I juggled watching the first presidential debate on multiple devices: TV for Fox, my personal phone for running commentary with friends and family, media engagement on my work phone, and social media on my laptop. The reaction was unanimous: this debate is a disaster.
Clearly the debate was all of that, and more. It was rude. It was crass. It was impolite and uncivilized. It was demeaning. It was America right now, and that is a very, very bad thing. We are all to blame.
We are witnessing a constant erosion of the very things that unite us: our culture. Love for country. Trust in government. Respect for the flag and for the police. The healing pastime of apolitical sports. As all these parts of culture erode, a fragmented people lash out, perhaps even more violently after months of “lockdown.”
Culture matters. Early in his administration, President Trump spent a great deal of time in defense of culture, especially our American, western culture. “The world has never known anything like our community of nations” he told a crowd in Warsaw, Poland, in 2017. “We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers…and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God.”
After a nearly year-long closure of concert halls I almost forget about symphonies, and music in general. Our ancient heroes? Nancy Pelosi, the Italian-American speaker of the House, refused to condemn the blatantly criminal (let alone sociologically damaging) toppling of the statue of Christopher Columbus in her birthplace of Baltimore, where her father had been mayor.
Maybe that’s just political expediency, but when the city council of Washington, DC calls for the removal of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, we’ve entered the world of lunacy.
Funny how they didn’t recommend changing the name of Washington, District of Columbia, but logic isn’t on the docket here, culture is, and it’s striking how very little intellectual curiosity these political leaders have. How did Thomas Jefferson give us our nation’s brilliant foundational political document while being overtly immoral as a slave owner? Isn’t that worth discussion? No: tear it down. Tear it all down. Baby out with the bathwater.
Tear down, too, those “inspiring works of art that honor God.” Churches have been desecrated in New York, Florida, Minnesota, California, Tennessee, Colorado, Missouri, and so on. In the heat of Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC, the historic Saint John’s Church was set on fire. Its bishop condemned President Trump.
We are not just tearing down our past, our culture is poisoning our present. “Temptation Island” has rebooted. The 2001 series that drew 16 million viewers puts attractive couples on an island to see if they will cheat on each other. Mainstream voyeurism given a second chance.
Another poplar American TV show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” is coming to an end after 15 years. We may become lost as Kim, Kourtney, and… the other one have become part of our day-to-day. At the height of the Russia hoax, more Americans were debating Kim Kardashian’s marble table than whether our president was an foreign operative.
Think about that. Are these the same people expecting Lincoln-Douglass? They don’t deserve it. The deserve WWE. And they got it.
Have these folks heard the lyrics to Cardi B’s song “WAP”? The song, which the Los Angeles Times called “delightfully raunchy,” was number one on the Billboard Charts and streamed 93 million times within the first week. Go ahead, read the lyrics if you dare, then embrace the offensive fact that the average teen knows them by heart. And that the singer of them endorsed Biden.
When Biden, the candidate who has said “the soul of our nation is at stake” in this election, decided to be interviewed by this vile chanteuse, he didn’t just try to speak to a new demographic. He legitimized Cardi B and her message, elevating it to the level of accepted, mainstream culture. That’s the culture Biden brought to the debate last night?
Our culture has turned so strange that leading figures over the past weekend attacked Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, not for her jurisprudence, but for adopting children from Haiti. This was a form of—you guessed it—racism. Or privilege. Or some other en vogue sin of which we are all somehow collectively guilty.
It’s the same upside-down thinking that justifies attacking people for the crime of eating dinner. It’s the same mob mentality where 100-plus days of “protest” in Portland didn’t prompt its mayor, Ted Wheeler, to restore order but flee.
The mob is winning. And the mob does not want Marquess of Queensbury rules. They want to burn it down. They are at least polite enough to admit it.
America got the debate it deserved last night because it reflected where America is: bickering, poking, prodding, attacking. Anyone feigning indignation at the tragedy of last night’s debate needs to ask if he or she has severed friendships over politics. I haven’t, but many have severed friendships with me. I saw them all on that stage last night, although I am sure today they wring their hands like church ladies.
A presidential debate where the sitting president is called “clown” and told to “just shut up, man”? Yeah, it’s bad. But it’s not as bad as beliefs about BLM, policing, or Obamacare ruining families and relationships. Trump-Biden was nothing compared to a Twitter feed.
Sure, I wish the debate were elevated in both content and rhetoric, but I’m not the slightest bit surprised at how it unfolded. The candidates were a reflection of us.
I’m angry. I’m tired of being lied about. I’m tired of baseless and vague accusations of “you’re a racist” and “you don’t care about people.” I think the other side is weak, riding the wave of the mob like Robespierre only to inevitably be destroyed by it. I think they have a nefarious, un-America agenda and they’ve sacrificed the truth and our culture to try to improve their chances at winning.
The Trump-Biden debate was us, and if you didn’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t blame President Trump or Vice President Biden. Blame America. Blame me. Blame yourself.