Staring at an Eclipse: Only Way to Watch That “Debate” Was With Mute Button
Oh, Americans. Look at us. If we want anything resembling this shell of a democracy to continue, we have to pay attention. But paying attention to this man is like staring at the sun. Or staring at a solar eclipse without glasses protecting your eyes, as he himself did last August.
Perhaps someday we will be able to laugh at how the United (divided) States lasted four years with this 4th-grade bully in office. Perhaps. The equation goes: comedy equals tragedy plus time. We might need 30 years until we begin laughing.
The “debate” was nearly impossible to watch, which was not at all surprising. Knowing he’s facing an election loss, the bully resorted to ever more lies, punctuated by 128 interruptions, over 90 minutes, and continuously attempted to urinate on the potential of a democratic election with mail-in ballots, making ridiculous statements about the “fraud.”
According to Jeremy Stahl (poor Jeremy must’ve taken a handful of Xanax to accurately count the interruptions) at Slate,
Trump interrupted former Vice President Joe Biden or debate moderator Chris Wallace at least 128 times. This number dwarfed the 51 times Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate in 2016. For his part, Biden interrupted dozens of times — at various points either trying to get a word in edgewise or correct flat lies by the president — but his interruptions were no match for Trump’s.
Wallace’s efforts to control the debate were valiant, but ultimately futile. Trump interrupted both men during both questions and answers. He muttered snide remarks under his breath. He talked over the moderator and his opponent. And he just plain cut them off over and over again. Wallace asked the president at least 25 times to stop interrupting and obey the debate rules:
For his part, Joe Biden generally kept his cool. He couldn’t help but mutter “this clown” in reference to his opponent’s inability to stop talking over everyone. When “moderator” Chris Wallace pleaded again and again for Trump to let him ask a question, or to let Biden finish, Joe said what 65% of the viewing audience surely thought, “He doesn’t know how to do that.” No, Trump cannot listen. He can only say what immediately enters his mind.
Trump’s debate behavior was a microcosm of the last four years: unhinged, rule-breaking, norm-destroying, narcissistic and fundamentally insecure. A walking series of tweet-attacks.
We all get anxious and angry when nobody is in control. When nobody can speak, we stop being able to listen.
We are once again left with the problem of what happens when we tune out. If we ignore, turn it off, and avoid the toxic flow to save our sanity, we then ignore our potential next-president in Biden. Tuning out and inoculating ourselves leaves our fellow Americans out to dry. It’s happened repeatedly as the world becomes less safe and less certain. As our routines are broken up, we become more protective — which is why the “law and order” rhetoric and “cities on fire” hyperbole are his go-to talking points.
Self-preservation without group-preservation leaves us with little hope for unity in the aftermath of this pandemic and this election. Unity and compassion are possible, but buried underneath the rubble of these four years.
Biden must continue to speak to Americans directly — through a camera lens. Ignore the behavior of his opponent. Ignore the chaos machine. Maintain his belief in the process itself, despite all obstacles, ballots included. We so desperately need a calm and thoughtful leader. Joe did his job last night.