by: Michael Shields
A breath of fresh air that captivated a nation…..
The word man-crush is a word that invaded pop culture at about the same time we were graced with the term man-date, and the mother of all of these such expressions, bromance. These terms, while humorous to some, filled a need that nobody ever had, and the world would have undoubtedly been a better place without them. Labeling the affection two males have for each other, or a night out between them, seems to me patronizing but also par for the course in a society which bestows a little label on everything in reach. With that said I couldn’t help being overcome last week watching Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. Bubba had me at the words “Now, Mr. Mayor, fellow Democrats, we are here to nominate a president…and I’ve got one in mind”, and I was not alone.
It isn’t often I am swept up in political rhetoric as my distrust runs deep ((The fact that Guantanamo Bay is still a living breathing thing is reason alone to have problems with our sitting president and our government as a whole, but I digress)). I have fundamental problems with a two party system, and have endless doubts of the viability of any government that appears to be more responsive to “special interest” as opposed to that of the public good. I feel greed and corruption is ingrained in the system and the pessimist in me can’t help but believe that no matter who inhabits the Oval Office the needs of the few will be looked after with far greater resolve than the needs of the many ((Although, in this specific election, it is clear that one evil FAR outweighs another)). But regardless of all my hang-ups I found Bill Clinton’s speech to be a breath of fresh air in a political world full of stale, stagnate smog.
He brandished arithmetic and oratory prowess in the way a rock star wields a guitar. He made it easy to listen to a politician speak, the moment your mind would begin to wander he would reel you right back in – because he knew when, exactly, you could begin to drift – he was aware at every point what he was doing, what he was saying. He had us in the palm of his hand but never squeezed, merely caressed. And, most importantly, he demonstrated how cool it is to actually be smart.
He made a case for Obama’s presidency that even felt a little begrudging, and there is so much power in that. Bill and Obama have never been close, this is a well known fact. And it was exactly their lack of personal chemistry, and the fact that they have failed to develop into close pals, that gave Clinton’s speech its lift. It appeared as if he was saying “I wasn’t sure about this guy at first, but he is growing on me some….and here is why!”
I am not naive to the fact that not every factual assertion made by Bill Clinton was entirely fair or put in the correct context. Like all politicians, Clinton is selective in which facts he chooses to highlight and that is to be expected I suppose. But while taking the time ((48 minutes in whole)) to explain his arguments as absolute as the circumstance allowed he seemed to treat us all as adults. He treated us as cognitive thinkers who prefer actual reason over Hallmark-card sentimentality….or taking any and all effort to simply just ‘rile-up’ your fan base with rhetoric spewed in an inflamed tone garnished lavishly by red, white, and blue “freedom balloons.”
It was an incredible speech. ((I don’t know how, within the calculated narrative of his speech, he even found the time to briefly hit on Michelle Obama. That is inspiring within itself. Bill just can’t help himself……))
I was also very pleased that the former president took the time to address something briefly that has saturated politics and stifled policies for far too long, a little thing called hate. There is another word, besides hate, that repeatedly comes to my mind while witnessing some of this blatant blind rage towards our current commander-in chief.….that word is racism. Either way, I am glad Bill found the time to say what many are not.
“….though I often disagree with Republicans,
I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party
seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.”
In perfect and telling contrast Bill Clinton’s speech went head to head (in terms of television time slots) with MTV’s annual 4 hour long train wreck, the Video Music Awards. I, a sucker for punishment and in hopes of catching Frank Ocean’s performance ((And not a joke at his expense by the ever so unimpressive Kevin Hart)), tuned into the VMA’s after the speech. I did know I was going to get a hefty serving of Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, and a band known as ‘One-Direction’ but I didn’t know I was going to have things so diligently put in perspective by a simple channel switch from MSNBC to MTV. What I saw was the direct antithesis of what I had just seen. Taking the time to tune into a dumbed down for the masses four hour long commercial targeted at the world’s youth masquerading as an award show after Clinton’s speech made it clear as day what is actually cool and what should genuinely be celebrated….brains. ((It is fairly inspiring to know that more that two times as many people watch the DNC than the VMA’s and overall viewership of the VMA’s was down from 12.4 million people last year to 6.1 million this year)).
My hopes for a brighter future remain muted, but I was truly inspired and impressed by Bill Clinton’s powerful speech. It isn’t everyday that a 66 year old man creates this level of buzz and out rock-stars today’s rock stars. And I am surprised little that bromantic feelings (and the use of such a word) were aroused by this moving moment in political history. I won’t soon forget the night that a skilled orator took the time to appeal to our collective sense of intellect that in turn had the entire nation’s cheek’s flush, its palms sweaty, and its heart racing. It wasn’t just me.