I've got a new essay up at BNR about the Democratic convention and how every speaker was willing and eager to talk about who Hillary Clinton really is, and what that means in the context of decades of narratives about her that have created a caricature we are meant to regard as the "real" Hillary:
It's very common at political conventions to hear from speakers who have benefited from a candidate's policies, but never so many who have been personally helped by the nominee – whether it's Anastasia Somoza, the young disability activist, who has known Hillary since she was 9; or Lauren Manning, the 9/11 survivor who told us of Hillary sitting at her hospital bedside; or the Mothers of the Movement, sharing their painful stories and acknowledging Hillary as the only one who would really listen.Head on over to read the whole thing. It's a long one, so settle in. I hope you'll enjoy it.
Hillary has made a personal impact on an enormous number of people's lives. And they are showing up for her. They are passionate about telling us about the Hillary they know.
They want us to know her character; not the caricature – and they are inviting us, pleading with us, to see past the decades of false narratives, personal attacks, petty demeanments, and straight-up sexism which have been used to try to discredit and destroy her, in order that we might see the real person. The person they know.
...As someone who has long and zealously advocated for letting marginalized people be the authorities on our own lives, to let us tell our own stories and to believe us, there is some bit of aching irony for me that I am now suggesting listening to other people talk about Hillary, to find out who she is.
But there has never been anyone like Hillary before, and no woman in her position. No candidate has been subjected to such a concentrated, sustained campaign to destroy them, both personally and professionally, before they even secured the nomination.
So listen to the people who speak for her. Listen to every marcher in the parade of intelligent, respected, ethical, and trusted people, some of whom are elected politicians and some of whom are private citizens, telling stories about the Hillary they know.
...And then listen even harder to her when she speaks for herself.
Maybe you will hear that Hillary has some policies with which you disagree. Welcome to the club. The argument is not that you should have no differences with Hillary, nor that she is above criticism; the argument is that she is not the sum of those differences.
That is the treatment to which Hillary is subjected against which I'm arguing – this reductive dehumanization the consequence of which is Hillary being defined, only and exclusively, by her perceived flaws.
Her abundant achievements, her many positive qualities, the enthusiasm of her supporters, the admiration and adoration of her friends and colleagues – these have all been systematically disappeared from the public conversation about Hillary.
If you were reduced to only your worst features, only your failures, and those shortcomings magnified alongside misrepresentations and outright lies about you, and your successes and attributes minimized until some of them were virtually invisible, and all of it was broadcast on an impossibly grand scale for decades, do you think that caricature of you would resemble who you actually are?
What would the portrait of your life look like if your triumphs had been excised? Your qualities turned into points of exploitation?
I bet you would hope that people who had seen nothing but that caricature listened to the people who love you. That they would listen to you.