“Normalizing” Reason and Compassion


2016-12-01 – You’ve probably seen a lot of talk (especially if you are in the liberal bubble) about “normalizing” Donald Trump or not normalizing him—take your pick. (Here’s one example on the side of normalizing Trump.) There are costs and benefits for both approaches, especially if we take normalization as a package. But I’m not here to talk about normalizing Donald Trump.

I’m here today to talk about normalizing reason and compassion.

We bridle at the thought of normalizing Donald Trump under the odd idea that his behavior is abnormal. I don’t want to get into a whole list of precedents, but let’s take one.  Do you think that Republican stonewalling of President Obama for the last eight years was normal or abnormal. Before you answer that, consider the fact that in the 1860s the United States fought a civil war.

Nasty things are always happening. Sometimes it’s below the radar. Sometimes it’s in full display.

So I think a better conversation to have would be about normalizing rational and compassionate behavior. Bullying and lying and intransigence are already normal.

For the last several years, on December 1, I get the first of a series of email called the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. As Jew, I wasn’t exposed to advent calendars as I grew up, but it seems like a nice tradition to open a different piece of candy each day during the month of December leading up to Christmas.

The Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar is a different twist on this idea. Each day of December, leading up to Christmas you get an email suggesting a kind act that you can do for the day. Today’s is “Day 1: Phone a Friend!” The idea appealed to me several years ago and I subscribed.

But I learned that doing kind acts isn’t always easy.

Phoning a friend may not seem like a biggie. It’s not, unless you decide to call someone who you’ve lost touch with or someone you’ve hurt in the past. Each day is like that. You can take the easy way out or challenge yourself

It’s the same way with normalizing reason and compassion.

And I’m not just talking about the political sphere. It’s hard at work. It’s hard with your friends. It’s hard with your family.

We often hurt those who are closest to us. We mostly hurt those who are closest to us. Take a look around. Isn’t that what has happened to politics in this country?

Reason and compassion are hard. Bullying and lying and intransigence are easy.

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