I asked our four-year-old granddaughter about her family’s recent visit with friends.
“It was good,” she said.
“Did you enjoy the little girl who was your age?”
“Yes,” she said. “But she forked me.”
“We were eating bweakfast and she forked me. Wight here in my shoulda. She stabbed me with her fork.”
“That’s too bad. Did you fork her back?” I asked.
She grinned at the thought and said, “No, Gwamma. I don’t pay evil for evil.”
Stunning, isn’t it? A four-year-old understands the value of restraint more than a lot of adults.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a fork for a fork—it never ends well.
While chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen in months, our conversation turned to a matter on which we hold different views. We had a good exchange, and were ready to go our separate ways when my friend paused and said, “So, are we mad at each other now?”
She said it partly in jest, but not entirely. No, we were not mad at each other, but many in our nation are mad. Actually, they are beyond mad—they are enraged, furious and seething. And these days many of us seem utterly incapable of holding anything back. It’s as though we are compelled by some irresistible force to say, post, tweet and scream every rotten thing we think.
Is this really who we are? Is this really who we want to be?
Dozens of columns will probably be published this week documenting the slippery slope we’re on, with calls to scale back the rhetoric.
Well, we can start by turning down the heat one person at a time and one insult at a time.
For starters, we could all give ourselves permission not to say everything we think. It’s OK to bite your tongue sometimes. And to keep your fists at your side. It’s called self-control.
Second, we can turn down the volume. Screaming has never been an effective means of persuasion.
Third, we can get real. As long as this country has existed there have been disagreements. We will always have disagreements. Aside from the Civil War, national disagreements have largely been resolved without resorting to violence or lethal hatred. Our disagreements may be intense and passionate, but they can still be civil.
If you have a disagreement, go after the idea, the policy or the legislation, not the person. Learn how to structure valid arguments and stop the name calling.
If we do not detox ourselves soon, we will cease to be a nation ruled by laws and become a nation ripe for anarchy.
The day after the nation was horrified by an unhinged man attempting to assassinate Republican congressmen on a ballfield in Alexandria, Virginia, there were three organized prayer meetings on the Hill and numerous spontaneous ones. Each one of us can pray, too. We can pray for God’s mercy on our nation, for temperance, wisdom, prudence, and the ability to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Finally, we can pray our nation does not succumb to being a people who relish repaying evil with evil.