Friday, September 7, 2012


I have to admit I missed most of the Republican National Convention and especially the empty chair speech by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. You’ll have to excuse my absence but I’m in New Orleans and Hurricane Isaac cancelled life here for a solid week. Still, I did watch videos of speeches, and I read as much as I could. Most recently, the Democrats had their turn, and like so many others I was somewhat dazzled by the First Lady’s remarks and the sustained power of Bill Clinton’s rhetoric. But if ever we Americans needed convincing that these conventions are nothing more than theater, consider all of the topics not broached by any of the speakers, regardless of party affiliation.

 There are five areas I would dearly love to have heard them address. They are:
HUNGER IN AMERICA: Just this week comes word that a new report from the The Department of Agriculture reveals that about 5.5 percent of Americans, or nearly 18 million households, suffered "very low food security"  [read: hunger] in 2011. I am left to wonder how the partisan debate about healthcare can be waged without reference to a malnourished population that is wide open to disease. The USDA started monitoring food security in 1995, and right now, according to the new report, the food insecurity rate in America is at its highest level ever. Food insecurity ranges from individuals who are forced to skip meals because they cannot afford enough food, to those who simply go hungry most of the time –right here…in America. Why is that not being addressed on a national level during an election year?  

WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: Neither party wants to mention the word “war,” or “Afghanistan.” That has much to do with the fact that we’re still there, allowing our U.S. military members to be killed for essentially nothing. In an Aug. 13 New Yorker Magazine piece, writer Dexter Filkins wisely points out that neither candidate says much about Afghanistan because nobody knows what to do about it.
Shades of LBJ and Vietnam, right? So, rather than destroy a candidacy over a failed war effort that is at least 28 months from troop withdrawal, Romney and Obama simply shelve the topic in favor of winning the election. My money is on Pulitizer Prize winning Filkins, who actually spent time in Afghanistan reporting on the entire debacle there. After all, why would a candidate for President tout anything about a war that has cost us upwards of $400 billion and more than 2,000 American lives, and accomplished nothing in terms of our own national security or advancement as a world power? One could say that both candidates have effectively turned the Afghan situation in to a non-issue.

 HOMELESSNESS: Some perspective: In 2011 more than 600,000 Americans were homeless. That’s about the size of the entire population of Baltimore or Memphis. We remain the wealthiest country in the world despite our floundering economy and shaky world presence. Still, Americans are
homeless in their own country in record numbers. Forget that dated image you may have of homeless people being bums. Today’s homeless include a large contingent of veterans from that not-talked-about war in Afghanistan, as well as previously middle-class citizens who are losing their jobs and their homes in droves. According to a report called “The State of Homelessness in America 2012” from The National Alliance to End Homelessness, fully 40 percent of America’s homeless are not sheltered. They are living on the streets of America. No one in Charlotte or Tampa even mentioned a plan to put a roof over the hundreds of thousands of American heads that have been disenfranchised. Why is that?  

THE RACIAL DIVIDE: It was encouraging to see Latinos like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro prominently speaking at this year’s conventions. It was amazing for people of a certain age to see a Black First Lady garner the accolades she did after her appearance at the DNC. Progress, huh? That is, if you can ignore the fact that the
RNC’s big get was Clint Eastwood, who lives in (and was once mayor of) one of the whites communities in the western hemisphere, Carmel by the Sea. What was disturbing to me is that all of the minority speakers and both presidential candidates focus on increased opportunities for minorities, but not a word about the increasingly racist subtext in our country, and the unprecedented racial divide in our major cities. Residential living in our major cities is still widely segregated. Corporate America is still largely dominated by older white guys. Inner city schools populated by mostly Black children are still providing substandard education. Income disparity among races is still showing huge gaps. Why was none of this front and center at the DNC or RNC?

 VIOLENT CRIME: Why is there no national, strategic plan to conquer the unprecedented wave of violent crime from coast to coast? Why does neither political party construct an approach to securing our cities and protecting the citizenry?
Why was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel even in Charlotte, rather than at home in one of the most violent cities in the nation, trying to fix his town? In the entire text of his speech at the DNC he never mentioned violent crime in America. That is particularly significant since more than 500 people have been murdered in Chicago this year. In a city of roughly 2.7 million people, 19 of every 100,000 are murdered. What about Detroit, New Orleans, East L.A., Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis and others where the violence is rampant and to date, unstoppable? Why no mention of any of this at the RNC or DNC?

These are real life issues that matter to all of us. Many Americans are a paycheck away from joining the ranks of the homeless. Thousands of families have fallen victim to foreclosures, murder of a loved one, racial discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere, loss of a young son or daughter in Afghanistan, and not enough money to buy food.

 If American citizens are forced to sleep under bridges, to fall prey to illnesses brought on by malnutrition and over exposure to the elements, to never feel safe walking down a city street in broad daylight or to be disenfranchised simply because of their ethnicity, the country is broken. Taking nothing away from the eloquence of the convention speakers,
I am left to wonder if either party will address these issues that directly affect the voters. Or, is the entire aim just to acquire power for the sake of being powerful? Again, the conventions have become nothing more than theater, but theater is where we go to escape the reality of our daily lives. The conventions should have been opportunities to tackle the tough, gritty issues that unreasonably challenge us every day. I don’t know about you, but I did not see that or hear that at the RNC or the DNC.

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