“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” (William Faulkner)
Recently, I was reading The Best American Essays of 2019, edited by the always invigorating Rebecca Solnit. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the best essays of 2019 are political in nature. Given the times, it could not be otherwise. I was particularly struck by one short essay, “We Are Not the Resistance,” by Michelle Alexander. It first appeared in the New York Times, so you can read it here. She contends that those of us who oppose Donald Trump and everything his administration stands for are not the resistance. Trump and his ilk are the resistance. It is they who are resisting the march of history—the march toward our nation becoming “a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.”
Ms. Alexander further asserts that “the whole of American history can be described as a struggle between those who truly embraced the revolutionary idea of freedom, equality and justice for all and those who resisted.”
While, yes, millions of us are resisting Donald Trump, and will continue to do so as long as we have breath, we should also remember that—viewed from an historical perspective—we are not the resistance, Donald Trump is.
This outlook strengthens my resolve and gives me hope.
I encourage you to read the essay, and to share it. It articulates a perspective we will need during 2020 and beyond, no matter what the election brings.
Can Kindness Be Political?
A friend recently opined that as a blogger and author who writes and speaks about kindness, I can’t be too political. “After all,” she said, “It isn’t kind to be critical of politicians or their supporters.”
This comment demonstrates one of the biggest misconceptions about kindness: that kind people are docile, accepting, and spineless. That—to avoid rocking the boat or inciting confrontation—they will meekly accept other people’s bad behavior and overlook injustice.
That’s not kindness. That’s being a Milquetoast.
It’s true that YOLK is not a political blog. Its focus for more than five years has been on kindness—except for those rare occasions when I’ve strayed into jazz, or baseball, or cats (and even then, kindness was always in the wings). In recent years, my posts have become increasingly political—because it’s impossible to ignore the rampaging elephant in the room. I know I have lost blog followers—and even friends—by speaking my mind. I regret the losses, but not my words. I hope I have been civil. My intent is not to offend, but to open a dialogue and perhaps even a mind.
I see this in other blogs, too. Humor blogs, travel blogs, blogs about retirement, books, health, or nature. I applaud every blogger who has stepped from the safety of their original intent to speak for a future where integrity, honesty, and compassion reign. Thank you for speaking your mind … and for voicing your courageous kindness.
While kindness is certainly a choice in our interpersonal dealings with one another, it’s also in our bond with our community, our nation, and the world.
In our one-to-one exchanges, I can disagree with someone—even vociferously—and still be civil. I can abhor their political views and perhaps even their prejudices, without resorting to name-calling, shaming, or vilifying them. I can stand up for my political views and values without demonizing someone who disagrees. Sometimes it’s a matter of not saying everything I’m thinking—because I know those thoughts will only polarize us further. My hopes of opening a mind or engaging in civil dialogue are dashed if the person I’m dealing with feels attacked. It’s the same if they attack me. Progress stalls when we fall into our reptilian brains.
Kindness at a Broader Level
Beyond one-to-one, kindness must also be how we approach life. It must encompass our hopes for the future, our commitment to our values, our determination to stand up for those who are marginalized or mistreated. In this all-embracing kindness, we speak our mind and walk our talk. We will not be silenced because someone declares, “It’s not kind to criticize our president.”
To the contrary, criticism of the President, of his cronies, accomplices, and enablers, is kindness to the future. It’s activism toward decency and our children’s and grandchildren’s quality of life. It’s kindness toward our planet.
It is not kindness to remain silent and compliant in the face of injustice.
The children separated from their parents and locked up at our borders. The silencing of the press. The withholding of truth and willful lies. The distortions for political gain. These must be called out—again and again. We’ve seen what happens when good people stay silent. Those who say it can’t happen here may find comfort in their delusion, but they are deluded just the same. It is happening here.
The greatest kindness we can do in this year that tests us in so many ways is to stand up for our values, for our democracy, for the Constitution, and for one another. Silence is neither kind nor prudent. It’s what they’re counting on.
There are few things more important than the outcome of this year’s election—not just because it determines who will occupy the White House for the next four years, but because it tells the world—and ourselves—who we are and what we will value and defend. If not truth, what? If not our brothers and sisters, who? If not today, when?
“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)