The convenient amnesia of conventioneers

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It is hard to know where rumors start but the perception persists that elderly people are a tad forgetful. Nothing could be further than the truth!

I say this as one who is not yet elderly but is at least olderly, a new category devised by me to describe youthful-thinking people whose bodies show signs of normal wear and tear.

Where the heck was I? Oh yes, I was saying that older people are not the main offenders when it comes to mental oblivion, general amnesia and chronic forgetfulness. Anybody holding strong political opinions -- Republican or Democrat -- also tends to suffer episodes of selective memory.

A perfect example is the tradition of party conventions before presidential elections. Doesn't anybody remember how ghastly these events are?

Nothing of note has been decided at these conventions in at least 60 years. True, they provide an excuse to wear silly hats and drink copiously at receptions, but it is not necessary to attend a convention for that. In America, we are all free to stay home, drink to excess and put lamp shades on our heads if our spouses let us.

The only possible use for conventions is if they are beamed direct to Guantanamo Bay to break the silence of uncooperative terror suspects. Even there, a televised fund drive for a public television station would probably work as well.

As I write this, the Republicans are holding their convention in Tampa, Fla., and ordinary Americans with sleep issues are tuning in with the hope of being rendered unconscious. The Democratic convention to be held in Charlotte, N.C., in the week after Labor Day, will raise the same hope.

But at both events, outbreaks of mawkish patriotism -- not to mention heated denunciations of the other side -- will be irritating enough to keep deserving viewers from their slumbers.

As to the actual issues, all context will be forgotten. It is a fair bet that Mr. Obama will be called a community organizer, his first job, without anybody ever remembering he was also a law professor later. This lapse makes no sense -- it is like calling Albert Einstein a patent office worker (which he was at first) instead of a physicist.

(And no, I am not suggesting that Obama is another Einstein; I am just borrowing the general theory of relativity and applying it to the general prevalence of absurdity. If you have a problem with this, please direct your complaints to me, not as a journalist, but as a postman over the Christmas period in 1964, this being my first job and thus the most defining one of my life under the GOP theory of employment forgetfulness.)

The most amazing lapse of memory concerns the president whom Mr. Obama succeeded -- you know, what's his name, the Texas-drawling fellah from Maine. Republicans have wiped all mention of him from their collective memory banks, which is strange seeing how much they liked him at the time. We have gone from having a vice president at an undisclosed location to an ex-president with an undisclosed persona.

Now, if anybody recalls his name, whatever it is, they become angry and say, "There you go again, just blaming Barack Obama's failings on that other guy, whoever he was and whatever he did."

This is a truly inspired type of forgetfulness, because it makes Mr. Obama responsible for everything. Republicans are blessed because they can't remember the deficit when what's-his-face was in the White House, suggesting to them that it probably didn't happen. Nor can they remember Rep. Paul Ryan's part in supporting the huge spending by whoever was doing it.

It would be a daring and welcome move if the Republicans would mention their last president at their convention, or else have him be a surprise visitor, leading the party faithful to give him a rapturous welcome even as they say to each other, "He looks familiar, but I can't quite place him."

Or they might say, "Everything was just hunky-dory when he was president, which I vaguely remember he was, and dang those Democrats for causing the total economic collapse."

Cynical readers equipped with better memories than most may suggest that Republicans suffer not from amnesia but hypocrisy. This is not for me to say in my present olderly state in which I remain inclined to be disorderly.

I will leave the job of answering critics to the party's own journalistic champions such as George F. Will, the Washington Post columnist who has devoted his whole life to making society safe for men in bow ties. While he's at it, he can also point out what the Democrats will forget at their convention.

reghenry

Reg Henry: rhenry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1668.


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