Reflections on Witnessing the Republican Presidential Candidate Debate


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

(December 15, 2015 – CNN TV – Las Vegas, Nevada)

I sat and watched, speechless, at what was unfolding before me. Billed as a debate of potential presidential candidates, I expected — hoped — the candidates and CNN would respond to the gravity of the event by producing educated and informed discussions and disagreements of global and national challenges and solutions. What emerged was a display of personal insults, character assaults, and offensive remarks more often found in testosterone-stench locker rooms.

What occurred was a CNN-produced “theatrical” display of inept potential leaders of our nation pandering to media-hype, and to endorsements of hate-filled agendas designed to brutally persecute and murder human lives nationally and across the world. Could this be happening? Was this what was celebrated as a display of democracy? “Demoncracy,” I say!

I understood! This was nothing more than a ratings-driven and profit-making entertainment spectacle for those seeking an affirmation of media-fed stereotypes and minds closed by anger, fear, and frustration. This was a “Joseph Goebbels-like propaganda creation.” Recall: Joseph Goebbels was Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany. He sought to prepare Germany for “total war.” Who is in charge here?

What a shameless display of ignorance! What guilt-free and conscienceless display of murderous impulses! What an egregious display of Judeo-Christian morality! What a humiliating display of the moral-less pursuit of power and position! What a tragic display of American cultural decline, shown to the world in a theatrical format insulting the very word “democracy.” What a depressing display of the collapse of America’s noble heritage, now embraced and controlled by bigots under the guise of salvation and apocalyptic-visions.

How can it be we find ourselves faced with such choices in national and international leadership? To what do we attribute the sheer insanity of justifiable murder and destruction without recognizing our own culpability in generating the very foes we now seek to “erase” from existence? Has the media we once relied upon to provide us an educated awareness of our political and economic limitations and faults become a partner in our demise? Could they be ignorant of their power and responsibility to shape opinion through biased and prejudiced information, posing as accurate and factual news?

I am no longer surprised at the appalling events and forces greeting each day as we head for global disaster, led by the preservation of American interests.   These interests are not those of the nation we recall as the hope and light of the world for freedom and liberty. These interests serve chosen and selected individuals, groups, societies, and nations consumed by consumption, oblivious to the consequences of their assault on life in all its forms, wedded to material comforts and conveniences at the loss of their very identity as intelligent, compassionate, and wisdom carriers.

Consider the trade-offs voiced by the near morally-impaired candidates vying to lead the once most powerful world nation. Hark to their responses: (1) we must have mass surveillance and monitoring of all citizen information because this will enable us to protect ourselves from danger; (2) we must carpet bomb our enemies without consideration of innocence; (3) we must build borders with fences — north and south, east and west – protected by fortress walls and deadly traps, to stop desperate people from entering our obviously sacred land; (4) we must build intelligence gathering systems of such scope and magnitude that privacy for all citizens is obliterated; (5) we must turn to warrior generals and a military might of such proportion that death will be welcomed by our foes to escape the suffering of witnessing their families destroyed; (6) we must violate very known international, legal, moral, and religious code in defense of our people and land, even as we know this defense will create an endless supply of domestic and international “terrorists,” bent on our inevitable destruction from the sheer madness pf our policies and methods; (7) we must think first of ourselves – our citizens, culture, and (unspoken: corrupt and crony) political and economic system, designed to preserve the security of the (unspoken: a few hundred individuals) wealthy citizens who guard their wealth in off-shore accounts legally eluding taxation because the lower classes are undeserving of largesse.

Need I go on with this sorrowful dirge, this “We must” trope, pandering to the audience of citizens who feel their heritage of position and privilege is threatened now by the growing omnipresent and omnipotent non-white and non-Christian strangers from distant lands with dark skins, bearded and covered faces, slanted eyes, strange accents, and strange gods now visible in every school, store, restaurant, and hospital.

“Can you not see the threat they pose, our potential leaders cry? Their values, dress, and foods are taking over! Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and African numbers in moderation was fine! But not in the numbers now present! They will dominate the population by 2030! We must take back our country!”

I ask: Whose country? When did a nation’s rights and privileges trump (no pun intended) the value of human lives and welfare? Has the United States forgotten the enormous contributions of immigrants to its land? Look at the celebrated figures in science, education, entertainment, culture, and accumulated knowledge and wisdom? Jews, Italians, Chinese, Indians, Poles! Look again, Ozymandias! Who made America great, if it ever was great without imposing victimhood?

