Last night we viewed the last of the election debates between President Obama and Governor Romney, and the winner was – one more time – the candidate of your choice before you turned on the TV or watched online. Did either of the candidates change anyone’s mind? I think that one’s debatable.
One thing I observed this time is that Mr. Obama may have gained a measure of respect for the debate process as he curbed his tendency toward interruptions. How can interested citizens possibly hear through the name calling and comments sufficiently to discern which plan makes sense when one candidate can’t control his tongue long enough for his opponent to explain his version? Maybe that’s the plan. Because time is short, grab all the minutes you can. That way, no one will be able to hear anything but your side. Hmmm, didn’t we get bad marks for this in elementary school?
Evidently Rachel Martin of NPR did her homework and found out that indeed there are rules for these debates – lots of them. In her article, Turns Out There are Rules for the Debates. Lots, she tells us there are 21 pages of rules. Maybe that’s the problem. There are just too many regulations and not enough time to read and understand all of them let alone follow them. I guess it’s just easier to ignore them. Does that go along with the line elementary school students use? You know the one, “the dog ate my homework.”
It seems to me, the Presidential debates, rather than being an opportunity to hear a clear, concise presentation of each side’s viewpoints and perspectives, have become an extension of the negative ad campaigns that have been frequenting the airwaves, tweets and other social media. It appears it’s much easier to point your finger at someone else instead of intelligently explaining your position. Didn’t we learn that in elementary school, too? I think it was in detention not history class.
I’m beginning to think that perhaps Presidential debates have outlived their usefulness. They are more of an embarrassment than enlightenment. Maybe they should go the way of the cassette, typewriter and other outdated technology. I guess that’s debatable, too.
When I was a kid, the first essay of the school year always had the same title: My Summer Vacation. I hated that assignment because our family never did all that much worthy of report. Money was always tight, so rather than spending a week at the shore or traveling to an exotic place, my vacation away from home meant hopping into the car to spend a few days at my aunt’s house or a day trip to the park to swim.
My dad often spent his vacation painting houses (ours or someone else’s), but on really hot days, he’d quit work early and drive an hour away so that we could swim and play in the sand on the beach by the lake. No cone-shaped piles of moistened sand for us. Dad made the best sand castles in the whole world. Using a bucket, discarded paper cup and beach shovel, he could fashion turrets and steps with a moat surrounding the exterior. Sometimes he even added a draw bridge. You could almost see Cinderella waving from the window. Passers-by would always stop to admire his handiwork. Now as I look back, I know he was spending quality time with me, and though I enjoyed it back then, today I recognize his efforts and really appreciate his building these lasting memories.
My parents, aunts and uncles have since passed away, and I would give anything to spend time today listening to their stories and learning more about them and their values. Money is still tight (some things never change), but because of my dad’s influence and his impact on me, the last few summers, I have made a concerted effort to spend quality time with my grandchildren. I did not build sand castles, – the trait must have been recessive – but we walked in the woods, worked on projects, visited some interesting places and played a lot of games. While we did these things, I listened and intentionally shared with them my values and perspectives.
I hope when my grandkids get older, they’ll understand that a gift of time is the best part of any vacation.