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Gladiator-type crowds at political debates

Price is a junior  broadcasting major and contacted at ryan.price@drake.edu

Most of us have seen the movie “Gladiator” at some point in time, or at least we know the concept. I’ll admit; I understand the gladiators. I understand their desire to fight to protect their lives.

The audience always confuses me though. I’m absolutely confounded by the people who cheer and boo as real human lives are disappearing for sport.

I’m confused by the fact that a man’s life used to mean nothing more than the score of next week’s Vikings game.

Audiences of thousands would watch as people fought, spear and shield, hand on hand, tooth and nail, for their lives. People would cheer or jeer as their favorite man in the ring scrapped for his life.

It seems like a horror movie, or a cautionary tale, and that’s because it is. It seems like something of the past, back when we were unrefined and devolved humans. The injustice is clear, the terror is real and the inequality is self-evident.

I’m afraid, though, that human behavior doesn’t change.

At least that’s how it seemed at the most recent CNN/Tea Party Republican Debate last week.

I respect and appreciate all of the candidates; they don’t scare me.

The audience does though.

The audience spoke up often. They let out a rousing cheer for Rick Perry’s 234 executions while governor of Texas.

They essentially shouted, “Let them die” after Ron Paul was asked about a U.S. citizen who was down on his luck and couldn’t afford health insurance.

They also booed Ron Paul for suggesting that people in the Middle East were exactly that; people who hold more complex views than simply, “I hate freedom”.

When the audience cheered for Rick Perry’s 234 executions, it ignored the countless death row inmates who have been exonerated while awaiting execution, or, tragically, after execution. The audience completely ignored the fact that black Americans are consistently four times more likely than white Americans to receive the death penalty in identical cases. Yes, the color of your skin can multiply your likelihood of being executed by 400 percent.

When the audience booed Ron Paul for implying that people in the Middle-East ate, drank, slept and rationalized just like us, they insisted that Islam is at war with freedom.

“Let’s put the blinders on and keep running,” the audience implied.

When the audience cheered after Wolf Blitzer asked if a down-on-his-luck man should be left to die just because he doesn’t have health insurance, “pro-life” became “too bad”. They supported the beginning of life but not the quality of life.

All of this in our land that promises equality.

No, the candidates don’t scare me; the audience does. I suspect this audience would scare the founders of our country as well. That’s why we have things like the electoral college, life-appointed court justices and a representative democracy; to check the passions of the people.

It’s to make sure we don’t become a society of dogfighters, executing frivolously, cheering for the man in the ring to kill the other man. It’s to make sure we have intelligent, rational people in office who understand that people in other places in the world are indeed people as well.

I’m a firm believer that we must all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but I also know that some of my friends’ and neighbors’ bootstraps are thicker, tauter and tougher to pull up than my own. I don’t believe they should die simply because of the boots they were given.

I believe gladiators should stay in the past, even though the audience hasn’t seemed to change.


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