I had a number of encounters and observations after the "presidential" debate last night. I think they're illustrative of a lot of things that require little commentary.
A friend of mine and former coworker, who is from Ukraine but now a permanent resident working on US citizenship, asked, "My first debate, is it supposed to be like this?" Certainly I responded that this was not normal or OK. "I can't vote yet, but I'm really worried about the outcome of the election." Friends from Ireland, India and Canada have generally been saying on average, "What the hell are you doing over there?"
Another friend observed that a class assignment was to observe the debate and report on it. Imagine seeing this one as the first you've ever seen, as you start the advance toward adulthood and civic engagement. Imagine that first impression does. I generally allow my 10-year-old to see the news and have a conversation about what he sees, but it says volumes that a kid with autism identifies the president as "mean" and "terrible" without any social media influence.
I watched a news clip from NBC, where the reporter spoke to some farmers in Ohio about their support for Trump. They universally believed that the trade war was necessary, and liked getting subsidies for it. They were also convinced that the pandemic was a result of deliberate attack by China. They could not cite evidence of this.
We saw a hair stylist that we respected on Facebook declare her undying loyalty to the president, declaring that she didn't want to keep silent anymore. A customer of hers, who I infer was a gay, married woman, expressed hurt and disappointment to her given the president's record on LGBTQ issues. The next day, the stylist doubled down on her commitment, insisting it was OK largely because she had black friends.
One of the Broadway actors that I follow posted a really long video rant asking how anyone can be shocked by what they saw. "You white people should know, we've been warning you about this for years... this is what minorities have been up against every day of our lives."
We can't keep pretending that bigotry perpetrated by a politician is a "difference in opinion." It deeply and negatively affects real people.