Presidential Debates: Like Blood on the Ice

I used to love the fights in hockey.

I remember one particularly nasty one in the 1980s, when a Detroit Red Wing (probably Probert) duked it out with a menacing opponent and the fans rose to our feet to cheer him on, our fists in the air as fists flung on the ice. Gloves flew off. Sticks down. Their skates taking them in speedy circles around each other as their teammates and the refs closed in, waiting, trying to pull them apart.

One guy took a particularly good punch and blood started to flow, to mingle with the sweat, and to drip onto the ice, where it froze, embedded in the sea of white as if it were meant to be there, an offsides or icing line not to cross.

Then, I loved it. And then Mitch Albom wrote a column about how loving the fights takes away our humanity. And I started to think about why I was cheering on brutality. Hockey fights have never been the same for me since.

When I had children, I became even less able to tolerate violence – be it in movies or hockey. As I’ve aged, and become more philosophical, more schooled in the laws of karma, I can’t tolerate viciousness of any kind.

This is the first year I’ve really watched the presidential debates, and I’m sad about what I see. I love our President and believe he is a man well-suited for the very difficult job before him. And I believe he is far too intellectual to sling mud.

Except that the nature of our presidential debates demands that to “win,” one must sling and sling hard. They come on stage, hug each other, give a back-pat and smile as if they are friends – and maybe they are, you never know with politicians – and then lob insults and accusations at one another for the better part of two hours.

While the American public cheers them on and lobbies comments about which candidate “won.”

Why do we engage in this? Why do we encourage it? President Obama is that rare politician with class and grace and it just doesn’t seem to be his nature to get into mean-spirited arguments. But in order to win in our eyes, he has to muster a sense of meanness and put it on stage for the American public to see.

This makes him a better leader?

Think about what we are asking of our presidents. They must lead the most powerful country in the world. They are expected to wipe out debt (although American taxpayers can’t seem to do it in their own lives). They are expected to fight all terrorists, everywhere. They are supposed to create new jobs for people who are not skilled enough to switch industries. They are supposed to change the way the economy goes even though it has taken decades to build the chaos that we have today.

One person cannot possibly do any of this.

And then, while running the country, one must devote three nights to taking potshots at his opponent, rather than presenting himself as dignified, intelligent and well-thought-out. 

This is no way to win an election, let alone become the leader of the free world. How many Americans are savvy or patient enough to find out what was real among the rhetoric? To fact-check statements and see whether anything behind the slinging was accurate?

This is entertainment, people! We live in an era of reality TV and while I know the presidential debates are not a new phenomenon, the way we love to watch them take each other down and assume that this means they are suited for the position, well, I’m sorry but it doesn’t make sense to me.

I no longer like to see the blood freeze into the ice as if it is part of the landscape. I cringe when someone takes an unnecessary punch. The only reason to hit another human being, physically or emotionally, is because you feel threatened and your instinct to protect yourself flares up.

It’s no way to determine who should reside in the Oval Office.

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