The Un-presidential Debate: My Morning After

Bullies should be no more tolerated in politics than in our workplaces, homes, and schools. The more powerful the perpetrator, the swifter the correction should be.

T
his morning I stumbled into my husband’s bedroom.
He took one look at my haggard face.
“Oh, honey. Did you…?”
“Yes.”
He folded me in his arms. “I’m so sorry. How awful.”
Yes, I watched the first presidential debate.
Afterward tossed and turned all night.
But lived to see another day.

My sister, who has high blood pressure, wasn’t so sure she would. She feared her head would explode.

The debate debacle was “the worst in living memory,” in the words of the Washington Post’s Dan Balz. “The reality TV star president knows one speed on a debate stage: to attack, to bully his opponent and to ignore the rules.”

Iknow this creature. I’ve met him before. Not in his incarnation as Bully in Chief, thank God, but in other, easily recognizable forms.

He’s the high school boyfriend who grinned when I flattered him but glowered and towered when I had an independent opinion.

He’s the boss who alternately praised his staff then, at his slightest displeasure, berated us into submission.

He’s the father who interrupted, negated, and gaslighted me and my four sisters. As he frankly admitted to us, he’d have preferred boys. That said, like the mythological Cronos devouring his children, he would have snacked on sons too.

“Were you proud of your father’s performance tonight?” CBS’s Gayle King put to Don Jr. during the post-mortem.

“I’m always proud of him,” chirped the dutiful son. He then called criticism of the 2017 neo-Nazi Charlottesville rally “a hoax” and blew past her question about Trump’s latest dog whistle to white supremacists: “Stand back and stand by.”

Stand by?

Trump is no aberration. The Thug in Chief is the logical, abominable product of late-stage patriarchy. He’s what’s left after greed and narcissism have consumed any kernel of original integrity. Trump and his ilk are husks of a dying system, sharp edged, dangerous at the moment, but ultimately insubstantial. May history compost them well.

Bullies should be no more tolerated on the presidential debate stage than in our workplaces, homes, and schools. The more powerful the perpetrator, the swifter the correction should be.

In future debates, each candidate should get two minutes to speak on the topic at hand. After that, the moderator should cut the mic and leave it off until the next round.

Easy peasy.

On or before November 3, vote. Vote as if your life depends on it. Vote as if your ancestors gave theirs for the right. Because if you go back far enough, down one branch of humanity’s family tree or another, they did.

After November 3, keep voting. Vote with your voice, your dollars, your actions, your heart, and your intentions for the world you and most living beings want to live in:

A world of mutual, uninterrupted respect.