “I will gladly lend you my copy,” he said, pulling out a well-worn pocket copy.
“Look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law,’” Khan said. He told Trump to visit Arlington Cemetery. “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
It was a powerful, unforgettable moment that was still reverberating across the country when, unbelievably, Republican presidential nominee Trump attacked those grieving parents.
Trump wondered if the father’s deeply moving, personal statement was concocted by “Hillary’s scriptwriters.” He thought the mother might have remained silent because Muslim women weren’t allowed to speak. Ghazala later said she was far too emotional to speak and broke down offstage.
Trump then tastelessly compared sacrifices he’s made as a businessman to increase the financial fortune his father left him to the Khans’ loss of their son.
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump said. “I work very, very hard.” To paraphrase a statement made famous by the original Joe McCarthy moment in American politics, when the party had to decide whether to repudiate another despicable Republican: At long last, sir, have you no decency?
The Democratic convention just showed us the multiracial face of America as it exists today. The Republican nominee continues to show us the vile, twisted face of racism and bigotry in America. Trump’s betting he can win by appealing to racial fears and hatred.
The overwhelming majority of decent Americans will prove him wrong.