|The Tampa Bay Forum – home of the RNC
(photo credit to Agatha)
I’ve been remiss in posting some photos from the Republican National Convention, so you’ll have to pardon my tardiness. To be brief, the RNC was two incredible whirlwind weeks of learning, observing, and tongue-biting (in my case). I’d happily do it again, and would highly recommend attending a national convention of this sort to any and all Americans who are even slightly interested in where the Talking Heads get their material. Really, a sight to behold.
But first, some deeply owed gratitude:
A big Thank You! to UAF’s Chancellor Brian Rogers for funding my trip and being incredibly progressive and student-oriented so as to think sponsoring opportunities like this one are valuable for UAF and its patronage. Rest assured that they certainly are. Also a big thanks to Hope B. who did all the logistics and legwork in organizing our trip. Finally, a special thank you to The Washington Center staff (particularly Nick L. and Kathleen R.) and my academic advisor, Dr. Talty of UMass Lowell, for their outstanding support and wisdom through otherwise bewildering and frustrating moments. You all were spectacular and made the program incredibly valuable and rich.
While I have a few observations to share, I also want to let you see it for yourself through the lens of my often-forgotten camera.
I frankly was surprised by the political make-up of the student cohort. I expected a LOT of very conservative students to attend, and certainly there was a healthy representation of such. However, a considerable portion of the attendees were self-described Libertarians, Independents, or what I like to call Confusitarians. They really don’t know what to think, but they like to think about it anyway, and really, what more could one ask for? I certainly appreciate their efforts. Thinking is so underrated these days.
|Stephanie and I on the convention floor! Sorry
for the blur-tastic quality.
It’s worth pointing out that at 24, I was the oldest student in the RNC program. At first, this made me feel really old and crotchety compared to all ‘dem young whipper-snappers (pa-toey!). It took a few days, but I soon came to appreciate the perspective my extra few years gave me in terms of unpacking the mountains of rhetoric and what I like to call “myth enforcement.” Myths are stories that cultures have told themselves to help explain their creation, cultural and behavioral norms, and so on. You might think that American society is so advanced that we have no need for myths or stories, but I would respectfully disagree. Think of the idea of “The American Dream.” It’s a favorite during campaign season and is, in effect, a story. Yes, America has long been a land where certain society and policy pressures create opportunity above and beyond other nations, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that anyone can achieve just anything. There are many barriers, both perceived and institutionalized, that prevent people from propelling themselves endlessly upward. But, we don’t talk about that reality during national conventions. Instead, we focus our collective attention on re-defining who We are.
And so the question must be asked: who are we? If you were to define it by RNC standards, We (as Americans) are lovers of liberty and freedom, We don’t give up, We don’t quit, and We have an indefinable American spirit that makes us unique and strong and able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to walk another hard mile. Honestly, it’s pretty inspiring. It was difficult to not get caught up in the many patriotic moments and feel somewhat enamoured with these stories about Ourselves. The DNC, by all accounts, was similar. Even our richest and most powerful (our Presidential candidates, for example) came from humble roots and took advantage of the great opportunities our nation, according to these (tall) tales.
Despite my cynicism, I understand why people are drawn to such stories. As in childhood, tales of familiarity make us feel comfortable and assured of our place in life. We are so steeped in American rhetoric from early elementary school that these familiar narratives unite us together with patriotic adhesive. It’s comforting, but it can also be (in my mind) misleading.
Over the course of the week, one overarching theme really stood out to me: youth in America and the future of our nation. This particular facet was especially intriguing, as I would venture to guess that 90% of the speakers were retiree-aged white men, talking about the needs, wants, and future of our nation’s most diverse generation yet (mine, that is). Now, I don’t mean to disparage age and wisdom, for it would be a mark against my own discretion to discount the importance of either. However, I do want to point out that We have long allowed older generations to describe and define the future of the young. In the case of the RNC, I felt that I was being told stories about who I am, and who I will be, and what my future will be like. Honestly, that kind of story-telling just doesn’t sit well with me.
|The RNC main stage. Literally the nicest screens money can buy.|
I want to be the one to decide my own future. I don’t want to be spoon fed a story about who We (my generation) are and What our future will hold. I want to make those decisions for myself. My parent’s generation had an opportunity to define themselves, but they seem to not be affording that same thing to Us. It just doesn’t sit well at all.