Countering Incivility Without Being a Jerk

“Unkind people imagine themselves to be inflicting pain on someone equally unkind.” (Marcel Proust)

Attribution: donna CameronRecently, I was honored that Elephant Journal published an article I had written about countering the epidemic of incivility in our political discourse. A key point was that politicians and pundits are not going to change unless we stop fueling them. It’s up to us (remember that quaint notion of “we, the people”?) to repair what’s broken and restore civility. We do that by making it clear that we will not tolerate bad behavior.

Because the article included a link to my website, I’ve received a few very thoughtful comments and questions. One particularly struck me. A woman named Sophia asked me how, when we see someone behaving rudely or unkindly, can we confront them without coming across ourselves as condescending or ugly?

This is such an important question and it’s why—even understanding the benefits and importance of kindness—we sometimes still struggle to be kind.

…keep on reading…

Countering Hate: SPLC Offers Guides for College Students and the Rest of Us

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.… Find what’s wrong; don’t ignore it; don’t look the other way. Make it a point to look at it and say to yourself: ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ That’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child but, by golly, if I got to give her up, then we’re going to make it count.” (Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, killed in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017)

On this one-year anniversary of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, we need to pause and consider where we are, how we got here, and where we want to be—as individuals and as a country. And we need to commit—or recommit—to being activists in whatever ways we can—whether that means marching, running for office, writing letters, writing checks, or even just living our own values fiercely and consistently.

…keep on reading…

America, the Cruel … or the Kind?

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” (Jimi Hendrix)

Attribution: Donna CameronRecently, I was interviewed for an article about my soon-to-be published book, A Year of Living Kindly (yes, it appears I am something of a one-trick pony). One question the interviewer asked me was what I think the biggest misconception is about kindness.

That’s an easy one: the biggest misconception about kindness is that it is weak, that it is soft, bland, and insubstantial. That kind people are pushovers, ineffective, and easily manipulated. That kindness itself is feeble and puny in the face of power or authority.

…keep on reading…

Is It All a Crock?

“The times it’s most important to be kind are also when it’s hardest to be kind.” (Donna Cameron)

Attribution: Donna CameronI don’t want to write this blog post. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. I’m sick of the election and sick of talking or thinking about it. Like a petulant child, I demand a do-over.

Most times, I tend to be an annoyingly optimistic person, but it’s been hard to summon any of that buoyant nature. It’s just easier to snarl.

You’re probably tired, too, of passionate blog posts about the election and how the world is likely to disintegrate. A couple of my friends who follow this blog were Trump supporters. I rather suspect they are no longer following. That makes me sad. But it illustrates the polarization we saw on both sides throughout the election. Most of us (myself included) only wanted to hear or read what supported our own personal biases and beliefs. That’s probably why so many of us were stunned by the election results. The very wise Michelle at The Green Study, wrote an excellent post about becoming a more educated citizen by looking for new—and more objective—sources for news and information. I recommend it, as well as her many other thoughtful messages.

I’ve been delaying getting to the actual point of my post, which is:

What scares me most—even more than the election of someone I can never respect, whose values, words, and behaviors appall me—is the thought that maybe this is all a crock.

This kindness business. A crock.

A couple of days after the election my seriously depressed husband said something to the effect: “You’ve got it all wrong. Kindness doesn’t work. Hate won the election. Hate and lies and bigotry. Kindness can’t stand up to those things. People who claim to be moral were willing to overlook sexual offenses, lying, bullying, bigotry, and a petty, revenge mentality. Morality is clearly situational when self-interest is involved. Kindness doesn’t work.”

This kindness business. A crock?

Since the election, the news—which I am trying to avoid—has reported countless incidents of hate across the nation: Muslim women being harassed and having their hijabs torn off … gay and transgender people attacked … swastikas and “KKK” scrawled in public areas … and so many more. And these by the people who WON the election. The winning candidate purports to disavow these actions (“Please stop,” he says), but his whole campaign deliberately fostered this sort of hate and fear. It’s not something that can be turned off like a faucet.

But I digress again. I’m trying to avoid my central question: Is kindness a crock? Is my husband right that it doesn’t work and the election proves it?

My answer is shaky. It’s doleful. But also mostly determined. No, kindness isn’t a crock. Kindness does work. We may not be able to see it now, but it’s there, it’s powerful, and ultimately it will prevail. If it doesn’t, then the world becomes a dark and doomed place and I’m not willing to accept that.

The well’s a bit dry now, but it will continue to fill up—from below—from the depths where human goodness resides and always will. It will fill up as we hear more stories like: the good people of Tucson who replaced messages of hatred toward a mosque with ones of love … or the people who painted over the swastikas and hate messages … or those who stood up to the bullies who were harassing others for being unlike themselves.

Kindness has to counter the fear that is at the heart of hate and anger. And we must always remember that kindness is not weak (that’s what they’re counting on!). Kindness is a strength—a superpower—and it’s one that each of us has at our command. It’s going to take time and it will take an army—a kindness army.

Like any superpower, kindness is most effective when employed with other weapons of mass construction: activism, reason, political savvy, knowledge, strategy, determination, solidarity, and an unwillingness to back down or stay silent in the face of injustice, lies, or incivility.

As long as we believe in kindness and continue to act on our belief—even despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary—it will ultimately prevail.

To believe otherwise makes it just too hard to get up in the morning. What do you think? Is kindness a crock?

“If a person seems wicked, do not cast him away. Awaken him with your words, elevate him with your deeds, repay his injury with your kindness. Do not cast him away; cast away his wickedness.” (Lao Tzu)

 

 

Now the Real Work Begins…

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Victor Frankl)

Attribution: Donna Cameron[Note: when I drafted this message, I anticipated and envisioned a very different end to our election. I will admit that I am devastated. But, with some edits, my basic message for today’s post stays the same. And perhaps the underlying message of kindness is even more important. Wishing you peace wherever you can find it, my friends….]

It’s over. At. Long. Last. The election that brought us to new heights of incivility, mistrust, and disregard for the truth has come to an end. Or has it?

A lot of people are really happy today and a lot of people are not. Today we face a choice almost as important as the one that was made at the polls: how are we going to respond in the face of winning or losing?

It’s difficult after a hard-fought campaign to let go of the partisanship and rancor that accompanied the crusade. Those on the winning side may feel inclined to gloat, smirk, or dance a jig to celebrate their victory (and maybe rub it in to those on the opposing side).

Do it in private. Thumb your nose or do your happy dance in the privacy of your home, your office, your room, or even your bathroom if that is the only private place you can find. Be aware that people on the other side of this election are hurting. Even if you can’t understand their position, surely you can understand their pain. Don’t make it worse.

Those on the losing side may feel anger, resentment, fear, and bewilderment. They may be feeling crushed by disappointment and a powerful urge to lash out. Don’t. Pause and pause again. Trust that the concerns you have which motivated you to vote as you did can be addressed fairly in our democracy. Trust that something good can emerge. Trust that you are strong and your voice will be heard.

I would remind both sides that our children are watching closely, and learning lifelong lessons from what they see. Let’s show them how to win with grace and lose with grace. Because throughout their lives they will experience both victory and defeat.

Whether you are happy today or unhappy, whether you feel hope or hopeless, look for ways to channel your energy and (re)direct it to something positive, something that will serve your best self and the values America holds dear. As stated in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Let’s start there.

Our Democracy is not indestructible. It is precious. Heed the words of Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, and act to assure that our “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Whether your candidate won or lost, behave with grace and compassion. Vow to be instrumental in healing America. Start today.

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” (L.R. Knost)