John Colson: Hit and Run
August 29, 2008
Well, the first thing to report is this: I am one tired puppy.
A week in Denver is tiring enough, breathing in an unusual amount of smog with every step and dealing with the outrageous traffic congestion, the press of humanity on a level I don’t often encounter.
But on top of that, there were the five days of nonstop newsgathering, hoofing it from one venue to another at the Democratic National Convention, wrestling with party bureaucrats for access, finagling passes to this or that, attending parties and concerts, and searching desperately for a few moments of peace in the midst of frenzy.
But all that said, I must add that it was a hell of a week. Rubbing elbows with the power elite is intriguing, to say the least; encounters with various politicians of the local, state and national variety were stimulating. I even shook hands with that wild black advocate, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and told him I like his style, even if I don’t always agree with his methods or his message.
This convention contained a number of historic firsts for the party; the first time that Latinos made up as much as 12 percent of the overall total number of delegates; the first time gays and lesbians accounted for 6 percent of that same number; the first time that a black man and a woman vied for the top spot on the national ticket; the first time in a century that Denver, or any Western city, hosted the Democrats for their quadrennial orgy of political fervor.
It was a heady time, to be sure, and it was fun to be in the middle of it.
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For instance, the rallies and marches and demonstrations that took place throughout the downtown area were invigorating, at times hilarious and usually poignant. I was living in the Washington, D.C., area during the late 1960s and witnessed first-hand the marches on Washington by angry, disenfranchised blacks, outraged young people, militant peaceniks and a host of others hoping to bring lasting change to an establishment that even then seemed well on its way to becoming a bastion of elitism and wealth at the expense of the well-being of the nation as a whole.
I suppose I should mention here that my more cynical side took all this tumult in Denver with a grain of salt. Party politics in this country are too hidebound, to rigidly pro-capitalist, pro-establishmentarian, pro-military for me. The prospect of real change in the way this country is run is a remote one, and dim. Money is the true religion of America, no matter what anyone says, and that is not about to change with the election of one black man, regardless of how charismatic and progressive his ideals and his message might be.
So, as I witnessed the process up close and personal, I could not help but feel a little twinge of despair. All these people mean well, but are too bound up in the way things have been done, are always done, and always will be done to be turned into soldiers of a true revolution of ideas and morals.
Still, it was fascinating to see that the message and the methods of the angry underbelly of American politics is largely unchanged from those years, if a little more subdued. The numbers of demonstrators that came to D.C. back then dwarfed the numbers in Denver, but I suppose that’s just a function of the fact that we had things like the draft, rampant and blatant racism and racial segregation as the law of the land, and other such issues to fight against back then. Things are more subtle now in some ways, and many people seem unable to figure out how they can make any kind of a real difference in the way things are run, and that inability leaves them feeling powerless and apathetic.
But hope springs eternal wherever there are minds to be won over, and perhaps that is the predominant message that I walked away with. People do still care about injustice, about economic inequality, about racial divides, about out-of-control multinational corporations ravaging the environment and plundering the world’s resources for a quick buck.
And maybe, just maybe, a Barack Obama administration in Washington could do something, take even some small baby steps, toward righting this Spaceship Earth before it founders and sinks with all hands on deck screaming loudly.