OPINON — I was hoping for a real debate Monday night. You know, Hamilton the musical style: strong, fierce and full of ideas. And yes, maybe a few personal barbs – there’s a reason Lin-Manual Miranda penned the debates as rap battles.
Even with the barbs, the ideas were at the heart of the debate back in Hamilton’s day; like when he and Jefferson duked out the merits of establishing a national bank and assuming state debt.
But on Monday night, we got more personality than we did policy.
Our candidates want to look and act the part. They criticize each other on those very merits. He doesn’t sound right. She doesn’t look right.
Politics is almost as much about persona as anything else these days. And it was certainly the case with the charismatic former president of Guatemala.
I once met the Guatemalan president on the hot, black sand beaches of Monterrico, Guatemala. He and his heavily armed bodyguards were carousing around on four-wheelers one afternoon in front of our rented bungalow, which happened to neighbor his spacious beach villa.
My boys, being boys, kept eyeing both the four-wheelers and the guns. The President noticed.
He invited us to join them. My boys were thrilled to sit on the four-wheelers and were disappointed when we waved off invitations for them to hold the guns.
The president spoke wildly in Spanish and big gestures. I was newly off a one-month Spanish immersion and while my language skills had navigated us through a week on the beach, they weren’t up to his animation – or inebriation.
But he did introduce himself as the president; that much I did understand. He invited himself into our rental along with his posse of guards who all called him “jefe.”
He was charismatic and charming. Even in Spanish. Especially in Spanish.
Even though I wasn’t getting the totality of his discourse, he spoke of power and great prosperity and of hospitality.
He was thrilled to have Americans in his company. At one point, his English-speaking daughter joined us. She invited us, on the former president’s behalf, to his mansion in Guatemala City where we’d be traveling in two-days time. Before they left for the evening, his daughter repeated the invitation and wrote down the address.
Although my husband and I have been involved in politics for years, this was our first invitation into the home of a president of a country. The president of an entire country. I won’t lie: we were excited.
After we put the boys down for the night, we opened up our computers to Google our new friend. If we were to visit the president in his residence in Guatemala City, we would need to be better prepared than we’d been in our bathing suits and beach sarongs.
Google didn’t give us the right search results though. It said the president of Guatemala was an all-together different looking man than our afternoon guest.
Impossible. The internet was wrong? We knew our new friend didn’t lie to us so we kept digging. Maybe he was the mayor of Guatemala City? There was a language barrier, after all.
Eventually we found him – not the president, not the mayor but the head of a commercial poultry farm business being investigated for tax evasion and price fixing.
He was the “President of Poultry” and a crooked one at that.
He was charming and he had us fooled. How we mistook him for the president of Guatemala is more than a simple translation issue. It was an issue of presentation. It’s how he saw himself and how he wanted us to see him.
And it’s forever changed the way I look at presidential politics because in the end, they all want us to see them through their own lens. Real or fake.
Too bad the President of Poultry isn’t a figure on our political landscape. He’d probably fit right in or, at least, he’d give someone else one heck of a story.
Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.
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