Last night I made myself sit and watch a good slice of the Republican Convention, or whatever this largely prerecorded thing is. Stepford meets Jonestown meets Nuremberg might be right. I didn’t stick around for Pence, who, from what I read this morning, had his usual funeral home director charisma. What I will say is that the earlier speakers, mostly looking like they were trying out for shampoo and tooth paste commercials, actually surprised me. If you knew nothing about them and weren’t aware, for instance, that Kellyanne Conway had been the point person for Trump’s third world-style dirty war against the press, or that the North Carolina congressional candidate Madison Cawthorne’s biggest claim to fame is his ecstatic Instagram posts from Adolf Hitler’s mountaintop command center above Berchtesgaden, in Bavaria, you might have found it all rather harmless, if a gigantic snoozer.
I really felt like I was watching a drug commercial with an overlay of tranquilizing, department store music—in this case, in the form of feel-good stories (admittedly sounding a little contrived in the mouths of these speakers dripping with money and privilege) about sacrifice and suffering and triumph via faith in God (our God, none of those other Gods), the Stars and Stripes, and so on. But it was impossible not to hear, in my head, all the accompanying caveats—warnings like the ones drug commercials are obliged to include about risks, side effects, exclusions, &c., in weird counterpoint to the happy mood music:
Swallowing the GOP line can cause worldwide climate catastrophe with chronic flooding, receding coastlines, and aggressive wildfires; has been known to pin thousands of children in cages; some evisceration of health coverage for tens of millions of Americans should be expected; cannot be combined with a free press; women who may become pregnant now or in the future, or who care about women who may become pregnant, should avoid at all costs; do not keep taking if you have neo-Nazi thoughts, anti-immigrant hysteria, anti-Semitism, or nostalgia for the Confederate flag; gargantuan spending that benefits only the top 2% and ulcerates the federal deficit, along with extreme disparities in wealth, may cause significant distress; ask your doctor whatever happened to American respect in the world.
George Angell, Baltimore, 27 August 2020