While I was watching the 2016 presidential debate, Donald Trump’s behavior reminded me of the arguments I had with my sister when I was seven-years old. During our fights, I’d call my sister snide names out of uncontrollable, immature frustration and shout “You’re wrong!” at the top of my voice when she disagreed with me.
Sunday’s debate was no different. Rather than discussing his agendas regarding national issues, Trump relied on disparagements and threats in an attempt to sway voters and shut his opponent down. He’s so immature it’s almost comedic; Trump does not answer the questions posed, gets accosted by the moderators, and brings an almost blissful ignorance to civil discourse. Yet his ad-hominem attacks and blatant lack of respect are so widely viewed that his ridiculous behavior runs the risk of becoming the standard for discourse. His ways can actually distort what we believe is and is not acceptable in a debate.
During a debate that was meant to educate the American people about the stances of presidential nominees on certain issues, Trump resorted to blatant personal attacks, hindering the respectful exchange of ideas upon which the notion of civil discourse is built.
I was shocked when Donald Trump directly threatened Hillary Clinton, saying that if he became president, he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into the case of her deleted emails so that she’d be jailed.
The sad truth is that Trump’s behavior at the debate is only a toned-down version of his true self; he has acted just as immaturely throughout his entire presidential campaign. During campaign rallies in the past, Trump has resorted to immature jabs and disrespectful personal attacks to Clinton such as, “She is a totally unhinged person. She’s unbalanced. And all you have to do is watch her, see her, read about her.” Trump, like a middle-school bully, has called Clinton nicknames like “Hillary Rotten Clinton” – a play on her maiden name – and “Crooked Hillary.”
Trump’s childish actions detract from American voters’ chances to learn about the nominees’ platforms and plans for the country – which is the whole point of a presidential debate. His immaturity is toxic to the millions of viewers watching back home, notwithstanding Andover students.
It is therefore imperative that we recognize the lack of civility in this presidential election and learn to not emulate Trump’s behavior when discussing issues with others. If students wish to engage in debate, many platforms have been created to teach them how to participate in proper discourse. Andover students should take advantage of outlets such as the “The Tavern,” a newly created journal where students from ten different boarding schools in Massachusetts engage in “thoughtful dialogue and civil discourse.” Regardless of which platform we use, we must be mindful of listening to and considering others’ opinions. Disregarding oppositional views is not civil discourse. It is blatant disrespect. No matter what Trump says on TV, we can and should rise above.