It’s rare that I post something smacking of political current events on this blog, but an article in today’s NY Times calls out to be shared, summing up the WHY behind my current calling. (I regret that it paints the president with such a coarse brush, but even his staunchest supporter should be able to acknowledge that his language & demeanor are rooted in shock jock incivility.)
It seems to me that those who think the president caused the coarsening of America’s character are mistaken – it’s a symptom, not cause. Presidents are term-limited, but the qualities of our national culture that made millions rejoice at his “politics of rage” will go on UNLESS checked.
Hence my calling – not to take people to task for this that or another thing, but to present & model different ways of engaging with others, connecting within & across communities, feeling about our self.
My hopes dreams endeavors can be summed up in Live Like a LEGO! ~ connect creatively. Celebrating kindness, generosity – especially emotional generosity, respect, civility & all the other core qualities of a decent life.
Having taught American history from theories about how people first arrived on the continent to 1850, am perhaps more aware than most of the shaky moral underpinnings to what we embody to ourselves as a nation. I recently wrote out my understanding of our history in order to acknowledge it, then tip my hat as it’s left in the past because my work is rooted in the present, in this moment & this & this. Not “What did I/we do?” but “What am I doing?” & “How can I get to better?”
In short, am a dangerous woman on a mission.
The NY Times article points out a truth that opponents would do well to remember – only Donald John Trump can get away with being unfathomably coarse. When other people try to go toe-to-toe, it invariably ends in failure; they come across as honorable people saying dishonorable things of which they should be ashamed. President Trump can do it without any blow back because no one has any illusions of him having any sense of honor, of being capable of feeling shame. Love him or loathe him, that’s not a condemnation but an objective observation.
Dangerous woman on a mission. People distrust all those qualities of decency that I listed, plus the many more I left off. How well I know. My corporate world co-workers were openly wary of me due to being too nice. I learned to counter, “You’re too good to be true!” by pausing, cocking my head to the side & replying, “And part of you believes that.” If someone said, “You’re different,” I’d get right into their personal space, look them straight in the eye, drop my voice as I answered, “And trust me – you have NO idea just how different I am.” It was only when I started countering with those two responses that others relaxed around me, were open to being friends. But to the end, being open & supportive were negatives in the workplace, where people tend to put faith in the negative & see kindness as mindless fluff at best or insincere at worst.
Bring it on!
We cannot counter an coarsened culture with even more coarseness. We need to be brave, to have the courage to act with restraint without rolling over, countering canny manipulation with conscious awareness of the values we learned at our parents’ knees. Let Trump be Trump – praise it or rebuke it. Just don’t lower yourself to the same level.
My thanks to my dear, much-missed mother, who advised me as a young girl how NOT to respond to school yard bullies. She quoted George Bernard Shaw’s advice – – I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.
Dangerous woman on a mission. Recognize & call out incivility when it raises its head without stooping to return in kind. Openly practice the qualities of a decent life. If you are frustrated with 45, do all you can to channel 16, Abraham Lincoln. Put your inner Lucy on mute, amp up your inner Charlie Brown. Focus on resiliency more than resistance, on being awake & aware & active instead of going numb or shrug off.
Forbes had a great article six years back – The Ten Golden Rules on Living the Good Life. make a great prescription to counter today’s civil malaise:
- Examine life, engage life with vengeance; always search for new pleasures and new destines to reach with your mind.
- Worry only about the things that are in your control, the things that can be influenced and changed by your actions, not about the things that are beyond your capacity to direct or alter.
- Treasure friendship.
- Keep your life simple. Seek calming pleasures that contribute to peace of mind. True pleasure is disciplined and restrained.
- Master Yourself. Resist any external force that might delimit thought and action; stop deceiving yourself, believing only what is personally useful and convenient.
- Live life in harmony & balance.
- Bear responsibility for your actions (and lack of them). Hold yourself accountable.
- Prosperity by itself, is not a cure-all against an ill-led life, and may be a source of dangerous foolishness.
- Don’t harm others. Doing people dirt is a dangerous habit.
- Kindness to others is a good habit that supports and reinforces the quest for the good life.
Easy to copy, not so easy to live. My older sister was uneasy around me because, as she rightly pointed out, I wallow in joy doing things for others. She was right – doing things for others is a great pleasure. It wasn’t for her, but she felt like my way was a rebuke to hers.
Mim might have been the first to think my Goody Two-Shoes, Pollyanna ways make me a dangerous woman. She won’t be the last!