Thoughts on the Republican National Convention

I watched the Republican National Convention last week. Not all of it. But I caught the high points for three of the four evenings and some of the daytime coverage on CNN.

Content Note: Donald Trump, US Election 2016, Anti-Immigration, Ableism, Terrorism, Racism, Classism, “Law and Order”, Campaign Rhetoric

"Your Vote Counts" street sign illustration. A red street sign says "Your Vote" in white block letters. Below it, pointing in a perpendicular direction, a blue street sign says "Counts!" in white block letters. Keyword: Republican National Convention

Image Description: “Your Vote Counts” street sign illustration. A red street sign says “Your Vote” in white block letters. Below it, pointing in a perpendicular direction, a blue street sign says “Counts!” in white block letters.

***

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get down exactly what I wanted to say about the Republican National Convention.

And then Jon Stewart came onto Late Night with Stephen Colbert last Thursday night and in less than 30 seconds he (pardon my language) fucking nailed it.

“The Republicans appear to have a very clear plan for America…they articulated it throughout the Convention:

  • One, Jail your political opponent.
  • Two, inject Rudy Guiliani with a speedball-Redbull enema.
  • Three, spend the rest of the time scaring the holy bejeezus out of everybody.”

John Stewart went  even further, and it was glorious. But I want to talk about the Republican National Convention.

My Third Republican National Convention.

Why put myself through this ordeal when I can’t even vote in the US election?

That’s a good question, with ultimately a simple answer (as it has been other years, for the most part). I follow US elections from the outset. America, I am addicted to your politics, including your tortuously protracted election cycle. Sometimes staying engaged makes me as frustrated as all-get-out. Sometimes it makes me (again, pardon my language) fucking furious. And the odd time it’s made me absolutely inspired. But it’s never been anything less than thoroughly entertaining.

“It’s some of the best entertainment going,” I’ve told friends who ask me why I follow American politics so closely.

The stories like Elliot Spitzer in the elevator and Anthony Weiner all over Twitter? I didn’t *know* until I started following American politics that politicians did such stupid things.

And with this Republican National Convention, I was promised a show…Clint Eastwood and the empty chair times twenty said one media person the week before it all started. And I can’t say that I didn’t get it – a line-up of endorsers including Scott Baio and underwear model Antonio Sabato Junior, Rudy Giuliani screaming “All Lives Matter!” like his life depended on it, Melania cribbing part of her speech, Ted Cruz (starting his 2020 campaign early, apparently) using his invite to speak at the Convention *not* to endorse the guy who invited him…great material. It should have been fabulous.

But the most fabulous part of the Republican National Convention this time around was watching Stephen Colbert skewer the day’s proceedings each night. The proceedings themselves? I’m not even going to apologize for swearing anymore. Fucking scary. Not entertaining. Not annoying. Not even infuriating. Just downright terrifying.

And I think to make my case for why, I need to talk about what I saw…so apologies to those of you who lived through it with me.

“One, Jail Your Political Opponent”

As I was tweeting while I was watching the first night  of the Republican National Convention(the theme of which was “Making America Safe Again”) someone posted on my timeline about how disgusting it was that Patricia Smith’s grief over the death of her son Sean in Benghazi was being used for totally political purposes by making her a speaker – she said that she blamed Hilary Clinton directly for her son’s death and called for her arrest, a commonly-held position within the GOP despite the fact that none of the party’s investigations into Benghazi have found Clinton indictable for what happened.

But Smith’s speech set the stage for the real theme of the entire Republican National Convention – what a crook Clinton is, how she needs to be stopped, and how she (or Obama, as the one who made her Secretary of State) can be directly blamed be a myriad of things, including the rise of ISIS. The tools that Trump used to forge party unity during the Republican National Convention (and he needed it; the GOP is still clearly divided on whether he’s an appropriate candidate, with party notables including the entire Bush family, Mitt Romney, John McCain and John Kasich electing to miss the Republican Party Convention rather than indicate even implicit support by showing up) are not just Clinton’s unsuitability for President, but her criminal culpability for acts for which she hasn’t been found guilty.  Both Lt. Gen Michael Flynn and Chris Christie encouraged the crowd to chant “Lock her up! Lock her up!” during their speeches.

That any candidate would sanction hatred (and I don’t believe that “hatred” is too strong a word) of another candidate as a way to “rally the troops” scares me.  It’s not Presidential. It’s not classy. It’s the perfect example of “divisive”.

You deserve better, America.

“Two, Inject Rudy Giuliani with a Speedball-Redbull Enema”

This one is kind of self-explanatory. You won’t need to watch the whole video if you’d rather not. It doesn’t take long to see why Jon Stewart made this observation.

“Three, Spend the Rest of the Time Scaring the Holy Bejeezus Out of Everybody.”

Where to begin with this one?

