Something has been circling around my brain for months now, accelerated by the shambolic presidential campaign in which it seems each candidate is vying for the position of Most Unbearable. One insists victims of rape carry their unwanted pregnancies to term, another suggests carpet-bombing the Mideast is a viable foreign policy, one is a pleasant old man with unsustainable economic ideas, we have a woman who, while talented and capable personifies Hubris, and Donald Trump says nothing at all really, except to insult and insinuate against his competitors, or that a solution to illegal immigration is a giant wall. Because that worked so well in Germany. And we all stand back and laugh at his vitriol and watch as his poll numbers climb, and seem willing to elect him President of the United Butt-Hurt States come November.
What bothers me is that he’s just the loudest, most obnoxious example of something ugly that has been sweeping our nation for some time. Somehow, my own generation started raising kids whom we protected from every disappointment and the results have not been good. In eight years on high school campuses, taking phone calls from irate parents demanding a teacher’s head for having the temerity to expect his or her child to follow classroom rules, shut their mouths, or hand in homework on time, became a daily occurrence. Teachers routinely have to explain, with documentation, why they fail a student, and I’ve seen them have to fight their Principals tooth and claw to fail a student with a 67 because that was what the student earned. Rules became suggestions, always movable for the parents who yell the loudest.
Social media has turned every slight and insult into a world wide web embarrassment, and I’ve sent Assistant Principals scurrying to break up fights because of a rude tweet literally dozens of times. We laugh at celebrities Twitter-battles, and laugh some more when one or the other offers an insincere apology.
Children can hardly be blamed for merely following the example of adults, such as the passengers who applauded as a family left an airplane because the little boy’s severe allergic reaction had delayed take-off. Their inconvenience was of greater concern then his health. Where is the empathy?
We’re all insulted all of the time, by everyone and everything.
Donald Trump, abuser of Eminent Domain law, serial adulterer with two failed marriages and multiple bankruptcies, and who’s greatest skill as far as I can see is insult by insinuation, daily gains in popularity. All my life I’ve been working on filtering my speech for public consumption, but Trump is applauded for “saying what everyone is thinking,” as if that is good excuse for poisonous, unchecked speech. He is the Affluenza Teen writ large, but he’s merely a symptom; in a country where a flight delay has people applauding a sick little boy’s departure, it’s hard not to see that our whole country is sick and I’m just scared to death we’ll actually elect an unqualified, nasty symptom of our disease.
Yesterday I found myself snarkily complaining that I couldn’t find dried cannellini beans for a recipe, which is to show how insidious the disease is. I am aware enough of it all around me, but must always guard against the infection to myself, an infection of complacency, of being insensible to things that really do matter, like the number of people going hungry, a cycle of endless war in the Mideast, or poisoned drinking water in our cities.
In a nation that has so much, can we not afford to be generous, not only monetarily, but also thoughtfully, collectively and individually? It costs us nothing to get home a bit late, if it means a little boy gets medical treatment he needs. It costs nothing to let an insult pass unanswered. It costs nothing to let the person with two items go before us and our full shopping carts at the store. Call me a cock-eye optimist, but I believe we as a nation are better than clapping a sick boy off a plane, better than Donald Trump. I know it because I have seen teachers chase down truant students, explaining that they are holding them accountable because they care; I’ve seen a dozen bicycles around a Christmas tree at church, bought for local children in need; I’ve had young men with gang tattoos scurry to hold open a door for me when my hands were full. All these things and more tell me that within us all flows human kindness and compassion and as our election cycle continues, I beg of you, train yourself to find the good around you, especially in strangers, and then look hard at the candidates through that lens.
In the months ahead, let us set aside the easy temptation of feeling insulted, seek the common ground between each other, rather than dwelling upon our differences, and most especially eschew the politics of fear. Let us thoughtfully consider which candidate best represents the basic goodness and strength of the American people, and then get out and VOTE. Because we are, America is better than Donald Trump.