This photo is a little random, I will admit. I took it in Botswana years ago. Her giggle elicited such a positive reaction from me at the time. Children almost always choose kindness and joy. We learn to be unkind.
In my very first blog post, as I tried to figure out what I wanted to talk about, which, if you read my blog, you will know is a wide-range of topics, I talked about kindness.
Right now and for the past year, our country has been arguing more than we have in a long time, it seems. Families have been split and friendships have ended over choosing a political side. Heated debates and heartfelt arguments seem to be a normal part of life– either that or complete avoidance of subjects that may result in such heated debates is the alternative. What I find so often is that after tiring of arguing and debating with those in my family with whom I disagree, I fall back on my go-to argument: it is just not kind. I know it is not a data-driven point or a measurable statistic, but I don’t think that choosing the kind choice can ever be wrong.
It is human nature to look out for oneself above all others, unless you have a child. It is then human nature to protect your own offspring and yourself (in that order) above all others. After that, our interest expands out to our family members, friends, neighbors, people with whom we may not know, but with whom we identify, co-workers, fellow country people, etc. etc. Eventually, one would encompass the entire world in one’s circle. The thing is, many people never get outside considering the needs of themselves and their children. And only the most enlightened of souls truly, deeply cares about all of humanity.
The problem is, humanity cannot survive, and our country cannot prosper if the majority of the people are only considering themselves when they make decisions. Decisions must be made for the greater good.
Democrats or liberals are called many things: “Bleeding hearts,” “wing-nuts”, “communists,” but I think the most accurate is “progressives.” It seems obvious to me that at the end of the day, progress always triumphs and historically, this has meant that humanity has triumphed.
Millions of lives were lost, but Hitler did not manage to create a “master race” and exterminate all the Jews. A war was fought, but the abolitionists prevailed and slavery ended in this country. Women fought for decades, but eventually men agreed that they could vote, as well as own land, have a job, etc. Thousands died , but the government finally admitted gay men deserved the research to curb HIV. Generations lived as less than full Americans, but finally, the Civil Rights Act passed. Love was blocked, but in the end, all adults in this country were given the right to marry who they chose. The problem is not that the the kind choice eventually was made, but that it took so much to get there. In all of these instances blood, sweat, tears, death, anger, sadness, boycotts, protests, petitions, marches, filibusters and more were needed. But eventually, we have proven that humanity should, can and will triumph. Around the world, horrible, oppressive regimes exist, but they get toppled, the people rise up, humanity wins. Good does tend to conquer evil. Eventually.
Why the hell does it have to take so damn long and cost so many lives before it does? Why can’t we just do the right thing first? Or if not first, second or at least sooner rather than later?
In the U.S., we do NOT live in an oppressive regime. We do NOT live in an autocracy or dictatorship (much to the dismay it would appear of our elected leader). We are NOT literally at civil war. We are the most prosperous nation on Earth, so surely the citizens of United States could be past looking only at themselves and their offspring, and open their eyes and their hearts and their wallets to the wider circle of humanity. This is not just about altruism; doing good for each individual or group means the entire collective thrives.
So many issues our country is facing right now seem so simply to be a matter of choosing the kind solution that will benefit humanity as a whole. However, we have this group of people that seem hell-bent on creating a better life for the few while trampling on the many. Forbes even agrees.
While one may argue that this is a good tactic in business, (I disagree and can give examples of plenty of successful businesses that did it without abuse and greed), it is simply not good practice in civilized society and within the government that runs said society.
Let me look at a few issues facing our country especially with regards to the current budget. I am not going to argue facts or drill down with statistics or cite expert opinion. If you don’t believe me, Google it. This is my op-ed blog free of charts and graphs. I am simply going to state the obvious choice of kindness. I am not going to bog you down with loads of stats, but I will give you some links to other articles that can point you to other articles and you can research what I am talking about. I have tried to give articles from a variety of sources.
