We Used to Fight for Better

I’m stuck at work right now, at a nonstop event that won’t end until Sunday morning, so I haven’t been able to watch the entirety of the RNC, and I’ll likely not be able to see much beyond tonight. I thought I would be sorry, but after 12 minutes of watching Melania (meh) and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (WTF POLAR BEAR) I wanted very badly to be drunk on any kind of substance whatsoever.

I managed to see five seconds of Bob Dole standing up to be applauded, though, and that was worse, maybe, than anything that came out of the mouths of the fascists and fools who followed. Bob Dole is 457 years old now, and one of a vanishing few Republicans Of Name to attend this convention. There’s no George W. Bush, no Mitt, no McCain. It’s just Bob Dole, listening to a guy whose biggest firefight was in Grenada, talking about America’s enemies and war.

And something about the dazed and tired look on his face, the smile at the weak applause that passes for enthusiasm in that heinous mosh pit in Cleveland, sent me searching for this: 

It is for the people of America that I stand here tonight, and by their generous leave. And as my voice echoes across darkness and desert, as it is heard over car radios on coastal roads, and as it travels above farmland and suburb, deep into the heart of cities that, from space, look tonight like strings of sparkling diamonds, I can tell you that I know whose moment this is: It is yours. It is yours entirely.

And who am I that stands before you tonight?

I was born in Russell, Kansas, a small town in the middle of the prairie surrounded by wheat and oil wells. As my neighbors and friends from Russell, who tonight sit in front of this hall, know well, Russell, though not the West, looks out upon the West.

And like most small towns on the plains, it is a place where no one grows up without an intimate knowledge of distance.

And the first thing you learn on the prairie is the relative size of a man compared to the lay of the land. And under the immense sky where I was born and raised, a man is very small, and if he thinks otherwise, he is wrong.

I come from good people, very good people, and I’m proud of it. My father’s name was Doran and my mother’s name was Bina. I loved them and there’s no moment when my memory of them and my love for them does not overshadow anything I do — even this, even here — and there is no heighth to which I have risen that is high enough to allow me to allow me to forget them — to allow me to forget where I came from, and where I stand and how I stand — with my feet on the ground, just a man at the mercy of God.

And this perspective has been strengthened and solidified by a certain wisdom that I owe not to any achievement of my own, but to the gracious compensations of age.

Now I know that in some quarters I may not — may be expected to run from this, the truth of this, but I was born in 1923, and facts are better than dreams and good presidents and good candidates don’t run from the truth.

I do not need the presidency to make or refresh my soul. That false hope I will gladly leave to others. For greatness lies not in what office you hold, but on how honest you are in how you face adversity and in your willingness to stand fast in hard places.

Age has its advantages.

Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action.

And to those who say it was never so, that America’s not been better, I say you’re wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.

I don’t blame Bob Dole for being at the convention. It might be his last one, and the Nazis shot him in the Appenines in 1945 so he’s earned a trip to the most expensive hookers Cleveland has to offer him along with whatever drugs he might want to sample. Get it, Grandpa.

I went looking for that speech because I remembered reading it in the wake of the Romney convention, and how “even this, even here” rang out true. If you love words, you have to love those, and “by their generous leave.” I mean, Bob Dole. Not who anyone would consider a great orator. And yet.

If there’s a yearning for the past that could be considered admirable — as a middle-class white chick let’s say parts of the 1940s would have been kinder to me than to, say, a black or gay person — it’s that in our politics even as we were calling things screwed up, we were not implying the end times.

We could figure it out. We could fight about it, but we could figure it out, and if we lost this one, we would keep fighting.

Now, though, this might be the last election, said Rudy Giuliani, sputtering into the microphone. This might be the end of it. For the Republican party, one dearly hopes, but for America? Are they running on a platform of “fuck it, this is too hard and Chachi’s sister said they were gonna get a keg?”

I can see Republicans being despondent, but that’s a little over the top even for them. This is what they’re going with, in 20 years, from “Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth,” to “this is the last election, this is it.”

I get that we are tired. Everyone is tired. Probably Bob Dole is tired too. He didn’t seem thrilled to be yanked upright at this shitshow, but again, whatever he wants he gets at this point. The point is that you don’t get to give up. Even a hateful ideology doesn’t get to give up. It has to fight for itself, too. Instead this convention seems to be longing to lie down.

A.

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