American Culture

Peace so far at the RNC in CLE

Raise2Day 2 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland is beginning peacefully. And, quite frankly, that’s just the way we like it. There are thousands of people who are trying to keep it that way. Because we know that if peace prevails in Cleveland, we win.

The Donald Trump campaign knows that, too. They depend on turmoil as a substitute for substance. And they admitted it on Day 1:

At a breakfast discussion here Monday, Donald Trump’s top campaign adviser suggested that “lawlessness” surrounding the Republican National Convention could benefit Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

“Frankly, that impact will probably help the campaign,” Paul Manafort told his audience, reports Bloomberg Politics, which hosted the session.

Since well before the RNC convened, while the barriers were going up to divide us, people in Northeast Ohio were looking for ways to pull together for our own good and for the good of the country. While it may benefit the Trump campaign to have turmoil break out in the streets, the rest of us don’t need manufactured turmoil. There is enough real turmoil in the world already that needs real solutions. We don’t need more pseudo reality TV.

Tea, yoga, bridges, and naked women

Clevelanders and others in the area have been coming together in unique ways to try and spread positive energy  and uplifting messages.

Teatime for Peace

TeatimeThe Islamic Society of Akron and Kent hosted the third installment of this interfaith gathering at its mosque and community center near Cuyahoga Falls on the Thursday before the RNC began. The first 2 sessions were at Unitarian-Universalist and Presbyterian churches in the Cleveland area earlier in 2016.

Over 150 people got together over tea and pastries to learn about each other’s stories: origins, faiths, and values. When did your family come to America? How did you come to your faith? What are the three most important values that your faith reinforces for you?

The crowd was diverse, between and within faiths. The Muslim participants were from the US, Syria, Saudi Arabia, India, and many other countries. The Christians were mostly Presbyterian. And the UUs? One would think the denomination was much larger than it is, given the large number of attendees and participation by 2 female UU ministers.

One of the highlights of the evening was a poetry performance by Fatima Shendy:

At the end of the evening, an elderly Hindu gentleman presented an embroidered wall hanging from India to the Islamic Center that contained a blessing from the Koran.


On Sunday morning, as RNC delegates were arriving in Cleveland, the Tremont Athletic Club hosted a rooftop yoga session to benefit the LGBT Center of Cleveland.

TACThe rooftop, south of the city, has one of the most beautiful views of downtown. On numerous occasions participants were asked to and positive energy out to the city.

Sixty minutes of fairly strenuous flow yoga. On a roof. In the sun. It was good to have something positive to concentrate on.

The Bridge

GuardianThe Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, AKA the Hope Memorial Bridge (named for native son Bob Hope), is one of the most iconic sites in Cleveland, although not much known to outsiders. The four pillars at the ends are known as the Guardians. Each one is over 40 feet tall and has two sides, facing east and west over the Cuyahoga River. Each Guardian holds a form of transportation, from a covered wagon to a truck to the latest sedan that was in fashion when the bridge was built in the lates 1920s and early 1930s.

On July 17, the day before the RNC started, over 2,000 people lined the Hope Memorial Bridge for the Circle the City With Love gathering. The event was organized by Sister Rita Petruziello of the Congregation of St. Joseph.LoveThe crowd gathered in the early afternoon under the watchful gaze of the Guardians. There was music. Sister Rita spoke along with others about the purpose for being there: peace in the city. A quartet sang the song “Circle the City With Love” that was the inspiration for the day. And the crowd cheered the cops on bikes who came to monitor the event.

BicyclesAnd then the crowd walked in two lines to nearly the other end of the bridge, almost a mile away, stopped, hugged, faced inwards and held hands. In silence. For a half hour.

UMatterIt was wonderful. And hot. and sweaty. And I thought my arms were going to fall off. But it felt peaceful and connected.

Even the press who covered the event were mostly silent. The police were silent. We just were there together.

Then the air horn sounded at the end and we all cheered and retraced our steps. We had to. The eastern end of the bridge was closed until it opened as the official “Parade Route” for marchers during the RNC.

Naked Women

At sunrise on Sunday morning, 100 women gathered within sight of downtown Cleveland, removed their clothes, and raised round mylar mirrors to reflect the light of the rising sun towards the site of the RNC.

Spencer Tunick, a photographer known for his large-scale photographs of nude crowds, put together this installation called “Everything She Says Means Everything.” You can see the photos here (warning: these really are photos of naked women with mirrors).

The women are all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. They are real women. Only 100 were chosen from the 1800 who applied. They are not Photoshopped.

The photos are beautiful.

According to Tunick, the purpose of the project was to:

The philosophy of the artwork relates to the idea of the sacred feminine. By holding mirrors, we hope to suggest that women are a reflection and embodiment of nature, the sun, the sky and the land. We want to express the belief that we will rely upon the strength, intuition and wisdom of progressive and enlightened women to find our place in nature and to regain the balance within it. The mirrors communicate that we are a reflection of ourselves, each other, and of, the world that surrounds us. The woman becomes the future and the future becomes the woman.

Some people dismissed the project as “another opportunity to exploit women.” I didn’t see it as that before hand and I don’t see the final project as that. I’ll be interested in other opinions.

As Day 2 of the RNC gets underway. . . .

Every day of the Convention has a theme. Monday was “Strong.” Tuesday is “Work.”

In order to effectively capitalize on a theme of “Make America [Great, Strong, Work, Safe] Again,” you have to convince people that they are insignificant, puny, idle, and threatened. Is that really the message that you want people to internalize?

Obviously the answer is “Yes!” and of course there are people who will eagerly embrace those characterizations because they really do feel that way. And that is a sad thing. It is not something to be celebrated or something to be printed on a doormat used to invite people to become part of  something.

Granted, the Trump campaign is sending that message primarily to white male Americans–at least the ones who feel their power slipping away–even though they still hold incredible economic, social, and political power.  In order to march to the Trumpian tune, they need to be convinced of their impotence and peril.

The people on this country who were historically treated as insignificant and puny, women and minorities, who have been truly threatened and idle don’t want that as their reality. And it is not appealing to have someone tell you they will restore to you what was not historically yours to have.

That’s why Trump and the GOP have so badly targeted their message. The people who are finally rising also deserve a place at the table. It doesn’t mean that everyone who was already at the table will be thrown out into the cold. It does mean that they might have to move closer together and share the meal. That image may be what scares some.

To attempt to sell this message of negativity and hopelessness in a city that has been clawing its way back for decades is a bad plan.

We don’t need a strong leader–a caudillo, a jefe–to make us strong. We ARE strong. We are NOT afraid.

This is a place that has great faith and perseverance. The Japanese proverb says “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” Cleveland has been doing that for decades.

They came to the wrong city to spread a message of division. Cleveland is not weak and its people are not afraid.

BelieveMay peace continue to reign during the RNC. And in Cleveland.