Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Vanity of Vanities...All is Vanity


We had houseguests last week and so I was not able to watch more than a few bits and pieces of the Democrat National Convention held this year in Philadelphia, the city of “Brotherly Love.” From the little I saw I have to conclude that the way the Democrats presented themselves to the nation was little different from the way the Republicans did the previous week in Cleveland.

On the final night of each convention each party’s nominee stood alone on a large stage topped by a gigantic screen image, and surrounded by a packed house of supporters who obligingly cheered, rose from their seats, and waved placards at every cue. The delegates who supposedly represented the rank and file of the party were there just as window dressing since the contest for the nomination had already been decided.

In each case the nominee was introduced by a loving daughter who extolled the virtues and the humanity of their respective parents. Ironically, even though the nominees appear to despise each other, their daughters are apparently good friends. Why shouldn’t they be? Even though the Democrats claim to be the party of the poor and downtrodden, Chelsea Clinton attended the best private schools in the country, and though her parents claimed to be “dead broke” when they left the White House sixteen years ago, they now hob-nob with the nation’s rich and powerful. 

Earlier in the week other family members had come forward to extol the virtues of their loved one. Trump’s beautiful third wife, Melania, kicked off the Republican convention with an extremely well-delivered speech that was only marred the day after when it was discovered that two paragraphs had been lifted from an earlier speech by Michelle Obama. Speaking of the President’s wife, the Democrats turned to her to kick off their convention. She is an extremely attractive woman who was dressed just as finely as Malania, the former supermodel.

Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill was saved for another night. I did not hear his speech but saw that he launched into some highly personal remarks about their love and marriage. Plagiarism did not mar his speech but I wonder if the viewers on TV wondered about Bill’s sincerity given his many and repeated infidelities.

However, the Republicans could not match the star power of the Democrats who were able to trot our Vice-President Joe Biden one night and then President Obama himself. I could not listen to their speeches but I’m sure they also basked in the adulation of the crowd. No one remembered that years ago Biden’s hopes for the Presidency were smashed when he turned out to be a plagiarizer, or that in 2008 Barack Obama was elected President with hardly any political experience.

Each of the conventions also featured a former mayor of New York City. Rudy Giuliani, the very popular mayor noted for his restoration of law and order in the crime ridden city, as well as for his presence during the 911 attack that destroyed the Twin Towers, gave a fiery speech in support of Donald Trump. On the other hand, at the Democrat convention Michael Bloomberg, Giuliani’s successor as Mayor denounced Trump as a con man and urged voters to favor Hillary Clinton.

Bloomberg’s speech was the only one I heard in full and while it was a full scale attack on the Republican nominee, I couldn’t help but feel that Bloomberg is a plus for Trump. Critics claim that Trump has no political experience but neither did Bloomberg when he became Mayor of the country’s greatest city. Nevertheless, Bloomberg built on many of Giuliani’s initiatives and is now generally regarded as one of the City’s finest mayors. Bloomberg’s qualification was the same as Trump’s. He was and still is a billionaire businessman. Moreover, Bloomberg admitted the other night that he was a lifelong Democrat, but changed his party affiliation to Republican when he decided to run for mayor. Now he calls himself an Independent.

Years ago when I studied party politics in eighteenth century England, I discovered that there was little difference between the leaders of contending parties and factions. They all came from the same upper class and the major difference was that some held office and others did not. Those in power, the “Ins”, were determined to stay in, but those out of power, the “Outs” were determined to supplant those in power. The “Outs” generally claimed to be champions of the little guy, and supporters of “popular” causes.  

The rich and powerful must eventually find their way into politics, not just to protect their wealth but also to satisfy their need for fame and recognition.

Coincidentally, on the Sunday after the Democrat convention came to a close, most Christian religious services featured readings that dealt with the themes of vanity and greed. The words from the Book of Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities...All is vanity," set the stage. In the gospel Jesus warned, “take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.” He issued a warning to the rich man who thought he had reached the pinnacle of success.

            You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you,
            and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?

In the excerpt from the letter of the Colossians St. Paul compared greed to idolatry. I thought of idolatry while viewing both conventions.


No comments:

Post a Comment