An Ex-Pat's Musings on the Debate - From Mexico
It was Monday night in a small surfing town on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The fading glimmer of the sunset was giving way to another night of song and dance, another evening in paradise. Except this night’s song and dance were of a different, more global nature as the two figures talking on the television captured the attention of a small bar next to the town square. It was the end of the first televised presidential debate, and the crowd was a simmering mixture of merry and flippant cynicism as only a removed audience can produce. A distant contempt for the turning cogs of the U.S. political system accompanied clinking glasses, laughter, and the well-lubricated snarky remarks about the talking heads before us.
This air of utter entertainment was what caught the attention of my friend and I as we wandered closer to watch. It was a play of the highest caliber, a live comedy show like I have never seen. In spite of the significance of this spectacular performance, it could only be described as just that: spectacle. The next day (after the alcohol had worn off), I had this stunning realization of just how damn entertained I was by all of this.
And that kind of scares me.
In our current volatile political climate, it shocks me how quickly I was able to reduce an informative and relevant discussion on the future of my homeland to debauchery and drinking games. Indeed, the afterglow of being so mightily entertained still hasn’t worn off; my morning coffee and I greedily consumed the articles about the aftermath of the first debate, sifting through the comments and snorting so hard that one of us nearly left the other’s nose. And throughout this grin-making experience, I realize I have held back the voice in my mind that keeps screaming to take things more seriously. And I still don’t want to listen to that voice. Of the expected 100 million debate-viewers, I wonder how many others have unconsciously stifled a similar voice. Am I really that out of touch with the important issues that I just want to see what will happen on next week’s episode of the newest reality program?
My friend reminded me that this might be exactly what was intended. That the world needed to see just how mismatched the debate ended up being. My surprise at the sheer entertainment value might just be a product of an amazing evening in a beautiful town, the debate an unexpected thrill and just the chortle-inducing spectacle I didn’t know I wanted last night. Who knows?
These doubts about my own political indifference haven’t disappeared, but I’m at least aware of them now. If this debate was a sign of the media spectacle we can expect in the coming weeks, it would be silly of me to ignore my enjoyment and excitement at what will happen next (I’m down for more drinking games!). Yet I will be tempering my satisfaction with the lingering thoughts of what the political system has become, and how the media has a powerful hold on us.
Then again, as I’ve learned is best here in Mexico, just enjoy things as they come.