My mama always taught me that there were two things we ought never to talk about, and those are religion and politics. As is true of so many things she taught me, she was right about that. I’ve pondered over the years as to why this is true, and here’s what I’ve come up with: religion and politics are both things about which we Americans are very passionate. That’s a good thing, by the way.
We in this country are currently in a dead heat with respect to politics. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the voters of this country will choose who will lead us through the next four (and likely, eight) years. I can’t remember a time during which the two candidates were so diametrically opposed – and so alike, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The Democratic candidate and the (sort of) Republican candidate are as different as Up and Down. Black and White. Right and Wrong. It just stands to reason then, that whomever we support, we support completely and zealously. It also stands to reason then, that when someone disagrees with us, sense and decorum go right out the window.
The second presidential candidate debate was held earlier this week. I swore that I would not watch it, as I am no different from most other folks. I am passionate about this country and the situation in which we find ourselves with respect to economics, foreign policy, terrorism, and the like. I am so passionate, in fact, that I am embarrassed by the things I say - and the way I say them. The fact that I’m saying these things to a television set is just as embarrassing.
My husband watched the debate. I started to, but about two or three minutes into it, I lost my cool. This time I really out did myself, including hand gestures to go with my comments. Inexcusable but fortunately, I caught myself. In shame, I kissed my husband on the cheek, then went outside to water the flowers and calm down.
The word “frustrating” doesn’t come anywhere near what I feel when political candidates debate one another. They do so with what I’ve come to call “politi-speak.” No matter where a politician falls on the spectrum of ideology, you can bet your bottom dollar that he can speak this language. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
If someone were to ask me how I could explain some vulgar comments that I made and that were caught on tape, my face would turn red. I’d probably stammer. I might even bluster a bit at first, but I promise you that, in two minutes or less, I’d apologize for the transgression. Or if someone were to ask me how I would explain the erasing of some 33,000 sensitive e-mails, I’d probably do the same things. In other words, I’d answer the question asked of me.
A politician, on the other hand, will pull on an insincere smirk and launch into a soliloquy about how wonderful he or she is, then neatly sew up the last point (in two minutes or less) by pointing a finger at the opponent. Questions never receive direct answers. Mistakes are not acknowledged willingly, and if the candidate is caught in a lie, the answer is to say that the lie is not nearly as bad as what the other candidate did, then lied. It’s terribly frustrating, and last night as I watered the flowers out back, the reason for my frustration came to me. It was as clear as day (or as clear as night, depending on which candidate you back).
The behavior of a politician during a debate is the mirror image of a two-year-old child’s behavior when she’s busted. When you ask a two-year-old why her hand is in the cookie jar, she looks at you with the sweetest smile on her little crumb-covered face and says, “I was getting you a cookie, Mommy.” There. A lie. A lie to cover the truth. A lie to keep from having to face consequences. And when you tell a child that he is not to have cookies before dinner, then pry a handful of crumbs from his pudgy little fist as you try to clean them, he morphs from a sweet little crumb-y cherub into a snarling, gnashing stranger.
And for those parents who tried time-outs with a two-year-old, remember this tactic? Getting the last word, even if it’s under his breath? If you DVR’ed the debate earlier this week, watch it again – just a minute or two, and you don’t even have to have the volume turned up. Just watch it, and see if you aren’t reminded of your child, no matter how long ago you navigated the terrible twos.
Politicians have high-priced handlers who coach them on tactical debating, smoke and mirrors, and deflection. The higher the office, the higher the stakes, and the more expensive the handlers. That’s why we rarely see an “average Joe” running for the presidency. He can’t afford it and more than likely, he’s too honest. Sadly, the spoils often go to the candidate who’s better at playing the game, and isn’t the game what we need to change?
The difference, of course, is that we worked to teach our precious toddlers that those behaviors are inappropriate – unless they grow up to be politicians. In that case, those same behaviors can be, quite literally, priceless.
It all seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? I guess it’s even sillier that we at home sometimes mimic the horrid behavior we see on TV when we talk to our friends, co-workers, neighbors or complete strangers on social media. We argue, bicker, offend, get offended and always, always get the last word.
I guess it makes more sense to just vote, and leave it at that.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was published April 2016. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her other three books are MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA & EXHAUST; RED LIPSTICK & CLEAN UNDERWEAR; and SOUTHERN FRIED WHITE TRASH. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, children and the family. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.