The Tone, It Is A-Changin’
I’m not joking when I say this. If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treating another colleague with disrespect or talking down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts. Everybody, EVERYBODY is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.
–President Biden, addressing his presidential appointees on Thursday
And his press secretary – I forget her name right now – is so smart and so pleasant.
The Sobering Undertow
I don’t expect the GOP to have a “come to Jesus” moment. For example, I read this morning that dozens of Republican senators are challenging the “constitutionality” of holding an impeachment trial of a president who’s no longer in office. They’re saying we should “move on” instead.
And there’s so much more too. Nothing is going to be easy. Or very little will be anyway.
But is life supposed to be easy?
The Human Element
During a recent online Higher Thought Game party, the topic of humanity’s impact on the planet came up. Someone characterized humanity as a “parasite” on the living systems of the Earth. (I’ve heard worse. One friend opined some years ago that humankind is a “cancer” on the planet.)
But in a way, this whole notion, this framing – humanity vs. the Earth – is in itself distinctly human. Only the human mind could conceive of such a duality, like we’re somehow separate from the rest of the planet. We’re not. Even in all our apparent destructiveness and folly, we are not a breed apart from the rest of Nature. It’s characteristically human hubris to imagine that we are.
In fact, part of what we bring to the mix is this story-making ability of ours. I don’t think any other animals (though I could be wrong) string together events like we do, into stories, into “meaning.” So that capacity — along with humor, and music, and romantic love, and so many other things … these are contributions that humans bring to the banquet of life on Earth.
And maybe it’s necessary now that we should be very seriously contemplating stories about who “we” are vis-à-vis the planet, even if such stories do cast us as separate. Maybe that’s the natural progression of our evolution at this time, and it’s wondrous too, and beautiful – that we’re making up stories about how destructive we are.
I say “making up stories,” but I don’t mean to imply they are not “true.” I’m just saying … it’s a way of framing reality. A uniquely human way, I believe.
Kindness is, I think, a human concept.
But maybe it’s a human “interpretation” of an even greater, more inclusive universal force or quality.
And it’s coming back in vogue right now on our Earthly plane, and in our country. I feel this is so.
I’m moved by Biden’s kindness. It’s genuine. I know this. I feel this.
In contrast to Trump’s stark unapologetic brutality, it is particularly powerful.
Kindness and decency have captured the imagination of our nation. May they continue to do so. May they grow in influence.
That’s my prayer today. President George H. W. Bush once said he wanted a “kinder, gentler nation.” I don’t know if he was being cynical at the time or not. (That line was from his nomination acceptance speech in ’88.) But those were powerful words.
It’s possible that this is the dawn of an era in which those words take on new life.