Brian and I were watching TV news last night. Being of the ultra-liberal-commie-pinko persuasion, we typically get our news from fringe organizations like the New York Times and NPR, but for some reason, we let it play.
There was a story about yet another suicide by a teen who had been mercilessly bullied at school. Another child, gone from the world. Everything he was and would be, extinguished. Another family, not just crushed but ground into a fine powder, sentenced to a lifetime of pain. I pray that they will eventually recover, but I know from my own family’s experience that the reverberations of a suicide go on and on and on.
When the suicide story was finished, the campaign ads began. Where, I wonder, did our children learn to treat each other so badly, to allow their disdain and contempt to dictate their behavior? Who taught them expressing disgust with another person’s (insert any damn thing here) is OK to do?
The two candidates for governor in New Mexico are Susana Martinez (R) and Diane Denish (D). One of Denish’s top aids was recorded during a private conversation saying that “Susana es una tejana” (“Susana is a Texan.”). Bad enough, right? Then the Martinez camp comes out and plays that recording over and over and over and calls it race baiting (First I’ve heard of a race of Texans; someone please tell me what I’m missing.).
Those two have gone back and forth like that for months now. It’s been so bad that a local news anchor, who moderated their second debate, gave the pair a scolding for wasting voter’s time with bickering during the first debate and admonished them to do better.
They made it exactly 6 minutes during which each candidate delivered her opening statement before the bickering commenced.
Jon Barela, Republican candidate for New Mexico’s first congressional district seat, runs some of the most acutely disdainful ads. He’s running against Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich and Barela cites Heinrich’s record of voting with Nancy Pelosi as if he’s claiming that Heinrich is aligned with Satan himself.
On it goes – disdain dripping down our TV screens, stinking like roofing tar and sticking in everything.
Where, oh where, did our children learn to treat each other so poorly? Who taught them to call names? Who told them that public discourse is about destroying all the people with whom we disagree? Where did they learn that playing dirty is just the way we play?
Gosh, it’s a puzzle.
I want to know: where are the grown-ups? Who are the adults?
There is no boat full of rescuers coming to take us home. The signal fire has gone out; the pig’s head is on the stick and the beast is unappeased. We keep following Jack and chasing Ralph into exile.*
Our children are dying, in part, because we have not taught them that it isn’t OK to act like assholes. That’s a hard lesson to teach when they’re witnessing so much asshole behavior.
When did we forget how to disagree? There have always been nasty ads; politics was always a dirty business, but this election cycle has been the worst I’ve ever witnessed.
When will we learn that vilifying the “other” hurts all of us?
Our kids are the canaries in our cultural coal mine and we are failing them.
I’ll go vote on November 2. That is my right and my privilege as a US citizen and I will not remove myself from the process of governing my nation. Before I leave the house, though, I’ll make sure I have plenty of breath mints in my purse because I’ll be voting with a very bad taste in my mouth.
Here’s my call to action: let’s contact the candidates’ campaign offices, not about their platforms but about their ads. Don’t worry about their party or for whom you plan to vote. This isn’t about politics; this is about the hateful words and images in which our candidates have immersed us for months.
There is no rescue boat coming.
Edited to add: Of course, this is in no way limited to campaigning political candidates. Here’s a little adult bullying, courtesy of Maura Kelly via Marie Claire Magazine: Should “Fatties” Get a Room?