February 10, 2016
When I was a little girl, my mother taught me a song that went like this:
“If you can’t say something nice, then, shhhhh! Say nothing.
Think it over once or twice, then, shhhh! Say nothing.
Think of happy things to say. That’s the rule to follow.
If you can’t say something nice, close your lips and swallow.”
Little did I know that this was a song I would grow to love more and more as I age. These days, I even take it a step further. If I find myself even thinking ugly thoughts, I push them out of my head, setting them free from my mind and lightening the load in my brain. Like most people, I am far, far from perfect but, like some, I am a continually reaching for a better me. That means no gossip, no criticism, no catty remarks (no matter how funny, and sometimes I am really, really funny) at the expense of other people. Although this endeavor is a never ending battle, like flossing one’s teeth, I am getting used to the routine, and actually feeling pretty peaceful when I find myself instinctively walking this road. I have heard that vegetarians, once cleansed of animal proteins, can become physically ill if they eat a piece of meat. Well, I won’t go so far as to say that gossip makes me ill, but my stomach does immediately respond to cruel remarks about others. It turns gently as if to warn me. These days, if someone serves me a fast ball of juicy gossip, I just let it drop at my feet and stay there. No return. Soon enough, the balls stop coming.
I don’t know exactly when being kind, diplomatic, mannerly and humble became unfashionable. As I was growing up, that sort of behavior was what my parents and teachers expected of me and everyone else. A smart mouth would earn me a reprimand, not applause. Unkind words about others earned me a lesson in self awareness, for those unkind words were gently pointed right back at me like a mirror. That is why I am so baffled at the fairly recent acceptance and endorsement of mean spirited rudeness, marketed as toughness. The first time I noticed this trend was on TV in the persona of a judge who took pleasure in publicly berating and humiliating citizens in her courtroom, in addition to sentencing or fining them. Then it was in the smart alec mouth of a TV mom, then a shock jock on the radio. As the temperature for civility began to covertly rise all around me, like everyone else, I began to not notice so much.
Considering this, it is no surprise that the presidential election circus affects me in such a negative way. Candidates feed on each other’s weaknesses and missteps like hungry hyenas. They seek out the worst in each other and magnify it to the best of their advantage. We Americans, who already feel badly about something in our own lives (and frankly, who doesn’t?), follow the blood in the water to find somebody, something that we can point our finger towards; something uglier than our own picture, something at least as smelly as our own mess. Leaving our TVs on all day, we drink the Kool Aid of fear, insecurity and angst. We let the media hose gasoline on the spark of our own Tasmanian Devil until we spin ourselves into a frenzy of negativity. I am so sick of it. So, until this election is over, I vow not to say a single word about any candidate, even you know who. I will only say nice things about them, and if I cannot say anything nice, then I shall simply remain silent. The irony is that, like most Americans, I really, really want to respect all the candidates. I want to look up to each one of them, because they have already reached a level of accomplishment that most never touch. I am an easy target. Say just a few respectful things, be diplomatic about the rest, and I am yours! Easy. A pipe dream, you say? Probably, but a girl’s gotta dream, right? Oh well. On November 8, 2016 I shall vote and hope for the best. And if my candidate does not win, so be it. I will take a deep breath and find something nice to say, even if it is just about the weather. Complaining doesn’t elevate me or the person subjected to it, so I will just try to rise above my disappointment. Or maybe I will just sing a little song.