My Day at the Democratic National Convention
by Rob Arner
I got to the Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) luncheon just in time to hear John Bel Edwards, governor of Louisiana, speak. I liked him a lot. He had a humble demeanor and was ardent about both being a Democrat and being pro-life. He made the point, familiar to us all, about how there is a difference between being pro-life and anti-abortion. I’d estimate about 50-60 people there, but there was press. The Life Matters Journal (LMJ) contingent was there, as was CL board member Lisa Stiller, along with Rev. Pat Mahoney and Rev. Rob Schenk, and two or three other people I’d met at the Life/Peace/Justice conference at Villanova this last spring.
I met Fr. Ed Bell, a priest in the archdiocese of Philadelphia and pastor of a church in Media, PA. He is ardently for the consistent life ethic (CLE) and maintains a literature table at his parish in which he includes our material. He had our yard signs (pictured with him below).
After connecting with Christina Healy with the LMJ group, Ed and I went down to FDR park, across from the convention site. This was where the Bernie Sanders folks were gathering and the protest site was. It was surrounded by an 8-9 foot high metal fence. Though there were all kinds of security barriers ringing the convention site, I would not say it felt militarized. The police did not wear riot gear, and were mingling with the convention-goers, many on bikes.
But the striking thing was how deflated everything felt. There were 40 or so tents set up for Bernie supporters camping there, and plenty of those supporters, but not the thousands I had been expecting. For the most part they were just sitting in their camp playing guitars under trees and talking about the unfairness of the convention. It actually felt anticlimactic and deflating that there weren’t more people.
We found a few folks to converse with and distribute cards to. When I summarized our stance by saying we were against killing people, one young woman around the fringe of the Sanders group told me “We just disagree on who counts as people!” Another young lady, who was acting quite morose and seemed depressed to me, said “Some people just need to die. I feel like the world would be a better place if Trump were gone.”
Eventually we quit approaching people and just set up with our signs displayed. At this point the Life Matters Journal contingent joined us, adding to our witness. They were energetic and magnetic. More and more people began coming up to us for conversation, attracted by my sign, with many expressing sympathy and taking our cards. I was interviewed by three members of the media, one from the local paper and the other from the Christian Science Monitor and another freelance writer.
In all, I probably only gave out 100 cards or so, less than I would have liked, but I gained some very valuable skills. This was my first time leafleting (for anything!) I’m not usually an especially outgoing person in crowds, but I learned the groove and felt very confident by the time I needed to go home. I can do it.