Tampa is the New Jerusalem. True, most days of the year it’s as big a cultural k-hole as any you’ll find in the great (?) state of Florida, but the gods of changing winds will note that for a few days in August, it rocked.

That other Jerusalem likes to think of itself as a center of the world, a sort of softer center of the world than crass and commercial New York. From a travel scribe’s perspective though, Jerusalem is deeply problematic. Forget the fact that it’s not very attractive — neither is Tel Aviv, nor New York for that matter. It’s just that it’s fractured along enough political faultlines to make the San Andreas Fault look like a crease in my linen trousers.

Not to mention all the religious hooey. With that in mind, here’s a picture of a richly symbolic glass donkey.

The Messiah’s glAss, by Izhar Patkin, as recently seen in Tel Aviv.

 

But you don’t have to love Jerusalem to respect it. And to respect it is to protect it and the country of which it is the capital. From this perspective among so many others, the presidency of Barack Obama is deeply troubling.

Last night in Tampa, Mitt Romney said in front of the live studio audience that is pretty much the entire world, “In his first TV interview as president, he [Obama] said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning. President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”

And he has. Obama talks the talk but can’t walk the walk. He’s a foreign policy pismire. He’s that stuck-up snob in your grad school poli-sci lecture whose head is so far up in the clouds he can’t be bothered to take notes.

But the world is taking notes, and seeing just how much they can get away with while America cravenly “leads from behind,”as Condoleeza  Rice said in Tampa the other day.

Yes, Tampa is leading the way. I don’t care that there will never be a Louvre in Tampa. I don’t care that its most famous church is one that John Travolta makes famous. In an acutely gloomy moment, the stage at the RNC shined like a beacon of real hope and change and one thing is certain, sooner or later the Jerusalem of old is going to need to lean on the new if it wants to survive and thrive.

That the New Jerusalem — Tampa! — actually gives a hoot is a hell of a good start.

 

 

 

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