• 68°

Leonard Pitts: Democrats remind us of us

On the convention floor

Delegates hold up Hillary signs at the convention.

Delegates hold up Hillary signs at the convention.

In the end, it wasn’t even close.

After a GOP gathering in Cleveland that had all the incandescent joy of a biblical plague, the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia was as bracing as snow down your back on the most scalding day in August. In terms of star power (Meryl Streep versus Chachi from “Happy Days”) production value and substance, there was no contest. One was a sixth-grade talent show, the other a matinee of “Hamilton.”

If you doubt the difference could have been that stark, perhaps you’ll take the word of disaffected Republicans like former Jeb Bush strategist Tim Miller, who asked on Twitter “why an 18-year-old watching the conventions would want to be a Republican?” Or conservative blogger Erick Erickson, who tweeted: “I’m so angry at my own party right now.”

Their pessimism was understandable in the wake of powerful, conscience-calling speeches by the president, the vice president, the first lady and the Rev. William Barber II, an organizer of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. Even Hillary Clinton, whose oratorical skills are not formidable, rose to the occasion. The history-making first woman to win a major party presidential nomination issued a stinging rebuke of her thin-skinned opponent, Donald Trump.

“A man you can bait with a tweet,” she observed acidly, “is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

For all that, though, the emotional center of the convention might have been someone who wasn’t much of an orator at all, whose first language isn’t even English. With his wife at his side, Khizr Khan, a Pakistan-born immigrant, addressed the crowd. “Tonight,” he said, “we are honored to stand here as parents of Capt. Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.”

Humayun, a soldier, was killed in Iraq in 2004, running toward a suicide bomber to save his men. Yet, as his father noted, if it were up to Trump, he of the hateful rhetoric, the Mexican wall and the Muslim ban, Humayun would never even have been in this country.

“Donald Trump,” said Khan, engaging the bully directly, “you are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: have you even read the United States Constitution?” In the thunderous ovation that followed, he produced a booklet from his pocket and held it up, saying, “I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words liberty and equal protection of law.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” demanded the grieving father. “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing, and no one!” he cried, voice rising with barely suppressed outrage. “We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division.”

And one is reminded that no one believes in America’s promises — liberty and justice for all — quite as fiercely as the immigrant does. Trump’s thesis is that we can no longer afford to strive for those promises in a world he says is more threatening and scary than ever before.

The Democrats’ response was to remind us of us. “America is great,” quoted Clinton, “because America is good.”

November, then, is not just an election, but a moment of truth. We are called to decide whether to affirm our nation’s promises, and thus validate the faith and sacrifice of families like the Khans, or whether to burn it all to ash in the fire of our own anger and fear.

And that’s something else that shouldn’t even be close.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Comments

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pancake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity