Ah, another week of the media drowning the airwaves with the noise of distraction. Another week of the media appealing to our baser natures.
If the noise is loud enough, you can’t hear the music. Or the words. And there has been a lot of noise lately, blared by mainstream news, so that the all too urgent crises we face today have been silenced or ignored. The noise has added to a general confusion and querulous wonder that we as an electorate have stooped so low as to welcome the mudslinging and muckraking.
When I see muck raked from the past with the purpose of clouding our election process, intended to distort and confuse our present, I grow suspicious. Who exactly reported that bit from twenty years ago, ten years ago? And why? Distortion and confusion is a tool of those who desire to, well, distort and confuse, i.e., to lie about the present. Muck raked from the past can be appropriate at times, but must be of the illegal kind of muck, public not personal, to add real clarity to the present. It must, to be legitimate to our national conversation, have harmed the body politic, have done grievous injustice to our citizenry, to have actually broken our law.
And so, cover-ups and lying and private servers are legitimate muck to be raked, mud to be slung. Locker room banter, taped privately, is not pertinent to our national debate. Do we know the difference, and do we care?
We should care. Again and again, this election comes down to one basic issue: the rule of law. Mr. Trump was indeed smart to not pay taxes that he didn’t owe, to have worked within the law to achieve his goals. He might do the same in Washington, for us as a nation. Legally.
His opponent doesn’t care about the rule of law. She pretty much does as she wishes, being royal and privileged that way. Her courtiers sling the mud for her. They rake the muck that will make all of us forget she is prone to acting above the law that we have all agreed should be meted out on an equal basis to every citizen regardless.
And so we have another debate tonight. I’m gearing up to see with open eyes, to evaluate what is important and what is not. For it seems likely we shall see more diversion, more raking and slinging. Mr. Trump might feel he must fight at her level, since that is where she is. He was restrained last time, but will he be tonight? The Clintons have such a rich reservoir of mud and muck. What’s a candidate to do when faced with such a temptation?
The Vice-Presidential debate this past week encouraged my faith in the democratic process. I didn’t know Mr. Pence or Mr. Kaine. What image would they project? Would they appear presidential? Would they discuss the issues civilly and not interrupt one another?
Their performances varied greatly in spite of the fact they were both “politicians.” Mr. Pence owned a presence any president would covet. Mr. Kaine ranted and wisecracked and bullied, interrupting the composed answers of Mr. Pence. While they were both “Washington insiders,” Mr. Kaine spewed talking points and jargon, with rolling eyes and a sneering arrogance, while Mr. Pence gave thoughtful answers to the questions at hand, often pivoting to substance and eyeing the American people directly. Mr. Pence was the sound of music in a public square of noise. And should Mr. Trump win, Mr. Pence will be a heartbeat away, his life support. Should Mrs. Clinton win, Mr. Kaine will be a heartbeat away, her life support.
I have been editing a book of sermons and addresses given by the late Archbishop Robert Sherwood Morse, and yesterday I revisited his 1977 landmark speech in St. Louis, “The Long March into the Desert.” What he said then has come true:
“The major thrust of the Spirit of the Age is against the essential mysteries of Christ – the family and sacramental marriage. The demonic in history are those blind forces which would impersonalize life – eroding those interpersonal commitments that make civilization possible. Without the priority of the family – no nation, church or society can survive. The crisis of our Western culture is theological. For the primary problem of our time is the attack upon the family.”
His words made me think of Mr. Pence and Monday’s debate. When Mr. Pence explained that he thought all human life sacred, he spoke eloquently, touchingly. He was brave to wear the Pro-Life banner, a stigma and anathema to Mrs. Clinton and her friends. And he spoke directly to all of us watching, to Americans who may not care anymore about the family, marriage, and children.
The next president will have the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court that will either revive the family or oversee its burial. He or she will have the power to uphold the rule of law or not, equally or unequally. The next president will choose to either build our defenses and strengthen world peace or weaken our defenses and welcome those who desire to conquer us, be they political or religious tyrants.
In the end, and we may be nearing the end of the great saga of America, this election will either ensure the death of democracy or breathe freedom into its embers.
The noise is rising, the static is nearly unbearable. Can we hear the words of liberty, the song of America? Can we rise once again, a phoenix from the ashes? Can we ignore the noise and silence the static?
I’m tuning in tonight for the Presidential debate (9 p.m. Eastern). It will be difficult, but I’m going to watch and listen for what they are really saying about the issues, if anything at all. The rest – the mudslinging and the noise – I’m going to expect, but try to ignore. There’s way too much at stake to see this as entertainment. This is our nation’s survival and our children’s future.