I’m really, really tired.
We got the kids up this morning and the immediate (and predictable) protest was, “But Momma, the sun isn’t up yet!” Tell me about it, kid.
Protests notwithstanding, we managed to get everyone dressed, downstairs, back upstairs to brush their teeth (“Don’t I tell you this every morning?!? Get up, brush your teeth, get dressed, make your bed, then go downstairs. Do you think I say it to hear myself talk?” Good grief, I sound like my mother.), back downstairs, and loaded into the car. We passed out the morning watered-down apple juice and plastic bowl of cereal, loaded up the posters and the baby bag, reminded everyone of the importance of being patient today, and headed out.
It was a very nice sunrise.
We got to the rally site more than half an hour before the doors opened (which was scheduled for two hours before the actual event), and there was already a backup to get into the parking lots. Then there was a huge line to get through the metal detectors and into the building. The diaper bag and our two signs (which were checked at the door for content) all passed inspection. Then we got herded into a tiny corner of the hall; apparently, somebody didn’t think that many people would show up. We were a little disgruntled about the fences keeping everyone in a tight space, but reasoned that that was for good TV shots; you don’t want the crowd to look sparse, I guess. It turns out, we were quite lucky; the rest of the hall ended up being packed (crowd size estimates are currently varying widely, but the lowest one is 12,000 and the organizers estimate they let in more like 25,000) and the people outside the crowd fences had to watch the event on the projection screens that dropped down from the ceiling.
We heard from pretty much every local Republican currently in Congress or running for it, plus the new would-be state governor. There was a bit of humor at the beginning when a local Congresswoman asked everyone to stand for the invocation… and most of the crowd laughed. “Yes, I know that most of you are already standing [and had been for some time, by that point!], but some people actually have seats…” After the invocation, the local politicians talked, mostly about McCain and Palin. The crowd booed (higher taxes, military defeat, Obama in general) and cheered (every mention of McCain and Palin, lower taxes, more responsible government, job growth, military in general). (Hey, it’s a rally, not a deep intellectual discussion. The purpose here was not to convince people; there are other venues for that. This was to preach to the choir and get the choir motivated to go out and make a difference in the last few weeks before the election. Booing and cheering appear to be de rigeur for both sides at this kind of event.)
After five or six songs by Hank Williams, Jr., the headliners finally came out. Cindy McCain opened the main speech section with some fairly predictable remarks, interrupted by chants of, “Sarah! Sarah!” Mrs. McCain gave the crowd that “ok, we all know I’m not who you’re here to see, but, come on, I have to get through the speech!” wry smile and kept going. Both Sarah Palin and John McCain came to the podium to give their speeches, which I thought were good, focusing on the economy and foreign policy/military issues.
(Maybe I’ll talk more about the actual speeches tomorrow, with a transcript in front of me; the sound wasn’t great, since we were off to the right of the stage, and most of what I remember is thinking about how much my back hurt from having the baby in the sling for hours and my son (who is four and very muscular and heavy) perched on my shoulders for part of the rally. Husband had one or both of the older two kids on his shoulders half the time. We listened, we enjoyed the rally, we swapped which sign we were holding up depending on what was said, cheered, etc… I just don’t remember the specifics of the speeches right now.)
And, of course, after the speeches was the handshaking. We couldn’t really see what was going on and guessed that the candidates had probably left the hall to get to their next events. What we learned is that you should watch where the Secret Service agents are going; they tend to be tall and distinctively intense, so, even if you can’t see the candidate, the clump of guys a head taller than everyone else and staring intently at the crowd tells you exactly where the candidate is located. We wound up only about five or six people back from the front edge of the crowd. So, no handshakes, but McCain did point at our “Naval Academy grads for McCain” sign, smile, and wave.
After talking to a few people we know from church, we headed back to the minivan. Outside the convention center, DH noticed a familiar face talking into a bullhorn and handing out literature. “Hey, isn’t that Randall?” Sure enough, it was Randall Terry. We had gone to a counterprotest he organized in DC a few years back. You may remember him from Operation Rescue, which did sit-ins and sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics in the 80′s and 90′s. Planned Parenthood sued the pro-lifers, including Terry, under the RICO laws (racketeering, for interfering with their “business”) and took everything he owned (including his home), but he’s still doing pro-life work. Lately, he’s mostly been trying to convince Catholics especially (he converted to Catholicism a year or so back, with his family) to pay attention to the abortion issue in politics. He, his wife, and some volunteers have managed to get themselves peacefully arrested at the Democratic National Convention and at multiple cathedrals and churches around the country (for passing out pro-life voting pamphlets in church parking lots).
As we walked over to introduce ourselves, he saw our other poster, which said, “Former fetus for Palin,” and said, “Hey, nice sign! You guys must be pro-lifers!” We told him we had been with him in DC, introduced the kids, talked for a few minutes, and commiserated about the lack of clear direction from the local bishop about pro-life issues. (We had a great letter from our bishop read at all the parishes a few years back on stem cell research, but nothing on abortion, sadly.) Terry asked us to do something to get the word out to local parishes about what the Church’s direction actually is on where abortion stands among the life issues. (I’m going to have to think about that project. I’ll let you know what we actually do.)
As I’ve written before, abortion is not just one of the several life issues. Abortion is the life issue. Nothing else kills and injures as many people each year (about 4,000 children per day in the U.S. alone, which does not count the injury to their mothers, who are at drastically increased risk for depression, suicide, and long term health and psychological problems). Nothing else matters if you aren’t alive to enjoy the benefits of health care, peace, a clean environment, etc. Nothing else tears at the fabric of society like abortion, saying that some lives aren’t worth living and aren’t worth protecting. (And if you can kill the unborn for being unwanted, then, logically, other groups will follow. It is no coincidence that euthenasia is spreading now, and beginning to become less voluntary. See the article on the man who received notification that state health programs wouldn’t pay for his chemotherapy for his cancer but would offer to pay for his euthenasia.)
And that was something that was lacking at the rally. Abortion was not even mentioned.
Now, I realize that the focus today was the economy and the military, and that Gov. Palin’s speeches have hit on abortion quite strongly lately. But I really wanted to hear it emphasized again here. We didn’t have the only pro-life poster in the crowd, so I think a lot of other people wanted to hear it, too. Sen. Obama told a Planned Parenthood conference during the primaries that the first thing he would do as president is get the Freedom of Choice Act passed, wiping out all of the many state laws requiring parental consent for a minor’s abortion, banning partial birth abortion, banning taxpayer funding of abortions, etc.
No matter how often the media cries, “The debate is over!” the truth is that few Americans would support such an Act if they understood what it would do. The mainstream media has been trying to ignore or hide Sen. Obama’s extreme pro-abortion positions, knowing that those positions will cost him votes.
If this is important to us, we have to get the word out. Talk to your pastor. Write the bishop. Ask them to please speak up for the completely voiceless. We know, as Catholics, that we are called to seek peace and avoid war; to be good stewards of our environment; to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan…
but we seem to have forgotten the orphans who lose their parents before they even leave the womb.
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