Sunday, February 21, 2016

50. The Death of Grace

As I sit here at the kitchen table, surrounded by newspapers analyzing the results of last night’s round of caucuses and separated from the caustic, emotional upheaval that accompanies any political event, I am depressed. The elegance and grace of the American political process has evaporated.

The leading presidential candidate on the Republican side chided a sitting president for not attending the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice, wondering if he would have attended had it been in a mosque.

Why is this necessary? Why does he feel he needs to get that extra little punch in there to stir up resentment, fear, anger at something that affects almost no one? Does it really matter that Obama didn’t go to Scalia’s funeral? He went to his wake, and Vice-President Biden went to the funeral. I don’t know the rules of funeral etiquette for members of the federal level, but I’m sure I’ll go on with my day.

Pope Francis told reporters the other day, in response to a question about Trump, a “person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he says things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

Trump, of course, had to punch back. Why does he need to fire back at the Pope? Keep in mind that Pope Francis did not invoke Trump by name, nor did he call him not a Christian. Yet, Trump had to respond with punches of his own.

This is sad. I’m just exhausted and worked up from thinking about this post. To go back to my original thought about this, but is all this finger pointing, blame, and piss and vinegar really good for our democracy. I’m all for rigorous debate of the issues. It’s what made our country great. But all this just seems childish. It feels like a middle school playground and not a democratic process that is supposed to be the envy of the free world.

I keep thinking about the saying that a former teacher told me: when you stop thinking everyone who disagrees with you, hates you, things get a lot easier. Why can’t we all just think that way and hash out this election without the hate?

Yet, we have to play the political game like that is the case. There is no room for respectful debate. It is us vs. them. It is a zero-sum game. Compromise is for losers. You need to have the last word, or you’re a loser. It’s disgusting.

I am not a cynic. I am not a pessimist. I am not an angry voter. But as I watched Donald Trump’s victory speech in South Carolina, something sank in my heart.

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