As I watched the second and quite possibly final American presidential debate ever, I was overwhelmed with a feeling. It wasn’t anything about the debate, necessarily. The president was calmer than the first debate. He was even calmer than he was debating Hillary Clinton. He actually kinda came off like he’d lost a step. That’s not to say that he didn’t obnoxiously fill his time with nonsense, bile and blatant racism. He definitely did that, but no more than we’ve all grown accustomed to at this point.
It also wasn’t Biden, who, while looking just so old, did his level best to hold steady against the president’s scattershot attacks on his son, his record and some random shit the president seemed to make up in the moment. Again, nothing we aren’t accustomed to at this point.
No, the feeling came from just seeing the president’s face, the tone of his voice and how he carries himself in general. For whatever reason this time, all of that made me hyper-aware that the president irritates me. I’m not talking about the rage I feel at his hatred, stupidity and destruction, his pitiful whining and overall worthlessness. I’m talking about something else, also. Something less. He just really fucking irritates me.
He brings out a pettiness in me that I try very hard to rid myself of. For instance, all through the debate I just kept cringing at his dumb suit. It’s always been very clear to me that he tries to look like 1970s era Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s got the facsimile of Arnie’s floppy hair at the time, and of course the bodybuilder spray tan. And the suit is tailored to someone with unnaturally broad shoulders and a narrow waist, the exact opposite body type of the president. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into body shaming and I certainly don’t buy into a drug-induced beauty standard as equating any kind of innate worth. It’s the fact that the president does that bothers me, but that’s not entirely it. It’s also that the best he can do is to play some kind of hideously pathetic dress-up in an attempt to convince us.
The worst part of my irritation with him is that it can pull focus from my deep rage at the entire situation. Like, I know that this election is yet another referendum on whiteness and that millions of white people will again vote for him for that reason alone. And I know it only continues on because so many other white people choose to believe that evangelicals would vote for the devil rather than admit their sweet ol’ auntie is as big a pile of racist shit as the one she’s voting for. And I know that regardless of the outcome of the election, he will continue to be viewed as an aberration rather than the obvious and inevitable outcome of the Republican Party. And even though white people will decide this election, I can tell already from the various speculative think pieces regarding “The Black Vote” that we’ll get the blame if he gets reelected. And I know that means we could face a cultural stigma as COVID-19 continues on killing Americans, unchecked by him. I know all of that, but goddamn that suit, though.
In the very best-case scenario in which the president loses, slinks away in shame and is never heard from again, my rage may eventually go away, but his presidency will always bother me. I’m clenching my teeth now just thinking about seeing his face with the other presidents on those restaurant placemats. The thought of some future First Lady BFF-ing him a la Michelle and GW makes my face hot. The profound and patriotic national mourning at his eventual funeral will undoubtedly draw blood from my clenched fists.
But, hey. Either way, at least this is the last time we’ll have to watch him “debate.”
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