Let’s start with this observation (and I’m far from the only one saying this): If you were dropped into last week’s Republican National Convention with no prior knowledge of what American life is like, I’m quite confident that you’d have come away with a picture of a lawless, dystopian landscape, with its entire body of citizens under constant threat from people that were never their allies; people that once were their allies, but are no more; and countries who claim that they are American allies, but just aren’t pulling their weight. You’d think that America is in a war that permeates the lives of every one of its citizens at a visceral, everyday level, with an enemy that the current administration refuses to even acknowledge, let alone protect its citizens from. And you’d think that the only way to continue to protect American citizens as this war is fought is to get a bunch of folks out of the country and seal the borders off so tightly that they and and other dangerous folks like them will never, ever get back in.

The message was that protection of  American citizens is the primary goal – and that all lives matter in America, whether they are Black lives, White lives, Hispanic lives, Asian lives, Muslim lives, Male lives, Female lives, Gay lives, Straight lives…all lives matter because you, my American friends, are ALL AMERICANS, Giuliani said (loudly.) And Donald Trump said in his speech on Thursday night, where he accepted the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency, that he will be the one to protect all American lives from the people out in the rest of the world that want to take down America and that are inherently bad…the people that he’ll keep out with his wall and his strict policies on immigration and his focus on law and order.

You know…bad guys like Hispanics, Muslims, the Serbians that “my opponent” (not “Crooked Hillary” for once, but we’ll see how long that last) wants to bring into the US, and the people that shoot law enforcement officers in the street. That will stop the day that he becomes President, Trump assured Americans. Because you are all Americans, my American friends, and you need to be protected from bad guys…like you…lest you become one of the “victims of illegal immigrants” (those are the words used in the official Republican National Convention schedule of speakers) that spoke on the first night of the Convention. Because despite the fact that Republicans don’t like “victim mentality” or politicizing tragedy, they apparently won’t hesitate to take political advantage of people who’d experienced a crushing loss at the hands of people who, as a group, are no more or less likely to be violent than anyone else in society.

Donald Trump would likely dispute that, given the statistics on crime and immigration that he used in his speech. Fact-checkers disputed many of those statistics.

Read the full text of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech (last night of the Republican National Convention.)

Members of the CNN panel that convened immediately after Trump’s speech were divided about it, mostly along racial lines. White pundits thought that the speech was realistic and representative of what America is facing;  Trump apologist-to-the-end Geoffrey Lord was prepared to go out swinging about this. Van Jones and Ana Navarra were appalled at the speech’s dark tone, and at what a terrible speech it was for people of colour (as they both are.)

And rightly fucking so. This discussion really is interesting – it starts 4 minutes into the video.

And despite the fact that disabled people were only explicitly mentioned during the Republican National Convention once that I heard, in a promise made by Trump’s son Eric that Trump will increase support to to families with disabled children, I wouldn’t recommend that disabled people rest easy should Trump win the election (even white disabled people.) I’d be willing to bet money that the only reason that disabled people didn’t come up in Trump’s speech as a “subgroup” of America (Representative Peter King) with whom the rest America should regard with fear is that he’s given them so little thought as a group that he hasn’t considered the ways in which he could perceive them as as threat to either America’s national security or economic well-being. But that might not last:

Disabled people have nothing to gain from a Trump presidency, where the repeal of Obamacare is a campaign promise, and that may just be some of what they lose. So to my disabled American friends especially, you get out there and vote and make sure you get the right person in! #CripTheVote

Bottom Line

Hilary Clinton was not my first choice.

I’m impressed by Tim Kaine, but I’ve heard some stuff that gives me pause. I’d rather have seen Hillary choose Elizabeth Warren as running mate.

I know that, as in the past, there will be things about the Democratic National Convention that I won’t like and that may even make me angry.

But the stakes are high for this election. I feel it here in Canada, right down to my bones. There’s not a thing about this election that’s entertaining for me this time around. It’s deadly serious, and I have loved ones in America for whom I’m very afraid.

And I have two beautiful nieces and a gorgeous nephew here in Canada, and I’ll be damned if they live up to eight years of their young lives in world where Donald Trump is leader of the free world without me doing whatever I can to stop it.

It really comes down to this for me now:

Picture of a a tweet by @theonlyadult: "I don't give a fuck if you don't like Hilary Clinton. Hold your nose and vote. There's a Nazi at the gate." Keyword: Republican National Convention

Image Description: Picture of a a tweet by @theonlyadult: “I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like Hilary Clinton. Hold your nose and vote. There’s a Nazi at the gate.”

#I’mWithHer. Won’t you join me?

Save

Save

Save

The Zadroga Act: 9/11, Republicans, and Hypocrisy

As I’m sure most, if not all, readers are aware, yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. But do you know about the Zadroga Act?

Content Note: Vivid 9/11 imagery, Politics, Healthcare

Obama signs Zadroga Act

Image Description: Barrack Obama, wearing a white shirt, sits at a wooden table outside at Plantation Estate in Hawaii, signing the Zadroga Act in 2010.

