Since the whole world seems to be talking about the so-called debate last night between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I’ve got to say something too.
It is a bit of a relief to see that even the American media are calling it a disaster. One ‘man in the street’ said it was like watching two kindergarten kids squabbling in a sandbox.
No – if we were watching two boys in a sandbox, one of them was there trying to talk to the people assembled to listen. He, Joe Biden, did his best trying to explain what is wrong with the sandbox, how it got that way, and how it might be fixed. But no one could hear what he was saying because the other boy, a thug and bully, was shouting all the time. When it was the turn of the thug to speak, all he could put out was verbal abuse and lies. Astonishingly, this boy was the President of the United States.
Someone in the media said today that this was a demonstration of how far our society has declined.
How can you argue with that? The USA may be at the leading edge of the decline at the moment, but you can see it everywhere. In Canada we have many signs of it, and all over Europe right-wing anti-immigrant, anti-science, anti-democracy groups are gaining in political power.
In Mexico where I hitchhiked in 1968-’69 from Texas to Guatemala, and from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic, that journey is unthinkable now because for the past 2-3 decades the country has been in an increasingly brutal, though undeclared civil war.
Salman Rushdie has been arguing for some time that his homeland of India is sliding downward in the same way, and chronic wars haunt much of Africa and the Middle East. In Asia I want to think there is movement in the opposite direction, but that remains to be seen.
At least in the West, we should not forget that this decline in behavior has been accompanied by declining wages and standards of living, except for the exploding income of the rich.
To get back to the debate, I find it remarkable that in a time of increasingly adept technology – for example, the NFL (National Football League) in the USA are able to remove rain or snow from your TV screen, allowing an unimpeded, perfect view of the players in action no matter what the weather – it was not possible during the debate to turn off the microphone of someone speaking out of turn. Of course, 99% of the time, that was the President of the United States.
When at the end Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and militias, declaring smugly, “Proud Boys stand back, and stand by,” I think anyone who was in doubt should have understood where he is coming from. When Hitler came to power in 1933, it was the SS, his personal army numbering 52,000 at that point, that allowed him to convert his election win to the dictatorship that put an end to elections in Germany. We all know where that led.
My only grand-daughter, who just celebrated her 2nd birthday, is a citizen of the USA. How I hope that country is going to find its way back to being what it has, until recently, aspired to be, the leader of a modern civilization capable of caring for and restoring the planet that allows us all to exist.