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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Seventeen landed in the cuckoo's nest

The internet and news media are all abuzz about who won and who lost the first Republican primary alleged debate.  There was one huge loser:  America.

Some watched the performances because they fit their concept of politics.  Others watched because the performances were entertaining.  There is sheer hopelessness among those who think the kind of middle school insult and abuse exchanged between candidates has anything to do with the actual challenges America faces.  And for those watching as entertainment, there is not much more hope.  They recall a comment made by the city editor from my newspaper days.

Every year, a state mental institution. held an open house so that the public could observe how the patients were treated and were faring.  And every year the press was asked to cover the event, although no photographs or verbal identifications of the patients were permitted.  The young reporter who was assigned by my paper to cover the event was presumed to get quotes from a few visitors and write up some nice observations on how healthy and happy the patients seemed.  Most of the employees who directly cared for the patients were African American women, and they had made comments and complaints about the open house to the pastor of a church many of them attended that the patients were made a spectacle of.   The reporter was one of those who did not like writing up puffery, but tried to  dig out information about what was really going on.  She made inquiries and found out about how the employees regarded the open house.  She and the photographer assigned  to cover the event worked out a deal.  When they got there they found, as they had been warned,  that many people at the open house chortled and made fun of the behavior of some of the patients.  It was the disrespect and  ridicule directed at the patients that their caregivers had objected to.  The photographer took photographs of some visitors and the reporter got some quotations about how nice the event was, but she also recorded in her notes some instances of where the patients were made the objects of ridicule and denigration.

The next morning during the daily 6:45 a.m. editorial meeting, the reporter's story dominated the discussion.  Some editors thought it might be too inflammatory and enrage the community against the newspaper.  The city editor said, "Our job is to report what actually happens.  And what kind of people take a Sunday afternoon to go make fun of the feeble minded?"  The story ran, covering the nice aspects of the event, but reporting on the instances, without names, in which patients were held up to  ridicule.  The hospital superintendent had no idea that the patients were being subjected to ridicule, and that was the last open house at that hospital.

So  what kind of people wiil spend a Thursday night chortling over the derangements of politicians who are devoted to misanthropy?  There were some questions posed that got at issues, but very few produced responses that were more than pretexts for the performers ito launch personal insults and abuse, often at each other.  

Then, of course, there is Donald Trump who used the occasion to boost his campaign for king of human abomination.  Trump says and does everything that illustrates a debased  character, a malevolent personality, and the mentality of a grade school bully. There are those who watch him and report on him because it amuses them and gives them a sense of superiority to watch a wealthy man writhe spastically in grotesque seizures of dementia.  But  there are those who support him and have put him in the lead of the GOP dog pack.  

Who are they and what do they see in Trump?  A New Hampshire newspaper publisher saidTrump’s base is more the people who used to have season tickets to the Roman Colosseum.  Not sure that they vote in great numbers, but they like blood sport.”  That view of his base is supported by a former contestant on his television show who says his base is of that mentality that dotes on reality television.

Trump does inspire humor

The phony debate and its aftermath is more significant for what it says about us than it is the candidates.  The fact that we look and listen to them indicates how much the reality television mentality has infected our culture.  Some are so stupid and malevolent that they believe in the many falsehoods designed to stir up hatred, fear, and rage.  Others watch because they like to see people reduce themselves to infantile rages and humiliate each other.  

The GOP slate bases their campaign on the juvenile personal attacks on others and incident the rage among those weak minded enough to believe.  The fact that Obama's place of birth is still questioned, the contention that his recommendation for sane gun laws is a scheme to take all guns away from people,  that he is a Muslim in cahoots with extremist are all semitones of a massive failure of intellect within the American people.  

Some GOP candidates try to make the issue that Obama has divided the country.  The country is divided over Obama, but the cause is something that comes from the people, not him.  As people of color and women have made progress in moving up into positions  of prestige and authority once  reserved for white males,  there have always been those who disintegrate into a resentful rage when women or  people of color are put in positions of authority over them.  This rage takes the form of making false and slanderous accusations against the person, and attempts to undermine and sabotage anything the object of their resentment attempts to do.  From the day Obama took office, his opponents have vowed to obstruct and impede him and to remove him from authority.  It's the old story of racial hatred and resentment operating under the guise of political difference.

Obama's presidency has been unbearable to the racist contingent, and racial hatred which has festered in American society since the civil rights movement has bubbled up to the surface   We now confront Obama hatred as a racial matter and the killing and imprisoning of black people by the police and our justice system as evidence of racial hatred that has never gone away.  

The spectacle of 17 adults gathered in front of national television casting juvenile insult land abuse and Donald Trump performing as the quintessential asshole is America seeing itself.  In an article that lists arguments advanced for supporting Trump,  one is that he is not the president America needs, but the president America deserves.  The kind of people and the campaign tactics of personal insult, abuse, and destruction are America getting what it is asking for.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States