***

I remember where I was when the planes hit the towers on 9/11. I was living with my father in our family home at the time, not that far into stroke recovery and still trying to visualize what was going to come next in my life. I was in the kitchen, finishing up my breakfast, when I heard the news about the on the radio (always tuned to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in our house) about the plane hitting the first tower. I sat in shock for a moment, and then called Dad at his office and asked if he was listening to the radio. Did we know anyone that was supposed to be in New York today, that he knew of?

No, thank goodness.

When I heard the news about the second tower, I remembered the online mental health support community in which I’d been posting for a while. I quickly signed in, and found that there was already an “I’m okay” check-in going on from the New York area, and a call going to out to people who hadn’t checked in yet. By the next day, all of the regular posters in the New York area were accounted for, but some of them had lost friends and family.

In other words, I was not really affected.

I will always be proud of how Canada helped take care of diverted passengers. But I remember being very annoyed at the CBC radio reporter who, during the 6pm news report on September 11, tried to interview a New Yorker who was obviously severely traumatized and likely had no clue no what he was saying.

“Sure, ask him how he’s doing,” I grumbled at the time. “I’m sure he’s fabulous. I’m sure it’s been a *great* day for him. Way to report, CBC.”

And I remember the December 2010 Daily Show segment where Jon Stewart shamed a group of Republicans for filibustering the passage of the Zadroga Act in the Senate because I thought at the time, “Those fucking hypocrites.”

What’s the Zadroga Act?

You wouldn’t know from watching the CBS news last night. They talked about it, but didn’t mention it by name, as if the name of the Act that guarantees health care for the First Responders that developed one or more of the (in society as it’s constructed today) disabling conditions and illnesses including 50 forms of cancer that are linked to working in the toxins at Ground Zero doesn’t need a name. Or as if acknowledging the First Responders are still sick and dying after working at Ground Zero, fourteen years later, isn’t important.

In 2010, the Zadroga Act covered these conditions:

  • Interstitial lung diseases
  • Chronic respiratory disorder
  • WTC-exacerbated COPD
  • Asthma
  • Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome
  • Chronic cough syndrome
  • Upper airway hyperreactivity
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Chronic naropharyngitis
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • GERD
  • Sleep apnea
  • PTSD
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety disorder NOS
  • Depression NOS
  • Acute stress disorder
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Some musculoskeletal disorders

More conditions have been added (including, as I said, over 50 cancers.)

“Call the Act by it’s name!” I yelled at the TV.

But What’s the Zadroga Act?

The Zadroga Act is named for James Zadroga, a First Responder who died in 2006 of respiratory disease frequently observed in 9/11 First Responders.  It was passed by the House of Representatives in September 2010, and the Democrats hoped to get it through the the Senate before the Christmas Break. However, in December 2010, Senate Republicans filibustered the passage of the Act, trying to get a tax break package through. There was a motion to break the filibuster and proceed, but it failed with just 3 votes short of the 60 needed (breakdown of the vote here, including who voted which way), despite the Zadroga Act having enough support to get through the Senate. The Democrats investigated a number of options, but couldn’t see any way that they could get the Zadroga Act through in the new year, with the Republicans set to take control of the House.

However, in the 11th hour of the 111th Congress, things turned around and the Zadroga Act was passed. The New York Post said:

“Certainly many supporters, including New York’s two senators, as well as Mayor Michael R.Bloomberg, played critical roles in turning around what looked like a hopeless situation after a filibuster by Republican senators on Dec. 10 seemed to derail the bill. But some of those who stand to benefit from the bill have no doubt about what — and who — turned the momentum around.”

Jon Stewart refused to comment, but he will stand again with sick First Responders next week when he protests in Washington for its reauthorization. Because when the Zadroga Bill was passed in 2010, it was only for 5 years, it needs to be reauthorized by the end of the month, and Congress hasn’t looked at it yet.

The early part of the 2010 Jon Stewart segment in one piece is no longer available on YouTube. But the part where he brought the First Responders into the studio is available via a clip from the Rachel Maddow show.

Here are the points that I really like:

  • Shame on the Republicans for being happy to be the party that “turned 9/11 into a catchphrase” while ignoring the responsibility that they have to the people who need help because of the work they did to help America deal with the 9/11 aftermath. Don’t talk about how grateful you are to “New York’s Finest” unless you’re prepared to back it up with your actions like providing them health care through legislation like the Zadroga Act.
  • News coverage. There was very little coverage of the struggle to get the Zadroga Act passed last time around, and if Jon Stewart hadn’t stepped in again, I doubt we’d have heard much about it this time around. Granted, I’ve not been watching much news, but that little piece on CBS tonight was the first I’d heard of it without Jon Stewart’s name attached to it.

The day after Stewart’s show in 2010, Fox’s Shepard Smith had this to say (trigger for vivid 9/11 imagery):

I think that pretty much says it all.

Visit Zadroga Claims Info  for more information about the Zadroga Act, and for an easy opportunity to email your Member of Congress expressing your support for extending it indefinitely

Save

Save