Why I’m Not Watching the Republican Debate Tonight

I like to consider myself a fairly politically aware person. I moved to Washington DC to study politics; I read the news daily and discuss current events with friends fairly often. I actually find politics very interesting and think they’re generally worth my time to follow. Tonight is the fourth Republic debate of the season and, as I did with the last one, I have no plans to watch it. Here’s why.

1. They’re Not Actually Informative

Quite frankly, the debates are terrible as a source of information about the candidates’ platforms. The format all but ensures that candidates have the ability to give vague, soundbite-friendly answers that don’t dig into their meat of their platforms. Great moderators do their best to keep candidates on track and press them to answer questions they seek to avoid; most moderators are not great moderators.

But of course, the early debates aren’t really about digging into the issues. For the candidates, they’re 10 minutes of guaranteed screen time and a chance at snagging some headlines the next morning, which is something many of them don’t usually have–and something that even the leading candidates could use more of. For the networks, they mean good ratings. Everyone wins, even if the public doesn’t necessarily learn anything. Continue reading →

The Many Faces of Vulnerability

We had a guest speaker in one of my classes today: Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics. He gave a heartfelt speech about the work he does and the importance of changing how we approach service, but there was one thing that stood out, both in his presentation and in the discussion we had as a class afterward. He spoke about the importance of being vulnerable, of opening yourself up to the world instead of walling yourself off.

With all due respect to Shriver, that just doesn’t make sense.

Our society doesn’t treat everyone the same where vulnerability is concerned, not by a long shot. White men, like Shriver, are expected to be strong. To steel themselves against emotion, to hide any sign of doubt or pain. For Shriver, then, vulnerability is a significant act. It’s a rejection of social norms and an embrace of a culture of love. Continue reading →