I am both a listener and talker by nature. My mother used to say that I began speaking at six months and never stopped. She and my dad also modeled being quiet and listening to the occasional flood emotions that would come pouring forth from my expressive mind. In addition, they were clear that honesty and integrity were important values. Lying was unacceptable in our home because trust was an essential nutrient.
Perhaps those are some of the reasons that this election season is so painful for me to watch but watch I do with an intensity that surprises me since I know that taking a news fast is essential to maintain my sanity. I spend my days immersed in emotion soup with clients who are already predisposed to anxiety and depression which are exacerbated by world events. They are all over the political spectrum and for different reasons fear the results of the election. After work, I write a personal prescription for the healing balm of M*A*S*H re-runs, a show that my father and I would enjoy together. Its anti-war theme is evident and its humor bolsters me when I feel a sense of despair. Once that is off, I turn to Anderson Cooper, Joshua Johnson, and Rachel Maddow for their commentary on the state of the world. Automatically that cast of characters labels me a Liberal. I’ve attempted in vain to watch Fox News but find my stomach churning at the rhetoric shared there.
Through the Looking Glass
As if gazing into that political looking glass, I am certain that there are people on the other side who view my perspective as distasteful and untenable as I do theirs. Are our brains wired differently? Perhaps. Do we all live in an echo chamber where there is confirmation bias? Absolutely!
The VP debate was a perfect opportunity to witness that dichotomy. As expected, Kamala Harris was in prosecutor mode as the current administration’s policies and actions were on trial. Also, as expected, Mike Pence was prepared to tapdance around the truth much of the time, doing his level best to use his communication skills while maintaining a sense of calm that his boss failed to accomplish a week earlier. Although he didn’t rant and rave, he did interrupt, over talk and exceed his allocated time. My favorite line from the evening was, “I’m speaking,” when he was not willingly re-directed by the moderator. It was parallel to Joe Biden’s defining line from the presidential debates, “Shut up, man!” when Donald Trump bulldozed and bullied his way through the evening.
Both lines are t-shirt and bumper sticker worthy. The difference between the two is that the feedback given to Biden was not the same as that given to Harris. Hers was referred to by someone on my Facebook page as arrogant and condescending as were the smiling, eye-rolling gazes she cast Pence’s way. This came from a woman! I think someone would have to be a Zen Master to stay serene in the midst. Even watching from my living room, I ranted at him to shut up, channeling my grandmother who used to yell at the characters on her soap operas. Neither the Pres. nor Vice Pres. listened to me and continued to mock the process and break their agreements to follow the established rules.
A Delicate Dilemma
Kamala found herself in a delicate dilemma as she needed to be assertive but not deemed aggressive, passionate but not considered overzealous, intelligent but not seen as condescending. Would a male candidate need to walk that tightrope?
After the debate, I wrote this ‘review’.
I am constantly astounded at how people can see the same event and have totally disparate reactions. I am referring to last night’s debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. Some saw a condescending, arrogant, aggressive shrew on the attack and others saw a competent, assertive, professional woman who stood her ground when the other person was over talking and tap dancing around answers, I’m glad that they were seated at a distance with plexiglass between them so there would be no height differential.
We may agree that both are skilled communicators. We may agree that the moderator was in over her head. Is there some rule that says a moderator can’t simply say, STOP, your time is up or cut the mic? Susan Page weakly reminded Pence that he should yield the floor after his time was up.
The debate didn’t change many minds about their vote. It still amazes me that folks who might consider themselves kind, caring, egalitarian, and compassionate can support an administration that is not. I am still blown away that people who are single-issue voters, believing that the economy is better than it was four years ago aren’t seeing the impact the mishandling of the virus has on everyone’s wallet. The belief that he is pro-life is misdirected. He is anti-abortion and reluctantly pro-birth because he thinks it will yield more support. If he was truly pro-life, he would be concerned about ALL children and their health, safety, and future regardless of country of origin, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. He wouldn’t act the part of a theocrat; the man worships at the altar of his own ego.
My prayer is that sanity, safety, and peace will prevail. It isn’t about agreeing to disagree. The stakes are too high for that.
With those two simple but profound words, “I’m speaking,” Kamala Harris granted permission for every girl or woman who has ever been silenced, to finally be heard.
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