Princess: The rock bottom of presidential politics | AspenTimes.com

Princess: The rock bottom of presidential politics

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

I know this is going to sound weird, but I never really cared about being an American.

If I had a choice, I would have liked to be from somewhere in Europe, like France or Italy or Spain, where they have a better handle on the simple pleasures in life, stuff like wine, bread, coffee, chocolate and cheese; where they speak multiple languages and take long vacations and enjoy multi-course meals in the middle of the day; where they don’t worry about being gluten free or vegan and yet somehow they don’t get fat; where fashion is something inherent, not something you wear, but a look or a strut or an attitude; where there’s also an honesty, an integrity in telling it like it is; where it’s OK to have an argument, to disagree, to debate, and to have opposing ideas. Maybe that comes from living in countries that are smaller and have a stronger sense of identity, countries that are surrounded by other countries, other nationalities, languages and cultures that are different from your own.

If the spectacle that was the presidential debate on Sunday is any indication, that’s clearly not the case in America. Talk about an emperor with no clothes — I would have been more comfortable watching those two in a mud-wrestling contest.

I could see myself fitting right in with the light-hearted whimsy of Australia or New Zealand. I could imagine myself on a beach, with a surfboard and good back muscles and naturally sun bleached hair, punctuating everything I say like it’s a question and speaking with an accent that seems like it would be fun to have. I imagine that when you grow up on a continent so singular and so remote, and with proximity to such an exotic part of the world, that you don’t need to try so hard. You are who you are.

But American pride was never something I latched onto. I always equated it to stuff like Budweiser and cowboy hats and pickup trucks and Cheetos. It always felt kind of bland. I mean, for starters America is just so damn big. What do I really have in common, after all, with someone who grew up in Oklahoma, or Mississippi or North Dakota, places I’ve never been and know nothing about?

I realize this might be highly offensive to some people. It’s not that I take my freedom, my privilege or my wealth for granted. I’ve known enough people who have none of the freedoms I have to put the ease and quality of my life into perspective. I also haven’t lost sight of the fact that we are all descendants of immigrants in this country and we all came here for the same reason: to have a better life. Let’s just say don’t ever use being from Aspen as an excuse for anything, especially in traffic court.

But when I sat and watched that spectacle that was the presidential debate, I felt embarrassed. It was like hearing someone fart or drool in their sleep. It was so ugly, and so raw in its ugliness, that it was hard to comprehend as reality.

“We should count how many times Trump says the word ‘disaster,’” I said to Ryan.

“Seriously,” he replied. “It should be a new drinking game.”

Strictly from the standpoint of being a writer, I was appalled by how inarticulate Trump was. How can a guy who behaves like that get hired for any job? Had he grunted and beaten his chest, it would have made more sense than the words that seemed to spill out of his mouth like backed up sewage.

With all the problems facing our nation, you know, little things like gun violence and global warming, I don’t want to hear about Bill Clinton’s dirty laundry from 20 years ago. When we have Supreme Court justices to nominate and shaky-at-best global diplomacy to contend with, I don’t want to waste another second hearing about Hillary’s stupid emails. When we have the first female presidential nominee in the history of our nation, I want her to be treated with the respect she deserves and not be forced to contend with an unruly, uninformed, inexperienced and under-qualified blowhard. And I certainly don’t want her to have to be held accountable for mistakes her husband made 20 years ago, mistakes she already endured, pushed through and still managed to ascend to the top of the ranks as a senator and then secretary of state — talk about stamina.

Like, if you were at a dinner party, and you were sitting next to someone, and you were like, “So, what do you do?”

And they said, “Oh, I was a senator from New York and then I became secretary of state,” would you not be impressed? Would you not be in awe? Would you not treat that person with admiration and respect regardless of your beliefs?

What makes me ashamed to be an American is that our political discourse has been reduced to name calling and scandal and accusations and made up stories and character attacks. It’s like a daytime soap opera but at prime time, in front of the whole world. Seeing there is no regard for decorum, for intellect, for informed debate, or for basic human decency and respect, my instinct isn’t to vote, but to flee.

Hell, New Zealand elected their first female prime minister back in 1999 and she served three consecutive terms. I got to see Helen Clark speak at the Aspen Institute not that long ago. That she was a woman didn’t occur to me so much as that she was articulate, intelligent and had the air of a leader, the poise of a person who has accomplished a lot.

I think Hilary has those same qualities. I just hope she survives this. I hope we all do.

The Princess is feeling a little overwhelmed because Mimi and Grampy went back to Minnesota. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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