OPINION: Presidential campaigns are getting tasteless
I see where Tom Hanks, the movie star, says America will survive the current craziness in the presidential campaigns, and I'm pretty sure he's right. My question is, as it has been since the start of this long, long campaign season, at what cost ...
I see where Tom Hanks, the movie star, says America will survive the current craziness in the presidential campaigns, and I'm pretty sure he's right.
My question is, as it has been since the start of this long, long campaign season, at what cost will America survive? We're seeing some pretty crude, tasteless stuff going public, and not just from one or two of the candidates. It's been a long, slow slide into a great mud hole. It reminds me of that scene from John Wayne's movie "McClintock,'' the one in which people are fighting above a slippery slope and take turns knocking each other down the slope and into a huge puddle of greasy, gray mud.
I was only a kid the first time I heard the advice to never get into a fight with a pig because you both get dirty and the pig likes it. I'm not sure any of the candidates today really like how muddy things have gotten, but I haven't noticed any of them backing away, either.
Tom Hanks, a skillful, award-winning movie actor, talked about the campaigns one recent morning on a national news show. I read a summary of his appearance that said he supports Hillary Clinton. I gather he was asked about the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency, but from my perspective, he could have been talking about any candidate this year. Reportedly, what he said was:
"Look, America's going to be fine..."We're the greatest, most resilient nation in the history of all of civilization. We'll be fine. We've worked ourselves out of holes many, many times over and over again."
I'm a big believer in America, especially the concept of the United States I first learned about the country and the things that made us strong as a kid in grade school. We talked a lot about the country, one way or another, in those days. We learned about presidents, especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in second grade. We memorized all of the capital cities of all of the states in fifth grade (Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, or as Miss Raish suggested for a memory aid, "Momma peeled a tater.'' Yeah, I wasn't so sure about that, either, at the time, but 60-some years later I remember it.)
As I remember Miss Raish's teaching aid, I remember Nell Labidee reading with her eight-grade class the tale of Phillip Nolan, "The Man Without a Country,'' a short story by Edward Everett Hale. During a trial for treason, Nolan angrily renounces his country and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life on a ship on the ocean, barred from ever hearing any news from his homeland, barred even from hearing the words America or the United States for as long as he lived. Pretty heady stuff for a 13- or 14-year-old brimming with patriotism, to ponder a life with never a single word about America.
In many ways, I suppose my upbringing, at least as it pertained to patriotism and love of country, wasn't so different from Tom Hanks. So, yes, I'm pretty sure America will be fine, whether it's Trump or Clinton or Sanders or Cruz. We've survived every president and presidential candidate so far, touch-and-go though it has been at times. We may not agree on which presidents made it touch-and-go. It's our right in this country to disagree on things like that.
But I fear that each time we allow ourselves to be drawn into crude, tasteless campaign talk and tactics, it becomes more and more difficult to climb back out of the muck. Each time the limits on what is acceptable, allowable campaign speech and action are pushed beyond the previous boundaries, it becomes more and more difficult to tighten those boundaries the next time. I fear this campaign's "way out there'' talk and tactics will be the next campaign's baseline, no matter who wins.
And while I think America will survive whatever the campaigns do, I worry that we are gradually losing some of what I learned back in school is good about my country. We'll survive, all right. But at what cost?