In Trump, I see America fading away

To actually call on truth, experience, compassion, facts, and wisdom in order to create a thoughtful productive response takes time. And in the recent debate with the president, that's what Biden took - or tried to take.

WILLIAMSVILLE — The first presidential debate brings to mind the famous quote from Macbeth: “It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/signifying nothing.”

Thus it was with President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. But to call the debate a “shit show,” as many in the media have, implies that Biden equally shared with Trump the role in making it so.

That obscures what really went down.

The way one can well understand the debate is to observe the behavior of an attack dog and its victim. From the moment he was first unleashed, the president set his jaw, waited for Biden to begin a response, and then charged repeatedly like a pit bull. (I have witnessed such.) He'd set his teeth and rant, manically aimed at taking Biden down.

But that didn't happen.

* * *

The following morning's Boston Globe summed up that the debate yielded two realizations. “Former vice president Joe Biden is actually quite old and President Trump isn't presidential.

Regarding the first takeaway: Face it - they're all old! Yet at 74, the president seems more of a risk than his opponent, 77, given Trump's disregard of decorum and his inclination to become terrifically and obsessively unhinged. The president is what we fear as we age: becoming seemingly senile.

Regarding the second, that Trump was not being presidential: Is this news?

It's widely known that Joe Biden has struggled as a stutterer and that that stuttering has naturally had an impact on his public speaking.

Big deal. I believe I saw a man who is resolute, compassionate, and honest even if he struggled some to get there. And, despite tanned, coiffed Trump's relentlessly aiming attacks to throw his opponent off base, Biden didn't buckle.

I come to this election not as a Biden supporter but as a with-Bernie-for-Biden supporter. Even so, beyond the chaos, I could see Biden as a strong, durable, resilient man, a compassionate man concerned about me - about us all.

In Trump, I saw one who dodges the opportunity to condemn white supremacists and one who can't get behind mask-wearing in these sad COVID-19 times. In him, I see a man concerned only about himself and his circle.

In him, I see America fading away.

* * *

My partner reports a time early in his life when he was not good to his first wife. Far less evolved than than he is now, with decades of Buddhist practice under his belt, he would find himself in an argument with no ground to stand on. Instead of facing facts, he'd throw distortion into the mix with the determination to win.

Sounds familiar.

It's easy to toss out lies and vitriol, to tweet horrific incitements to chaos and violence based all on sound and fury, signifying nothing. That stuff comes from a primal gut, not from intelligence.

Our public schools are trying to address bullying in its many manifestations, but how can we progress under such a model? Of course, it can be said that Mr. Biden contributed to the chaos, as did moderator Chris Wallace, but as a child would say of the incumbent, “He started it.” And he - Trump - didn't relent.

As a retired teacher who's witnessed the full gamut in classroom debates, I know that to actually call on truth, experience, compassion, facts, and wisdom in order to create a thoughtful productive response takes time.

And that's what Biden took. Or what he tried to take.

* * *

I do hope the Trumps recover well and quickly from COVID-19, and I wonder if then the hardly presidential Trump might wake some day, look in the mirror, and reflect as Macbeth did when told by witches that he, unqualified, would be king.

“Why do you dress me in borrow'd robes?” Indeed, in the end - after a chain of unthinkably violent acts - Macbeth was dubbed “a king of shreds and patches” by his sane adversaries who succeeded in ending his reign of terror.

A king of shreds and patches.

* * *

If humbly I could close with a call to action, it would be this: Vote. And be sure your vote is counted.

We have so much to lose here: virus management and abatement, climate change amelioration, civil rights, health care for all, reproductive rights, gay rights, truth, dignity, sanity, and more.

If we believe this all is too much to lose, then let us not be complacent.

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