The Minerva Quest is proud to release its first opinion piece. It offers a personal experience from last month’s First Presidential Debate. As we’re getting ready to watch the two candidates square up for the next one, read through the horrors one of your fellow students went through during their first encounter.
It’s a normal Monday: first month of college, assignments due tomorrow. We’ve all been there. Mondays. However, I was excited about this one. In the early evening, most of Minerva’s Class of 2020 gathered on the SF residence hall’s fourth floor to watch one of the most anticipated events of the United States political year: the first presidential debate. To me, it was a disaster.
I am German. I have been brought up in a culture where facts stand above anything. Seriousness, responsibility, problem solving are paramount in German society. As a kid, I’d have to reason and argue to convince my brother that I should get shotgun for a ride to tennis; granted, with pre-teens, that argument doesn’t always stay factual. But with candidates for the most powerful post in the world, under the eyes of more than one hundred million people, I would expect better than a pre-teen argument loosely based on facts.
Not in 2016, and not in the United States of America.
As of the debate tonight, I have been living in the U.S. for exactly one month. I am passionate about politics and current affairs. I’ve followed the election cycle for more than a year. Still, my expectations were utter underestimations. The 90 minutes of debate were pure entertainment with sad bits and pieces of my traditional definition of political discourse. The only part missing was the fake background laughter from popular TV shows. Dreadful.
I watched from one of the front seats as the crowd behind me took the role of a sitcom audience, exclaiming “Boos!”and impressed “Ooouuuhhs!” when one opponent (usually Hillary) bashed the other. I glanced back at the crowd and noticed how as time went on the faces grew more and more confused; stares of disbelief mixed with the sad expressions of ashamed US citizens. If the debate had not been so shockingly entertaining in and of itself, these observations would’ve made a good show, too.
Trump may be more responsible for the crowd’s reaction than Hillary. Yet what disturbed me most was how both played around on stage. Their direct attacks, and often their facial expressions, did not convey the impression of serious candidates. They were toying with each other in attempting to persuade a polarized country to buy their stance: “Vote for me”. One can only hope that whoever wins won’t toy with the country itself.
I’m now not so sure what to think of the next debate. I might watch it with the same anticipation as I would have for 90 minutes of a popular new horror movie: scary voices, not much depth, but good entertainment. How about ‘fact-chain trumps blame-game’ next time?
Background: I began my first year as a student at Minerva Schools at KGI in September 2016. This piece is my response to the first U.S. presidential debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump which took place on September 26, 2016 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, United States. The next debate response piece will be published after the second U.S. presidential debate which takes place on October 09, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. “Like” the Minerva Quest on FB to be notified of additions to this series.