Years ago, when I practiced law in downtown Cleveland, I commuted from my apartment in Shaker Heights to my office via the rail system, operated by Cleveland’s Rapid Transit Authority. Yesterday afternoon, Bill and I rode the RTA to a very different downtown Cleveland to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere surrounding the Republican National Convention. While my beloved Cleveland is the vortex of American Democracy at the moment which is nothing short of thrilling, what we heard and saw yesterday afternoon was nothing less than chilling. Our encounters and conversations gave us new perspectives, deepening our concern as we watched convention coverage last evening. My commitment to share those perspectives and concerns compels me to offer my views on this unfolding travesty of democracy, the nomination of Donald Trump which many are referring to as The Trumpacolypse.
When we boarded the Rapid, there were only 3 other people on the train (this is Cleveland…). One of the men was wearing an NRA hat, his wife was wearing a non-offensive t-shirt and the other man from Texas was nondescript. It turns out that Joe from Texas went to law school in Cleveland and is now an oil/gas lawyer outside of San Antonio. He is in Cleveland covering the convention for a radio show. Of course I agreed to be interviewed for “No Bull Radio.com” and I have the t-shirt to show for it! We also found ourselves in the midst of a very ugly rally, The America First Unity Rally. Suffice to say the main speaker, right wing talk show host Alex Jones, was nothing short of Hitleresque. Then, there were the t-shirts that screamed “Hillary for Prison 2016.” We were to see those t-shirts all over town.
Suffocated by the atmosphere of the “America First Unity Rally,” we walked up from the banks of the Cuyahoga River toward Public Square. I smiled as the grand Renaissance Hotel came into sight as this is the hotel where not only did I gave my outgoing speech as President of Central Region United Synagogue Youth 40 years ago, 4 years ago my daughter Rachel’s wedding was held there. Just as in Israel, the personal and the public merged, or as I like to say, the micro and the macro came together. As an activist, it is my passion to share my views on issues that matter and right now, the nomination of Donald Trump in my beloved Cleveland matters greatly. This is one of those rare moments when the world is watching Cleveland because history is being made right here and with that comes an electric excitement – similar to that electric excitement of life in Israel. Also similar to life in Israel is the amount of security present in downtown Cleveland. It is no exaggeration to describe Cleveland as a Police State, all in honor of the RNC.
Approaching Public Square, I saw a reporter interviewing two people, asking if downtown Cleveland felt different than normal. I jumped in, and asked the couple if they had been downtown last month for the grand celebration of our Cleveland Cavaliers. Of course they were among the 1.3 million people reveling in the great joy of victory. For this months’ “celebration” which is bringing 50,000 visitors to Northeast Ohio, it has become necessary to bring law enforcement personnel from many of our 50 States. As we walked, we talked to the various officers, sheriffs, state highway patrolmen from Florida, Texas, Georgia, et al. As I thanked each group, I commented on how wonderful our Federal system is and the cooperation the other States are giving to Ohio! I wonder if Donald Trump understands that the United States of America is made up of 50 different political laboratories. I would imagine that at least he and his team notice that each group of officers has a different uniform, a veritable fashion show of police garb. In other words, the “Men in Blue” (I did remind one trooper that women also were part of law enforcement) wear different uniforms with different hats. Actually, that reminded me of Israel in two different ways. On a lighter note, I was reminded of the fashion show of Orthodox garb one sees everywhere in Israel. On a much more serious note, I once again appreciated how secure I always feel on the streets of Jerusalem or in the beautiful country of Emek HaMayanot, knowing that the IDF has my back. It is shocking how much security is present during the Trumpacolypse during these very bizarre times in America.
We had lunch in the beautiful rotunda of the old Ameritrust building, where I once worked, which is now a branch of our local grocery store Heinens. Of course I ran into people I knew from my many years of involvement in the Cleveland Jewish community; I also made it my business to meet Jewish delegates and was delighted when a couple responded to my call, “Jews for Trump!” He and She from Knoxville, Tennessee were initially Ben Carson supporters but are here, in Cleveland, to nominate Trump as the Republican candidate for President because of their views of Hillary Clinton. When my new friend criticized Hillary for berating Bibi Netanyahu for 45 minutes, I simply responded that he probably deserved it. His response to me showed me that my new friend from Knoxville is willing to ignore Trump’s blatant racism and fear mongering because he truly believes that Hillary Clinton is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. Really. Following Jared Kushner’s lead, this Jew and other Jews are willing to ignore the lessons of The Holocaust and are supporting a fear-mongering demagogue. In case one has any doubts about the demagoguery, last night’s over the top exploitation of a mother’s grief, delivered painfully by Pat Smith, the mother of one of the 4 Americans killed in Bengazi, is proof positive of the style of leader Donald Trump is. And will be. Ambivalent voters, are you paying attention? Please do.
Our final encounter connected my passion for my two democracies – America’s and Israel’s modern Jewish. As we worked our way to E. 4th Street in search of major broadcast media booths, I stopped to listen to a strikingly beautiful blond woman report on the happenings in Cleveland in Hebrew and I saw the Chanel 10 logo on her microphone. She smiled in response to my “bruchah haba’ah l’Cleveland” and we immediately struck up a warm conversation. I offered to be her personal host and window into the Cleveland Jewish community during her time in Cleveland. We’ve already texted each other and I look forward to sharing my views with Tali Moreno as well as with the readers of this blog.
We ended the day comfortably seated in my living room watching television coverage of the evening’s activities. Making America Safe Again was the theme of the first night of the RNC – playing on raw emotion as the least common denominator in a political environment that has been called “post-factual” was the way the message was delivered. To those who object to my use of the word demagogue to describe Donald Trump I offer this definition from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: “A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.” It is a statement of fact that last night Pat Smith used a trauma-laced impassioned appeal to support Donald Trump because simply put, in her view, Hillary Clinton, because she was Secretary of State at the time, murdered her son. As one much too familiar with the raw grief of traumatic loss (both personally and communally), I found the emotional manipulation offensive. Of course I did – as an American Jewish woman in 2016 I find Demagoguery to be Offensive. So although we were comfortably seated on the couch last night, there was much on TV to make us very uncomfortable. As both my mother and the great moral leader, Elie Weisel, z”l, would expect at a time like this.
Today, July 19, 2016/13 Tamuz 5776, is Day Two of the RNC, the second day of active participatory democracy on the streets of Cleveland. Like yesterday, I will ride the RTA to the RNC to witness, to engage, to connect but most importantly, to be an Activist on behalf of an American Democracy that is true to our core values. The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting outside my windows and Day One passed without major incident on the streets of Cleveland. As Day Two unfolds, may the peaceful voices of protest be more than just background noise as the mean-spirited words of the RNC come forth from the sacred ground in downtown Cleveland known as The Q – the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers! May the good will that emanated from the Q in June continue to keep the streets calm around the Q in July, during these hot days of The Trumpacolypse.