Archived Opinion

Pound your chest and punch your neighbor

Pound your chest and punch your neighbor

There were two primetime spectacles Monday evening. One was the first presidential debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The second immediately followed the debate, when John and Jane Q. Public took to their smart phones and computers to spout their political opinions, many of which seemed as if the couple ran out onto their front yards across America, ripping off their clothing in a state of madness and confusion, pounding their chests and howling up to the heavens, in hopes of being loud enough that the neighbors would hear, turn on their porch light and say, “What the hell is going on over there?”

Say what you will about Clinton and Trump, there isn’t much left that hasn’t already been plastered or dumped onto the world spotlight. Watching the debate, Clinton resembled Tracy Flick from the film “Election,” poised and ready for any curveball thrown at her, but also seemingly perfect and untouchable to a fault, something voters can’t seem to swallow when deciding who to cast a ballot for.

Trump seemed to take a page directly out of the “braggadocios” bravado of Steff McKee (“Pretty In Pink”), where, even if he lost, you knew he’d just jump into his sports car, peel out of the school parking lot and retreat back to his mansion, pouring himself some expensive Scotch, only to shift his thoughts to when his tee time was the following morning by the time he needed a refill. 

And then there’s the American public, which is playing out like some modern-day version of “West Side Story.” On one side The Sharks, an ethnic gang, on the other The Jets, the white gang. Both groups taunting each other, both posturing with scowls and aggressive finger snapping, all dancing around in an effort to scare and, perhaps, convince the opponent who the real boss is that rules the streets. It’s about territory and power, rather than actual solutions to everyday problems.

The sad part is, the only difference between these films and our current political and society landscape is that Hollywood and the silver screen isn’t real — but we are. And what are we going to do to ensure a civil discourse and a common ground by which to navigate our tattered ship in such rough and hostile waters? I say, look to the past — you know, that thing called history? — so that we won’t repeat it. Look to the national troubles of 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980 and onward. Not much has changed, in terms of issues and solutions, so let’s make actual headway in 2016, and every year beyond that.

Want to know the truth? The presidential election doesn’t matter. It might, in terms of a physical face for international diplomacy, but the real power is in the Senate and House of Representatives, and especially at the town and regional levels. You think President Obama was ineffective? Hell, I doubt his successor will have better luck. Sure, you can name the presidential candidates, or maybe all the members of the Kardashian family, but can you name all of your county commissioners or who is on your school board? Have you ever even been to a town meeting or participated in community affairs? 

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The real movement is right outside your front door, that same place where now resides ripped fabric you once called a shirt, a dress, and your last shred of dignity as a once educated electorate, or at least one who used to respect the opinions of others, for the true freedom of democracy is diverse ideas, not punching your neighbor in the throat when the “wrong” candidate is displayed on their bumper.

(Garret K. Woodward is a staff writer for The Smoky Mountain News. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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