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The DNC memory hole 

Political circuses, the new Prozac

Distractions keep us from dealing with what's right in front of us, be it an unpleasant duty or just the reality of the moment. Distractions take different forms, from cellphones in our cars to Kit-Kat bars during a diet, to the stained glass pendant thingamabob in my home office that turns the sun's rays into colored lights, dancing on the walls. Recently, though, the distraction that came to mind was the devious, smoke-and-flames display from The Wizard of Oz, in which the illusory "Great and powerful Oz" warns Dorothy and friends to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

I thought of that scene last week when national Democratic Party honcho Debbie Wasserman Schultz came to town and said that the Democratic National Convention serves as "a phenomenal organizing tool" for Dems in North Carolina. Well, they have to say it's for something, I thought, because it's certainly not about nominating a presidential candidate — it's been 60 years since either major political party went into its convention not knowing who the nominee would be.

Different folks view the DNC in different ways. Uptown hotels see it as a gold mine. The police are jacked over the prospect of busting up some anarchists while showing off their latest gadgets. And Charlotte's boosters and business community, of course, tell everyone the convention will be A. a boon to local businesses; B. a feather in the city's increasingly plumage-poked cap; and naturally, C. "a chance for Charlotte to shine on the national stage."

Predictably, many in our local "Yes, massa" media have signed on to whatever city boosters' latest version of reality entails. This time, it's the old "This is just the damnedest, coolest thing the city has ever experienced!!!!" theme, but on steroids. It will indeed be a huge show, albeit a short-lived, four-day one, but who's counting when so much diversion is ours to enjoy?

With the distraction of a major national political convention, we don't need to bother about those ongoing, unpleasantries our leaders wish we wouldn't think about in the first place. Like the fact that the city's roads are in terrible shape and needed repairing yesterday. Or that those pesky water mains and bridges are falling apart, or that our city has a lousy excuse for a public transit system. And those whole sections of the city that summon up scenes from the Third World? Never mind. And that queasy feeling you get when you realize that the city's economic backbone, the banking industry, is the one that was so recklessly greedy it nearly collapsed the world economy? Forget about it.

Much bigger, national problems, too, will have magic invisibility cloaks draped over them during the convention, as well as during the GOP convention in Tampa in August. First to disappear will be the understanding that we're in a pitiful substitute for a real democracy when the two parties, Tweedle-Dem and Tweedle-Rep, are mere subsidiaries of the nation's corporate oligarchy; and to boot, are the only political parties allowed a chance of winning.

Next to go will be the gut feeling that the U.S. will take much longer to climb out of the depression than we think, since our industries have largely moved overseas and the financial sector has taken over the economy.

Poof! Gone in a flash, too, will be memories of those depressing articles revealing that America is now No. 1 in all the wrong things and way down the list in all the good stuff. Or that, in any case, the political system in Washington is too dysfunctional to do anything about the country's woes.

Or that the Supreme Court is in the hands of people who gave billionaires the go-ahead to secretly buy our elections.

Or that our national treasure and much of our research is geared toward producing multi-billion dollar war weaponry — 20 years after our last "big" enemy collapsed.

Or that we have more prisoners per capita than any nation in human history — and a for-profit prison industry that wants it to stay that way.

Excuse me for thinking the DNC, and for that matter the RNC, and all the attendant breathless news reports, celebrity sightings and brouhaha that keep citizens entertained and oblivious are this era's version of Rome's bread and circuses. I know not many will see it my way.

I mean, who needs to consider the state of things when so many people — people who are more famous, more powerful, richer and probably better looking than you or I — will be having such a blast right here in Charlotte! The only thing better would've been if Tim Newman's gang could have convinced Queen Elizabeth to have her Diamond Jubilee at Bank of America stadium. The spine tingles.

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