Primary education. The hypocrisy when it comes to kids is astounding. Politicians want to scrap healthy lunch requirements, and in many cases cut funding for meals for kids all together. They want to cut budgets from physical education and the arts. They want to cut after-school and summer programs. They want to cut special-ed and gifted programs. I am all for improving any system that needs improving, but in the guise of creating choice, what they are doing is disproportionately negatively effecting minority and poor students. This is not kind. This is stupid. The more access to good education ALL of our kids have, the better for E-V-E-R-YONE. White, middle-class America does an awesome job of protecting their kids’ education, but letting the rest of the kids fall through the cracks and then blame drugs and welfare. How about we just provide good, safe, strong, effective schools and meals for all children in this country? Do you know what the end result would be? A great America. Don’t believe me? Read this.
Tertiary education. Education is important. Job skills are important. When a high-schooler finishes, what is next? The kind choice would be to encourage all high-schoolers to pursue education that will benefit their future career and to help them pay for this if they and their family cannot. This could be work-study, apprenticeships, interest-free loans, etc. They get education and jobs without crippling debt. Society gets productive members who will contribute. The unkind choice is to allow only the wealthy and middle class the option to go to college and to burden new grads with crippling debt, particularly those who have chosen to go into needed, but low-paying jobs. The unkind choice leaves those with limited means no access to better themselves with training for a good career. Why can’t we chose kindness? It isn’t charity; it would benefit everyone. More people with the appropriate education=more people with jobs=better economy=fewer people needing government support=fewer lives ruined from student loans=win, win, win. Read more here and here.
Mental health and addiction support. Many of our homeless, our prisoners and our emergency room patients have mental health issues and/or substance abuse problems. Is it more kind to provide them with the necessary treatment at tax-payer expense and possibly end up with productive members of society or to save money now and let them suffer, costing more money long-term? Investing in supporting and helping people will result in fewer people on the streets, in prison and in the emergency room, and fewer kids turned over to social services all of which costs tax-payers money. More people becoming healthy and productive members of our society infuses tax money into the economy. It is kind to help those in need, and society will benefit from that kindness. Read more here.
Law-abiding undocumented immigrants. There are tens of thousands of undocumented men and women in this country who have obeyed the law aside from maybe a traffic violation or some other minor infraction, and they are fearful of being deported. For many, deportation would mean leaving their American-citizen children behind, facing danger in their home country and more. Is it more kind to allow the men and women who are hard-working, but perhaps illegal in this country to become legal or to deport them? Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, fill a vital role in our economy and without them, many of our industries would suffer. The children of immigrants are some of the most successful members of our society. Guess what? Humanity wins when they are allowed a home with their parents living free from fear. We are a nation founded by immigrants, and our Statue of Liberty invites immigrants in with kindness. Immigrants are not harming our economy; they help to grow it. Let us be kind to them, and they will help us to make America great. Read more here and here.
Public housing. Do you know who lives in public housing? Well, just for starters, disabled people, elderly people, children and people with mental health issues live in public housing. Is it kind that they should be kicked out? Not have proper heat or plumbing? Not be safe? Children that grow up in public housing face challenges middle-class kids cannot even fathom. Is it kind that they should suffer and not have adequate shelter? If we invest in decent public housing for those who need it most, we get people of the streets, we help kids stay in school, we create communities and society wins. Can anyone with a heart who has a roof over their head, no matter how hard they worked for it, truly believe any child in this country should be without and that by depriving our citizens of homes we are in some way creating greatness? Read more here.
Public Healthcare. I could write a series of blogs on this. I am going to try to be brief. Insurance of all kinds works when everyone pays into it just in case they need it. If only women paid for insurance for pre-natal care, that would be okay for pregnancies that went off without a hitch, but as men whose wives and mothers had pregnancies that were not so easy can attest, having good care is important. Guess what? Healthy babies are good for humanity. Vaccines save the lives of those that are vaccinated, but also those who CANNOT (for health reasons) be vaccinated. Not having outbreaks of preventable diseases is good for humanity, therefore, free vaccines are good for humanity. Identifying communicable diseases and treating them early is good for not only the patient, but for everyone with whom they come in contact. In short, you may never need heart surgery, but you may break your arm. Or maybe you live to be 97-years old, never having a sniffle or a check-up. Maybe you paid health insurance that whole time, and you think, what a waste! But consider, that you were a part of a pool of money and what you didn’t use was used on a sickly child who may not have survived, but for the medical care provided her, and she was so inspired by this medical care that she went on to become a doctor in a research lab and found a cure for breast cancer, which incidentally saves your granddaughter’s life one day. Caring for everyone’s health is good for society. And it is the kind thing to do. Read more here.
