This article is a “stream of consciousness” triggered by today’s Washington Times Commentary section, which had an article entitled “Galvanized by Contempt” by Newt Gingrich. Its focus was the recent spate of attacks on certain people in the Administration, while at restaurants, and even outside their homes. In recent years, we have seen increasing numbers of violent protests all over this country – mostly over politicians and politics, or politically charged issues.
What are we doing to ourselves – and why?
I am an American by choice. In other words, I am an immigrant. I grew up in England, but I had relatives who traveled here, and who brought back all kinds of good stuff, including candy, bubblegum and Sunday comics, and we had American neighbors, who were friendly, kind and far more generous than our British ones. By the time I was seven, I had set my sights on coming to the US, and by the time I was 23, I had done it. I told everyone that I was coming to seek my fame and fortune.
I was in love with the whole idea of the US. The sun shone brighter, the people were nicer, and there was more of everything good and wonderful. And it wasn’t a fantasy. It was true. I had read about the country’s founding, the revolution, the courage of the founders and the Federalist Papers that described their concerns about, and desire for a Constitution. All those things thrilled me – especially the idea that a nation could be “designed” by imagination and thought.
I love the United States and, for me, the sun still shines brighter, people are nicer, and the natural beauty of the country is breath-taking. I walk a lot around the area in which I live, and in neighboring towns and villages (close to DC, not a rural area) and I find that hardly a block goes by without someone smiling, saying “Hi!” or commenting on the weather.
So… fast forward to today. I love the United States and, for me, the sun still shines brighter, people are nicer, and the natural beauty of the country is breath-taking. I walk a lot around the area in which I live, and in neighboring towns and villages (close to DC, not a rural area) and I find that hardly a block goes by without someone smiling, saying “Hi!” or commenting on the weather. These friendly neighbors and delivery-men are from all races and walks of life. I don’t watch television – I got turned off by all the negativity and ads. I do read a couple of different newspapers, where I can choose what I read, and don’t have the news or commentary thrust upon me. I attend meetings with colleagues, and there I become exposed to some negative comments about politicians or the economy or allies and adversaries, but generally, we get on with whatever projects we are working on.
So what has happened and is still happening around us that is causing the viciousness out there? I’m not a psychologist, but I’m interested in people, and I have the feeling that it is a sense of victimhood that has been exacerbated by the media. They are fanning the flames of resentment, entitlement, and fear. To be as vicious as some of these protesters are, they must be afraid. People don’t behave that way if they are not afraid. Afraid of the people around them, afraid of not having enough, afraid of violence, and afraid of the future. Gingrich is concerned that we are entering a political-cultural civil war – and he may be correct if the “fanners of the flames” continue. But I can’t believe that most Americans hate their country or their fellow-Americans. So, what can we do to turn things around? Fred Rogers spoke about making goodness attractive. We need to do that. It sounds very Pollyanna-ish but perhaps we, as individuals, can be nicer, smile more, and speak more warmly to people whom we encounter, offer helping hands – give “random acts of kindness.” And, if we can, control our own urges to criticize, to get angry, to shout – and turn off television more!