Well, here we are, America. How did we get here?
Remember that brash candidate that came out of nowhere to gain political momentum fueled by insulting commentary and wild – fake – accusations who went on to become president of the United States and subsequently attack the media and mock, but personally and professionally, those who pushed back?
The same guy who admitted how dangerous COVID-19 was back in February but publicly told Americans it was no big deal, the same guy who routinely attacks “the media,” the same guy who regularly contradicts the statements and recommendations made by his own administration’s experts, the same guy who, according to fact-checkers all over the world, has told the American public more than 20,000 lies.
You know him. That person.
So when you were sitting up in your seat Tuesday night, blaming moderator Chris Wallace for “not controlling the situation” or blindly blaming both candidates for the lack of decorum on display during the first presidential debate in Ohio, it can’t really be that difficult to understand how and why that happened.
He ran in 2016 as an outsider, claiming that he would “drain the swamp.” He was cocky and boastful, and he spoke directly to millions of “Americans” (quotes intended) who felt disenfranchised, persecuted for their personal futility and loss of societal relevance.
He made them feel powerful, free to express whatever hurtful opinion they had toward those that they were afraid of losing influence over. Preying on their narcissism, he filled their heads with dreams of riches and dominance.
He told them the reason they weren’t living the life of their dreams wasn’t their fault. It was someone else’s fault, someone imaginary and in the shadows, people who don’t exist and control everything.
And they bought it – of course they did – and why wouldn’t they?
Why wouldn’t an “American” who considers their very existence to be blessed with the miracle of liberty and freedom coursing through their veins, the entitlement to run roughshod over anyone in their way and the arrogance to overcome any obstacle believe that mysterious, fake figures were depriving them of their rightful spoils?
He preyed on their fears. Fear of the rich and varied cultures that have come to this continent for hundreds of years, and he pointed at them and called them dangerous. Unamerican. He projected his own fears, those of aging White “American” males who once lit up a room with their power and knowledge, but now find themselves fading into the background of societal relevance.
Those “Americans” who couldn’t relate to new ideas, adjust and adapt to new perspectives that didn’t involve them and this wannabe leader told him it was right to fight against it, mock and insult fellow Americans.
He told them that they needed weapons to protect themselves, or in case of a differing viewpoint entering the frame, to destroy it. He allowed them the ability to regain the perceived power that was stolen from them by weaponizing racism, bigotry and hiding behind religious beliefs as an excuse for the behavior.
He told them they were being patriotic in their threats, their harmful opinions and their spreading of misinformation. He celebrated their misdeeds by continuing to spend day after day mirroring the very same behavior.
This behavior is trickling down to locals. City council candidates spreading blatant lies and misinformation regarding this political party or that, running for their seats not on what they will do for the community they would represent, but their undying allegiance to the political deity they worship.
This poison is hitting home. They are flooding community pages on social media, waving flags and spewing hatred and intolerance at anyone who has differing views.
Is the atmosphere on Facebook any different from that we witnessed Tuesday night?
It’s time for Americans to take a long, hard look in the mirror and accept responsibility for a presidential debate that devolved into. I’m not blaming one side or the other. I believe when one person is allowed to embarrass what the United States of America stands for, we all share responsibility for allowing it to happen.
When one fails in his ability to lead, we can only blame the whole of us for putting him in the position to fail.
Own it, but it must be corrected.
We are better than this – enough is enough.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.