A Debate I Wouldn’t Want Kids to See

By Rong Xiaoqing, Ethnic Media Services


Editor’s Note: Rong Xioaqing is a veteran reporter for Sing Tao Daily in New York City.


Before the first presidential debate went on air, I was facetiming with a friend and her nine-year-old daughter living in upper state New York. When I told them I’d have to end our conversation soon so as not to miss the presidential debate, the little girl was instantly curious and her mother, who hates politics and rarely allows her to watch TV, agreed to let her watch as well.


Twenty minutes into the debate, I started to feel guilty about piquing her interest and wished that no child was watching it.


Yes, we heard some unpresidential views from our current President in what was supposed to be a presidential debate, such as declaring violent crime to be a partisan issue and vaccine development to be more about politics than about science. And we learned that the U.S. President wouldn’t condemn white supremacists nor would he promise a peaceful transition after the election in November. This is hard to digest even for the most cynical among us.


In a real debate I wouldn’t have worried about children being exposed to these views because they would be able to hear the counter points from the other side and learn to make their own judgements. But this was not a real debate.


Technically speaking, Biden shouldn’t have lowered his head so often–downcast eyes makes a person look weak and even guilty. And Trump’s problem was that he never bows his head–an uptilted head combined with a downward tilted mouth is an unambiguous sign of arrogance. Biden’s reaching out to the audience by addressing them as “you” was a winning tactic, while Trump focused only on Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace, both targets of his anger.


But the basic rules I learned in college debating were that manners are as important as opinions because only a civilized person is eligible to discuss topics relating to the civic realm. And listening is as important as presenting because that’s the only way you can find the flaws in your opponent’s argument and launch a meaningful rebuttal.


When these principles were tossed out and replaced by comments such as “shut up, man,” and “there’s nothing smart about you,” tactics no longer mattered. The presidential debate was reduced to a cock fight.


That’s why I hope children were steered away from the debate so they wouldn’t get the wrong idea that this is how a debate should go or how the President should talk, let alone that scoring debate points matters more than being a decent person.

The one line I wouldn’t bleep for the children who may have wound up watching the debate came from Chris Wallace. “I think that the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions,” the moderator said.