Yesterday I read a provocative comment on the Facebook page of my friend and former literary agent, Elizabeth Frost-Knappman.
“Tonight Ben Carson (Housing & Urban Development Secretary) said he would never work for a racist and Trump is not one. He said Trump spends an inordinate amount of time planning how to pull up the disadvantaged in our country and that he would not do this if he were racist… Anyway, I felt relief that the President actually cares about the poor in America. We all have many facets to our character.”
We all have so many facets to our character. In essence, she is saying that just when you think you know someone (celebrity, friend, parent, spouse, whatever), that person suddenly shows you something that alters the take you had on him or her. So, do you truly know your mom or dad or boyfriend or girlfriend?
Before you tell me that I have watched too many “Datelines” and “48 Hour Mystery,” not to mention waging far too many forages through Netflix’s suspense genre, ask yourself this question: Do you know what your spouse or child would do under duress, for example, when pushed to his/her limits due to societal constraints or cruelty? Does he or she have a hidden but snarly payback proclivity that could lead to road rage or hate campaigns or social media madness?
In truth, what made me hang on to Elizabeth’s statement is that I have known her for so many years that I think I know her nature. She wants to believe the best in people, and that quality makes her an outstanding friend, parent, spouse—just a flat-out compassionate woman. At the same time, she admittedly has difficulty understanding the complexities of those who sabotage themselves via nasty mouths. Despite good intentions, these folks are impossible to fathom. Essentially, if you lack the kill-to-win, kill-to-have-your-way gene, you will never “get” these people. In contrast, so many of us were schooled from childhood to have empathy for all. That does not mean we always exercise that empathy, but it’s hanging out in our DNA, a little voice tugging on us to be kind and forgiving.
The question is: Do we cut too much slack to those who spit venom all the livelong day and scream grievances loudly enough to merit disturbing-the-peace citations? Isn’t there a time to say “enough”? Isn’t it okay to expect those around us to meet a standard of decency in treating other people with respect?
Freedom of speech is a right that most of us hold dear. We love our country, warts and zits, comma splices and double negatives, misdemeanors and felonies. Like a wayward child who is sometimes “inappropriate,” the U.S. obviously needs upgrades from time to time, but at its base, this is our child—our darling red-white-and-blue waif with tiny bows in its hair. No need to be ashamed of that abiding affection any more than we should hide our love for our children. Nor is there reason to withhold it.
So, while we all would admit that every person is a many-faceted wonder, sometimes difficult to understand, we also know in our gut that we have to love unconditionally—or really, we don’t love at all.
I wonder this. Exactly what do you think could make the current climate in our country more positive? What ideas can you advance for helping children “get” that it is all right to oppose an idea but it is not all right to make another individual feel “less than” just because he or she disagrees. It is important, I think, to know that just having a compelling thought flip into your brain does not mean that you have to share it. Just think it; be satisfied with that. Not every single idea is “shareable,” and it is fairly narcissistic to think that others need to hear every light-bulb moment. In fact, most people would benefit if we kept many of our thoughts in the vault.
No matter how vehemently you deplore a faction of American society or regard a group with disdain, in reality, the only segments of our population that are deplorable are those who harm others in despicable ways: drug pushers, assassins, terrorists, the caustically prejudiced, and the toxin-spewers.
Happily, though, we have good reason to be optimistic. Our children, much maligned for their electronic connectedness, really do intend to make things better and are wired to do so if led in the right direction. They are smart, and they are citizens of the world. Modeling how to rein in destructive instincts is the responsibility of all adults. Sure, we want them to excel in school, activities, and sports, but we also must require our offspring to rock this world by being kind, gentle spirits. I have been around enough of today’s children to tell you that I have no doubts about them; they want to be positive, excellent forces despite having grown up amid many impetuses encouraging them to be spiteful, arrogant, and entitled.
In your childhood and mine, parents told kids to “treat others the way you wanted to be treated”—and “if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Somehow, those values fell from favor, but they still are valid and workable. And believe it or not, kids relate to old adages. They want a happier future that has more joy and fewer dark vibes, circa 2019.
Let the Golden Rule resonate in your household! Families I see that have positive mantras leading childrearing efforts have children whose hearts are in the right place. They are generous, helpful, and aware of others’ rights to think differently and live differently. I know many such kids, and their parents are role models of consistency, goodness, sound work ethic, and, frankly, a basic no-malice approach to life.
Perhaps, in the exercise of seeing each other’s views in a calm crucible (my blog), we can help others achieve greater peace of mind—-something invaluable for just making your way through life.
As astounding blogger Austin Kleon says, a blogger should write his stuff and then ask himself, so what? I think that you and I should do the same thing every time we write. Discovering Americans we know and ones we don’t know can be a journey toward greater understanding of mankind. Clearly, this requires an open mind, open eyes, and an open heart. Get quiet and listen, and you might be surprised what you learn.
Not so quick with the insult. Less vilify. More sanctify.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your astute observation.
We all have so many facets to our character.
Please share your thoughts on people’s many facets and how you think we can increase the positives and decrease the negatives.