DENVER – I don’t know if the revolution was televised or not. I wasn’t near a television set all day. But they did set up a lovely parade.
After the visible but relatively subdued police presence yesterday, we didn’t expect a lot of barbed wire, water cannons, and circulating, truck-mounted tear gas dispensers. (As we’d later discover, most of the clashes were over at NBC’s temporary studio outside Union Station between Messrs. Scarborough, Schuster, Olbermann, and Matthews.)
We were verily inspired last night by the activists gathered in the park at sunset Tuesday evening. They gathered peaceably, decried U.S. policies here and abroad, championed the hope that Barack Obama was bringing to a world that until only recently they’d stopped believing in, and warned against the damage that even one John McCain term would do to these United States. At least that was twelve of them that I counted. The rest of them were united in a much simpler plank that called for exchanging capitalism in favor of a hemp-based barter economy, followed by a moment of silence at 8:00 PM, before they fired up the fake Megadeth band and encouraged the fucking of the police.
A moment–or more–of silence would have been appropriate over at NBC as Olbermann and Matthews sniped at each other at their post, and the last strands of Chris Matthews’ erstwhile white lionesque combover were fluttering mockingly about his scalp and he looked, as Wayne noted, like some deranged, racist circa-1910 Alabama judge, cranky and sweating profusely in the stagnant late-summer heat.
But that’s another story. I was inspired by the orgy of civic self-expression of the teeming masses at Civic Center Park and wanted my day in the sun. With the Civic Center Park Amphitheater fenced off, however, I had to find another pulpit. We wound up at the City and County Building across the park, which, we learned from security, boasts the largest marble columns of any such facility in the United States. If I was looking for stately and august, you could only outdo this with the Lincoln Memorial.
So, this is where I chose to stand on the steps in the blazing noonday sun and repeat for a passing throng that occasionally numbered two dozen or more, Vice President Agnew’s impassioned 1972 anti-busing speech. It was a powerful moment and I felt the intoxication of manning the rostrum and speaking to the people.
I had to accept that the city was busy and that the tens of thousands over at the Pepsi Center waiting for a glimpse of Biden or Obama were more properly directing their attentions, but I appreciated the fifteen or so who did give me their only mostly divided attention as they ate their lunch outdoors and just stopped by the building to file a permit for a sewage easement across county property. There were another six or seven building security guards who floated in and out of the audience from time to time, and one African-American security guard sitting below one of the marble columns on a cigarette break applauded heartily when I finished my speech, when I voice Spiro Agnew’s conclusion that busing our children from their neighborhoods was stripping them from a local identity they had often worked their whole lives to develop, and was, in effect, forced insignificance (I added that last part).
Despite the passion inherent to the Agnew address that I chose to read, we were told by the accompanying film crew how some might hear such an impassioned speech–given as it was with a zeal that caused saliva to fly from my mouth from time to time, looming from on-high, and punctuating my remarks with vaguely Mussolinian gestures. It might, the co-director said, give some the wrong perception as to mine and Wayne’s ideas about social order. I had to confess that we hadn’t given that much thought about the speech’s content when we arrived to talk to the people (Wayne was sketching me from the steps). We just liked the cadence and the rhetorical flourishes. The crew afforded me a few moments to look over the speech again with a dispassionate, more academic eye, before I did a brief interview to clarify our enthusiasm.
Fair enough, and I had to conclude that in our unbridled passion for Agnew’s elegantly sculpted passages and jackhammer delivery, the subject matter and point of view would certainly qualify as repugnant to any decent, modern sensibilities–including our own. While we had long admired his heartfelt, bulldog advocacy for the Nixon Administration, I had suspected for some time that some scholars might be right in considering him a vile, bigoted, fascist bully.
Out of time again. More on Denver later tomorrow, and a comprehensive gavel-to-gavel recap coming up this weekend.