There were four highly ironic moments for me last night, watching the RNC on television.

First, Rudy Giuliani seemed to side with down-to-earth, rural, moral, family-friendly middle America against the urban, educated, gay-friendly, divorcing East Coast elite – and neither he nor the crowd seemed to notice the irony. At least Sarah Palin – with her pit-bull-in-lipstick line – didn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t.

Mike Huckabee blessed the audience with preacherly quasi-religious sentimentalism in the grand old tradition of American civil religion. Did I sense echoes of … Jesus shed his blood for your sins, but John McCain shed his blood for your freedom (and your desk in elementary school)? This from the party that accuses Senator Obama of being messianic?

And Sarah Palin proved she had the confidence to mock and misrepresent a candidate 18 million of us voted for. She proved without doubt her ability to speak fluently the language of old Washington politics, while claiming to offer something different. This double-speak made a good impression on some, proving her political viability, and sadly, they may be right.

Something deep inside me winced last night, not only because I felt that things and people I value were being mocked and insulted, but also because I felt that last night’s rhetoric – in spite of all the flags and “God bless America’s” – is bad for America. The so-called “enthusiasm gap” between the parties may have been narrowed, but the gap of respectful understanding and civil communication between parties was split farther asunder.  That is not helpful. That is not good for America. I felt our nation was wounded last night. It was “Republican Party First,” which was the fourth irony.

I worry that in writing these words, I’m adding to the division, but I fear that if I don’t say anything, I’m tacitly supporting something insupportable, and allowing something harmful to go unchallenged.

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