The idealistic aspirations of the talented founding fathers soon yielded to abuses of shocking proportion: genocides of American Indians, enslavement of African Americans, dominations of indigenous people, invasions and colonization of the Philippines, Cuba, Central and South America. The list of faults and flaws is endless. We deformed and sullied initial aspirations in favor of selfish and avaricious needs.

As a nation, we pursued empire, stocking the world with more than 900 military bases, overthrowing elected governments, replacing them with purchased lackeys, invading nations to impose our will, killing millions in the process! We and our allies seized the unfolding changes brought by trans-border technologies (e.g., transportations, ownership, finances, communication, treaties) known as globalization, and immediately turned them into our control — a hegemonic globalization – abusing the emerging global interdependencies in favor of selfish national commercial interests.

Is this what we seek to preserve? Is this what we hold before us as national pride? Is this what we think of when we sing a national anthem so ingrained with violence it affirms the glory of wars, charging our souls with a flood of exploding bombs. Is this what the media entertainment program, billed as a presidential debate, was designed to address? If so, what a failure of candidates, vision, and conscience!

I heard only “crusaders” justifying violence in the name of god and country . . . a regression to medieval notions of good and bad, to wars for a Judeo-Christian God, who must be crying at the continued ignorance of his believers. Hymns, anthems, white everywhere, an Anglo-Saxon Jesus legitimizing violence, camouflage clothing and minds, weapons in every pocket and bra, beer cans, fast cars, computer-salvation in algorithms absent any moral code, tumbling numbers and symbols yielding an ersatz wisdom at the cost of billions of dollars and compromised minds.

Consider this reality: (1) corporations have equal or more rights than individuals, and pay fewer taxes; (2) off-shore bank accounts harbor hundreds of billions of dollars; (3) our military expenditures exceed those of all other countries; (4) poverty levels are rising to new heights; (5) foreign and domestic lobbyists dominate government policies and actions; (5) lawlessness has become endemic as “moral” and “legal” codes model justification of any act by those in power; (6) education systems are rife with failure, blaming schools, administrators, teachers, students, and buildings, but not the very daily culture of our society. There is no need to continue.

What have we become? Oh my God! Can we have any pride in what we have become? Can we escape this emerging fate sealing us now in body and mind behind walls of concrete and minds of porous space? What can be done? I do not know! I had a different vision of the Republican Presidential Debate.

The process and steps I wanted? I imagined a truth and reconciliation process with the following steps:

  1. Confession: I envisioned each candidate falling on their knees and confessing our nation’s faults, and uttering “Mea culpa – mea maxima culpa! I apologize for what we and I have done! I apologize for accepting and promoting the lies and deceit we accepted – strategic communications – lies to serve a purpose.
  2. Forgiveness: I wanted each candidate to ask for forgiveness from the world’s people. I wanted each candidate to beg for forgiveness for what we have done in endless egregious in acts and consequences. We have killed, tolerated, endorsed, authorized, and permitted murder by us and our allies. Forgive us! Forgive us! Forgive us!
  3. Restitution: I imagined each candidate advancing an agenda for healing the world: economic programs, educational supports, legal and justice systems, condemnations of violence, support for peace, changes in government policies and institutions, and on and on. Costs? Less than our military budgets, less than accumulated government waste, less than failed programs, and on and on.

The result: The beginning of a new era of global cooperation with hope, integrity, individual and collective worth, and the discovery of the possibilities of life. Reform! Rebirth! Renewal! Renaissance!

If not: “We reap what we sow!” More deaths and destruction! We become consumed with the fear fostered, and only gun dealers, war mongers, and hate-filled demented continue to thrive. Terrorism is an ancient act! Terrorism was present as Jewish zealots assassinated Roman soldiers in ancient Palestine. They sought escape from oppression and abuse, insults to their religion and way-of-life. Terrorism has been present throughout history, arising whenever a group of people believe they no longer have legal and non-violent options for correcting injustice. Terrorism by individuals, groups, and nations (i.e., state terrorism) is alive and well? Why?

At what point do we as a nation acknowledge we have helped create the tragedy of terrorism by our own actions — policies serving our selfish needs and those of a few allies? For this we have thrown the world into chaos and disarray! We cannot continue imposing our will and interests on the world without consequence. Think! Hate begets hate! Nuclear weapons now proliferate.


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 15 edited books, and more than 250 articles, chapters, book reviews, and popular pieces. He can be reached at


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Dec 2015.

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