“Will you watch the debate?”
“Will you be watching the debate,” I asked.
“I’m torn,” he said. And then like a man contemplating a choice between Scylla and Charybdis, weighing two terrible options, he expounded.
“I’m torn,” he said, “because I have read Neil Postman, and I agree that what I would witness tonight will surely trivialize what should be a very serious matter. We are electing a president of the United States.
“But serious discourse is impossible right now, and neither of these persons will say anything that could convince me to vote for them. I know all that I need to know to conclude that neither one of them deserves or is fit to be president of this country, and I know all that I need to know that no matter what happens tonight one of them is going end up president, unfit as she is be serve in that role. And so my only reason for tuning in would be the amusement of it. I don’t like that I want to see the fireworks, to witness a potential meltdown, the undoing of a nation, the death of culture. Nevertheless, my carnal self wants to witness the show.”
“I see what you mean,” I said. And I almost did.
“I mean, seriously, what could either of these persons say that would change my mind tonight?” He paused, looking troubled.
I let the silence work on him, hoping he would say more. He did.
“But that troubles me, too. It’s realistic to think they won’t say anything that surprises me or that would convince me to vote for either of them, but it feels cynical. I don’t want to be cynical. I just can’t imagine, say, Trump offering words that sound like genuine contrition, that express something like repentance. What if, and as a Christian shouldn’t I hope for this?, what if this morning Trump attended a private prayer meeting and met God, I mean really met Him, a Damascus road experience. And what if God spoke to him and said, “repent, get your life in order, drop out of this race. It’s not worth your soul.” And what if Trump reported this during the debate? Wouldn’t I want to see this? And shouldn’t I hope that something like that happens?
“Or what if, Hillary said, “At church this morning I had an epiphany. It was as if God spoke to me, and I repented of policies I have supported in the past. I know this will upset many of you, but it became clear to me that I can no longer support a woman’s legal right to choose to have an abortion. As president, I will do all in my power to see that the number of abortions in this country are reduced dramatically over the next four years, until such time as I can appoint Supreme Court Justices who will work to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.”
“Shouldn’t I hope something like that happens? Am I wrong for thinking it cannot happen in a million years?”
He was talking fast now, pacing the room.
“But I have no hope that anything like this will happen. I wish I could hope for it. I cannot.
“So instead all I’m left with is this terrible desire to tune in and see what terrible thing might happen. I don’t want to miss it if Trump has a meltdown. I know there is nothing in this debate that could educate me or edify me in any way. It won’t do me any good. And yet… I want to see it. Is this what the junkie feels? Am I like the drunk? Is this what addiction pornography is like?”
He walked away then.
And now I do not know what I will do. I kind of wanted to watch, until he put it that way.