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Compassion arises as highlight at convention

Justice contributing writer

Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 01:09

My father is usually a cynic when it comes to politics. While he was growing up, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated a few blocks away from his grade school. During his freshman year of college, both of his idols, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, were assassinated one after another in a matter of months.

After watching the Republican Primary debates last year, he uttered a phrase that I have always remembered vis-à-vis policy in this country: “compassion is out of fashion.” During these debates, Republican presidential candidates were asked what they would do with an indigent person with mortal wounds showing up at a hospital, and the crowd yelled to let him die. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the belief that there is no morality and that one’s only purpose should be self-interest, is popular; it is okay to be a selfish, money-grubbing putz because that is the American dream. To hell with everyone else, climb up the ladder of success and then pull it up after you. While the candidates of the Republican Party seemed to exacerbate the issue, over the past few years Democrats have been similarly guilty of putting up with it as well, by supporting painful austerity measures that devastated impoverished families.

However, I saw this change during the past week in Charlotte.

This past week, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. with the delegation of my home state of Texas—yes, we have Democrats there too. What I was expecting was a retreat from the optimism of 2008 to the moderate cruelty and ambivalence of 2004. What I saw thoroughly impressed me, and gave me hope for the present and the future.

In stark contrast to the Republican’s theme of “We Built It,” upward mobility and the condemnation of global warming and other undisputed science, the Democrats had a theme of togetherness, equality and a strong national defense. In a great rebuttal to the Republicans’ seemingly new obsession with the national debt, former President Bill Clinton, the only modern president to balance a budget, praised and endorsed President Obama’s tactics on the economy and the budget.

Reminiscent of the heavy focus on national defense at the 2004 Republican National Convention, speakers such as Democratic Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts and former Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth praised the president’s ability to keep this nation safe, and many more lauded the accomplishment of bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

But perhaps most inspiring and most heartwarming was the Democratic endorsement of a compassionate society and equitable economy. Raising taxes on the rich was a minimal talking point four years ago. However, now the candidates are unabashedly critical of the “one percent” and are loud about repealing the Bush tax cuts.

The past few years had seen a bipartisan support for cruel, austere cuts that devastated poorer people, such as subtractions from food stamps, Head Start and children’s health insurance.

This year’s convention ran counter, with a slogan of “Americans coming together.” The convention’s platform endorsed marriage equality and women’s rights over their own bodies, but most importantly, compassion.


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