Refugees and asylum seekers. If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you do not fall into this category. There is an equally good chance, you have no clue how incredible awful the situations refugees and asylum seekers are leaving. I have no clue. I have never been to a refugee camp, but I have seen the photos. You had the good sense to not be born in a war-torn country. Oh wait, no you didn’t choose that. Fate did or god or dumb luck or whatever. People who are refugees have been the victims of extreme unkindness in their own country, and have suffered more than most Americans entire family tree combined. Most refugees do not come to their new homes and commit crimes. Show me the stats that say they do. Is it kind to allow fellow humans to suffer or is it kind to do what we can as the richest super-power in the world to help? You got lucky. You were born here. Why is it we feel that entitles us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of literally MILLIONS of others around the world? We can’t take the millions in, so you know what else is kind? Diplomacy and working with our allies to fight against regimes that are creating these refugee situations. They are not kind. They need to be stopped. Here are some facts on refugees coming to America.
Muslims. So you guys know that most, like 99% of Muslims, are not terrorists, right?Actually, most Muslins would say that 100% of Muslims are not terrorists because terrorism is not actually condoned in Islam. Radical extremists who claim to be Muslims are really sociopaths who commit terror. Some sociopaths are born. Others are created. People who go and shoot up their school, another school, their place of work, a random street etc. have been treated unkindly. At the most extreme level they feel, often rightly, that people have been unkind to them, so they will get revenge. Extremism is often born out of a vacuum where policies, wars and poor diplomacy have left entire swaths of people vulnerable to the lure of extremism. Bans on countries or groups; failure to use diplomacy to work with governments to fight terrorism; failure to work together with the international community makes people think we are unkind as a nation. Terrorism is bred from that. This is SUPER interesting.
The environment. I am not going to talk about kindness to the rivers or the air or the animals because only the most enlightened can extend their love that far. But back to my original point that the kind choice will benefit the current citizens of the US and humanity, we need to be kind to the Earth. We live on this planet, we breathe the air, we drink the water, we eat the food grown in its soil. If we fill our air with pollutants, we will get sick. If we fill our water with waste, we will die of thirst. If we destroy our land, we will starve. Believe in climate chang or don’t. Creating jobs for coal miners solves one immediate problem and creates a host of future ones. Investing money in seeking new forms of energy and in training coal miners in these industries helps them in the long-run, and it benefits humanity. It is simply the kind choice. Think your current government has your health and the health of your kin at heart?
Kindness usually creates more kindness. Hostility creates more hostility, aggression creates failed states, extremist regimes and wars. Ignoring your fellow human who is worse of than you is never the kind choice. Not everyone is destined to save the world, but you can smile at the homeless man outside the Starbucks and buy him a coffee. Better yet, you can volunteer one day a week at the shelter and teach him how to read.
These are just a few of the MANY examples. Try it as a litmus test. Next time you are arguing with someone. Pause. Ask one another, what is the kind solution? What one will treat all people involved with humanity? Is the end result better for us as a nation? Try to step outside just your home and consider not just your family’s bottom line, but those who have less than you do. How can you be kind to them while still taking care of your loved ones? It is possible, I promise. So then, decide on the kind route, and then act accordingly.
Obama said famously, “It’s the right thing to do.” William James said, “Act as if what you do matters. It does.”
Choose kindness and you will always choose wisely. Humanity will thank you, and you will find before you know it, you will be a happier human yourself.