Bridget Callahan is in Cleveland covering the scene surrounding the Republican National Convention. The story continues here.
The week before coming to the Republican National Convention, I did the most American thing I could think of– I drank a bunch of beer and climbed a mountain.
When I got to the top of the mountain, there were all these beautiful formations of rocks, balanced precariously on each other for centuries, and looking at them, I felt this deep urge– to carve my name into them, or knock one over, or something. To make my mark by ruining it for the next person, so they would know I was there first. Part of me wanted to blame that terrible feeling on altitude sickness, or grumpiness from exhaustion and heat, but that entitled sense of dominion came from something much deeper. Something about appearing bigger than the enemy so they won’t attack, and something else about forcing the things that want to kill you, including apathetic Nature, to take whatever form you want them to. No, rocks, I decide if you get to stay that way. And whatever that deep, dark place in our psyche is called, the pack animal hierarchy shadowland, it seems to be the birthplace of the American Dream as well. Get to the top of that mountain, so the other lions can’t knock you off or have it, and it means you are the Divine Lion. The lion who deserved that mountain.
The American Dream is climbing a mountain, claiming the mountain as your own, putting a wall up around it, paying a bunch of other people to bring you beer up at the top of said mountain, and then being able to carve your name wherever you want, draw a dick on it, or a lion god, whatever.
I have been known to get drunk at the tops of mountains (or, like, halfway up the side), and rail against the lie of the American Dream: how terrible it is for our collective psyche, and how the real evil of the American Dream is that it not only encourages us to judge other people based on what they own, but then turns that festering consumerism inward as well, so we breathe in billowing, poisonous clouds of self-hatred for our own inability to be perfect and happy within a rat fink system. “Wealth does not equal virtue!” is a thing I’ve been known to shout as well, from mountain sides, empty streets, and in the middle of beach house parties.
Part of this latent class warfare instinct has to do with being from the Great Lakes Rustbelt, where for decades we’ve dealt with the self-hatred of having “failed” because the millionaires left us, and that cultural insecurity has made us self-sabotaging, desperate, and thorny. We still haven’t forgiven ourselves for industry moving away, and frankly, nobody else has either. This is why things like convention centers and sports teams are so important to us– we just want the millionaires to come back and love us again. Oh, but do they? Will they? Lebron does, right?
I’m originally from Cleveland, this year’s host city for the RNC, though I live in North Carolina now, a state whose governor is currently making redneck Ohio look socially liberal. But Cleveland, darling lake-bound Cleveland, has always been blue, all the time. I’m a blue-as-sky Cleveland daughter of unions – the dirty, nasty spawn of organizers and public health care workers. I’m a single, childless middle-aged woman who is wasting government loan money getting an art degree just because she didn’t feel like working in a cubicle anymore, and will probably end up squatting in a cave on someone else’s land as a retirement plan, like some sort of dirty, vision-spouting hermit. I want free health insurance. I think not believing in LGBTQ rights makes you a bad person. I don’t believe in God, but I do believe over-population is one of Society’s root problems, and if we defund Planned Parenthood, everyone is probably gonna die in some sort of horrible, zombie-like plague. I think power plants are assholes. Free-market capitalism is ruining media, churches shouldn’t get tax breaks, wi-fi should be a public utility, school systems are more important than sports stadiums, casinos and weed monopolies take advantage of poor communities, and basically everyone should just elect me leader and do what I say.
So you can see how the GOP and I are kinda natural enemies. Just for the record. Since I’ll be writing about their event for this website for the next four days, I thought you should know where we all stood with each other.
(Also, for the record: don’t ever let me be the one in charge. No one should let me have any power. I am the liberal nightmare. I know this. We’d be broke in two seconds. There would be wars.)
Despite all of that dirty liberalism spoiling my rosy cheeks, I’m excited for this convention. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I think it’s gonna be great to surround myself with protesters and Trump supporters, overly-sensitive police, and traffic chaos, but how could it not be great? Every weird bubble of the electorate is going to be out in Public Square tomorrow. There are gonna be nuns, and skinheads, Black Lives Matter, the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce, and legions of clean-cut, scrub-faced blossoming pillars of society pushing Prosperity and Safety like the latest Evangelical vitamin supplement scheme. There are twelve judges in the courthouse that will be working ten hour shifts non-stop, to keep the judicial gears turning so they don’t get slapped with lawsuits like they did with the Michael Brelo protesters. There’s a mobile video unit documenting crowd management and monitoring the police, I assume because the DOJ is keeping a tight eye on the CPD these days. There are ten thousand sets of plastic handcuffs just waiting to be used, and yet people are already whispering that the expected and promised money waiting to surge into downtown isn’t materializing. The restaurants are getting antsy. They’ve already build a whole new Public Square, and a hotel, and reflecting pond, and all these murals on the train lines – for the past two years, Cleveland has treated this like a new World’s Fair. So there’s a lot of stuff to see, and a lot of money riding on the convention draw being as huge as the GOP promised it would be. The American Dream, you know? The city worked so hard for it, now obviously they deserve the rewards. Just because the GOP presumptive candidate this year is an animated, freezer-burned creamsicle shouldn’t stop people from paying 50 dollars for special event parking.
My father, who still lives here, could not be more disgusted watching all those city and county Democrats bend over backwards to give Trump a nice big, pretty looking stage. I felt positively apathetic in the face of his disdain today, like maybe I had never really been angry about anything properly.
Maybe I’m just sick of only getting my political outrage from Facebook posts, and I’m dying for some visceral proof that all these conflicts really exist face to face. I’m calling it curiosity, but maybe some of my excitement is bloodthirst. I hope not. I don’t think I’m that kind of person. I don’t think of myself as a Divine Lion. We’ll see.