My wife is an elementary school teacher, now retired. Because she had effective skills in classroom management and discipline, she was able to keep control of some very difficult children many of whom had severe mental and emotional problems and severely difficult lives outside of school. But she was the adult in the classroom. She had authority, even if not so much as teachers had formerly. She also used her authority fairly and did not demean or humiliate even her most difficult and disruptive students, and so they respected her.
Even so, the disruptive child took far more than his or her fair share of time and energy, not only from the teacher, but from the other children in the class. Day after day, too much had to be about that one child (even though there was often more than just one, multiplying the theft of time and energy). Dealing fairly and empathically yet firmly with a disruptive child is exhausting.
At suppertime, the disruptive child consumed more than one share of our conversation about the school day. He or she always hovered around the edges, if not occupying dead center, of conversation about the class as a whole.
What happens when the disruptive child is not a child but an adult with power, far greater power than anyone else in the room? Last night’s so-called debate showed us what happens. Nothing restrains him – not decency certainly but not any authority, agreement on rules, or reprimand from the moderator either. He continues to act out and steal the show no matter what.
Donald Trump has been stealing the show for years. During the 2016 campaign, I began calling MSNBC a Trump channel. Not Fox, but MSNBC. Why did I call it a Trump channel? No matter the topic of conversation, no matter that the news item triggering the topic was about Hillary Clinton, the focus shifted back to Trump. I could only imagine what it was like on pro-Trump channels or shows.
How can there be a debate when one candidate is committed to lying, lives by lying, and doubles down on his lies, then steamrolls over all attempts to counter his lies? Last night we saw that there cannot be.
The disruptive child needs help. The insatiable craving for attention, the bullying of other children, and the determination to dominate the classroom cry out for help, but the needed help is difficult to give day after day, and the effort takes its toll on all the children as well as on the teacher. If Donald Trump were not in power, he would be deeply pitiable. But he is in power, and he says (and for once I believe him) that he is determined to abuse his power in every possible way to stay in power and out of criminal court. Pray for him? Yes, but first pray that he is removed (and vote to remove him) from power so the American people and the victims of his cruelty can be free of him.