Before the first presidential debate, I had no plans to go to a “debate watch party.” I had no desire to see mean, lying, patronizing, selfish ranting. But my husband really, really, really wanted me to go with him. And I love my husband. So I went.
And I discovered something important watching the dreaded debate: I needed to see Hillary Clinton stand up to Trump, face to face.
Verbal or physical harassment, bullying, was common on the playground of my youth. I was a tiny girl child in parochial school, and I was especially terrified of the older boys. So, I learned to disappear. To literally hide in a doorway, or in a larger group of children. I avoided being alone anywhere near school. I made sure I was with my siblings or adults. It seems to have worked. I don’t recall serious bullying of myself, but I do recall the horror of watching others being bullied and feeling powerless to intervene or help.
Now, I am all grown up. I am a minister serving a diverse congregation in the downtown core of our city. There are bullies on the streets and in the city, and sometimes in my church too.
I need to stand against those bullies. But the desire to flee has remained strong, and fear causes my palms to sweat, my heart to pound, my mouth to go dry.
But Hillary showed me how smarts, calm, humor, and yes, disdain can conquer bullies.
I know there will be a ton of analysis of the performance of Secretary Clinton and that of Mr. Trump. But I got a surprising message out of the debate that was as important to me as any policy position: I discovered that I don’t need to panic around bullies because I saw a woman model the courage, calm, intelligence and humor to best the bully standing across the room from her. I can stand stronger now, in the face of bullying.
Was the debate able to change people’s opinions of the candidates? Maybe not.
Or, maybe so. Because some of us saw power and poise take on a bully. And that speaks powerfully to me of what I want in my president.
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