The opening of the 2020 Democratic National Convention was a revelation.
Until I heard the National Anthem sung by the Commonwealth Youth Choir, children from every state, the Cheyenne Nation, and five US territories, I had not realized how completely I had protected myself from the weaponized politi-patriotism peddled in the service of silencing voices that oppose the current administration. Just as the President did at his inauguration, when I enlisted in the Navy I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I am not the enemy; I do not hate our country, but over the course of four years, I felt I lost the flag, the anthem, the Fourth of July as they became celebrations of personal power. Athletes protesting police brutality by kneeling during the anthem were called sons-of-bitches, and we who support them bad people. Veterans and active military became props, like tanks, jets, and the Bible. I no longer recognized my country.
Those children gave our anthem back to me.
I cried, of course, because I recognized the degree to which I had tamped down hope and because I understood that I still have an obligation to hope. These were voices asking only for hope. Their perforance of the anthem ought not to have been the surprise that it was, but the expression of love of country, the best of our country, by the many faces and voices of children was a confession of faith I had almost forgotten.
The theme of the convention, “We The People”, seems an obvious description of how the work of a democracy begins. Once again, however, somewhere along the way, the rule of law has been ignored, special interest has run riot, national security compromised, and honesty abandoned. The Constitution of the United States is a living document, a charter of government that begins with the assertion that We the People have an obligation to work toward a more perfect union. That work ended slavery, secured the right of women to vote, and put into the Supreme Law of the Land a fifteenth amendment to ensure that neither race nor color be used to decide which citizens may be allowed to vote. That work continues.
The voices that introduced the Constitution last night included Khizr Khan, the Pakistani American Gold Star parent whose son, killed in Iraq, had been awarded the Bronze Star, Ady Barkin, the Israeli American founder of the Center for Popular Democracy and Health Care advocate whose long fight with ALS has affected his ability to speak, Megan Rapinoe, Olympic athlete and advocate for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, Robyn Seniors, national chair of the Historically Black College Students for Biden, Major General (ret) Frank Vavala, Agnes Moore, one of the surviving Rose Riveters, Peggy Flanagan, Lt.Governor of Minnesota and the second Native Woman to be elected to statewide executive office, and many others reflecting the rich diversity of people who live under the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States of America.
So, I fell in love with America again last night, even though I’ve seen the ugly turns we have taken at times. We the people do deserve a better nation. We can’t sing it into existence, but we can believe in it enough to do all we can to make it real.