Last night after working late into the night, I decided to skim through the Presidential debate to see what had been said. Let’s just say, I was appalled to see what had taken place. There was a complete lack of respect and decorum. Shouting, talking over, and lack of moderation. It was horrible to watch and listen to. As someone who has taken debate class, I can fully assure you that what happened last night was the antithesis of a debate.
But what did I really watch? What can I glean from such a conversation? What was really going on here?
On the stage we saw two white, over 50 males along with another white male “debating”. During the “debate”, I sometimes could not hear either candidate or the moderator as people constantly talked over each other. Well, mostly one person aka President Trump would disregard any debate etiquette and talk over candidate Biden and the moderator. This felt like an edgy SNL sketch from 2012 but in this case I was watching reality. This really was the first of three presidential debates. I was left disgusted, appalled, confused, angry and horrified.
We know that this is not how presidential debates are supposed to run. We know that candidates are allowed some name calling. But last night was completely different. Because of this stark contrast, it is important for me to outline what I learned from such a showcase.
First, I learned that President Trump is not interested in debate. He is interested in disrupting and defining his own time and space. He is interested in using ad hominem to try to prove his point. Give me ONE example of Trump using real logic to talk about an issue (I’ll wait). Trump is interested in engaging in disruptive behavior that does not allow opposition to speak. When directly asked to condemn white supremacy, he is willing to declare a rally cry instead. His character was on full display and I can conclude that Trump is a self centered, power hungry, melomaniac that has no real regard for truth, justice or general human decency.
Secondly, I learned that candidate Biden is interested in speaking to the “American” people. Quite a few times during the debate, Biden broke the fourth wall to speak directly to the camera. Trying to appeal to those sorry watchers at home. He tried very hard to stay on point but was ultimately egged into joining the madness. There were many moments where Biden was flustered, at a loss for words and downright angry. He answered the moderators questions but was prone to try and speak over Trump. Biden used ad hominem as well while talking about policy. In many respects, those comments fell flat against Trump’s barrage of comments. Biden did not speak to certain policies as much as would have liked. He did not define certain key issues around immigration and climate change which I would have liked to hear more about. I can conclude that Biden is interested in appealing to the general “american” people and making sure people rally behind their dislike of Trump to vote for him. (which at this point might be just what gets him into office)
Golly, what was that “DEBATE” though!? What do I want my president of my country to say and do? How do I want the leader of my country to act on camera? How do I want my leader to act behind closed doors?
When thinking about an ideal leader, I always think about how the Bible informs my perspective. I believe that as a Christian, it is important for me to understand leadership and government from Jesus’ words. I understand there is an alternative debate about the validity of faith and scripture. I am not going to address that here since these are my personal understandings and beliefs. In the Bible, we see various examples of good and bad leadership. There are kings that do it right, there are oppressive ones that do it wrong. But when I look at the New testament, I believe that Jesus’ nature and character are the examples of good leadership. In the christian faith we announce that “Jesus is King” but what do we mean when we say this? Let us take a closer look at Jesus’ actions to understand the answer. During his life, Jesus was a teacher, radically kind to women and outsiders, speaking and addressing poor people and sick people. He spoke about how you are to “love your neighbor as yourself” and “take up the cross and follow me”. He was humble in his teaching and willing to go the extra mile to help those in need. His words and his teachings speak of “turning the other cheek” and doing things “for the least of these”. The one case we see Jesus getting angry is when he walks into the temple (considered a holy and sacred space) to find merchants taking advantage of the easy access to the outsiders wanting to sacrifice at the temple. In general, Jesus preaches love, peace and a new reality where you do not have to be defined by your past but instead “you can live in light of the cross”. Therefore from the New Testament, I can gather that Jesus as a king would be humble, kind, generous, willing to listen, willing to defend the weak, and bring justice to the outcasts of society.
This definition of leadership is my foundation as I try to lead others and as I look to others to lead me. I believe that a leader who showcases these attributes will help achieve a society that allows all people to thrive.
You might be asking, well what does this have to do with POLITICS? Don’t you care about public policy?
My answer is yes. I do care about public policy but I also care about my leaders’ character. The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is completely true and is important to consider when picking a leader. Quality of character does matter when speaking about politics. In the most recent debate, I believe that the candidates’ characters were on clear display. Here we can see that our current President does not reflect any of the leadership qualities described above. Instead he seems to display many attitudes that are opposite to them.
So how should I vote? Should I stick my nose to the ground and vote on policy only? I would argue no. There are many things to hate about Trump but something that I find personally disgusting is his complete lack of empathy and ability to showcase kindness or generosity. This lack of dignity does affect my vote. It does affect my thoughts about the party he represents. It does affect my thoughts about people who vote for him.
I become angry when people defend the President’s actions. As though they are living in alternate reality where a leader is allowed to do anything and everything to get their agenda across. For me, it is very obvious that the current leadership is only interested in maintaining and furthering the power they hold.
After all that has been said, after everything that I have written, I would like to say I am glad we got to see the candidates debate. That display of utter chaos feels like the perfect representation of everything happening globally. Maybe then people will see the utter madness that Trump represents. Maybe then young people will feel inspired to become better leaders. Maybe we can start addressing real issues and topics in the next debate (which I foresee as being very unlikely) But I can hope right? I can hope for the change that I want to see in the world. I can try each day to showcase my personal definition of leadership. Then generations from now, I will see the impact of the choices I made.
Black Lives Matter.