Those four days in July seem so long ago.
Back then, as Cleveland prepared for the Republican National Convention, our civic concerns were mostly parochial: Was Cleveland ready to be a welcoming host? Could we be a city of healthy debate, tolerance and peace?
We learned a lot about ourselves during that week, whether from the hundreds of volunteers ready with a warm greeting or police Chief Calvin Williams maintaining order on his bicycle. By the time the delegates, politicians, protesters and news media had packed up and gone home, most people believed we’d answered those questions with flying red, white and blue colors.
But the implications of what started here with Donald Trump’s nomination have echoed beyond July and likely will be felt well into the future. Beyond party politics, his candidacy has raised questions about who we are and what we believe as a nation. Lately, I’ve often been reminded of something CNN’s John King predicted prior to the convention. “It’s going to be Metallica … not the symphony,” King told Cleveland Magazine about Trump’s campaign.
What began with chants of “lock her up” were amplified by the second presidential debate as Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton if elected. His law-and-order mantra became a national call for stop-and-frisk policing. And his break from the political establishment thrashed away at the foundations of democracy. “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged,” he told a Columbus crowd in August. “I have to be honest.”
No doubt things got ugly on both sides. In a September fundraising speech Clinton lumped half of Trump supporters into a “basket of deplorables.”
By mid-October with Trump reeling from accusations of sexual misconduct and losing Republican Party support, he intensified the “rigged” rhetoric by blaming “the dishonest and distorted media” while calling the presidential election “one big ugly lie.”
No matter the result when the votes are finally counted, there will be so much healing needed in our democracy. Who we are and what we believe in has been tested in the thrashing mosh pit of this election like few other times in history. Democracy doesn’t demand agreement, but it does require a willingness to work together, a passion to uphold freedom and the strength to work toward justice for all.
We can all learn from Rodney Axson Jr., the Brunswick High School football player who took a knee during the national anthem to stand up for justice and for others. “You have to love your neighbors as you love yourself,” he says in “Clear Eyes, Full Heart.” “We should all love each other.”