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If You Can’t Say Something Nice

I suspect there’s a lot of rolling over in the graves of our forefathers/foremothers regarding the state of the union. But not for what you might think. And they would probably disagree that today’s world is any more frightening than the one in which they lived.

If you can't say something nice

They experienced wars and rumors of wars. Two world conflicts. The Korean war. Vietnam.

They knew financial hardship. Lived on a shoestring budget. And there was that horrendous era known as The Great Depression.

My brother died from polio in 1948. Thousands of American children were stricken with the crippling disease. A survey in 1952 ranked polio as the number two fear of Americans behind that Atom Bomb.

As a child of the 60s, I vividly recall A-bomb drills. Never did understand why putting my head on my desk would save me when the Commies dropped the big one. Oh, yeah. I was in high school during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were genuinely frightened. The girls freaked out and the guys pretended not to be concerned.

Bickering and lying politicians? That’s nothing new. Politician haters aren’t new either. On the day that JFK was elected president, our neighbor paid us a visit. She was livid that a Catholic had been elected to the highest American office. Later, when he was assassinated, she rejoiced. Fortunately, her misaligned hatred didn’t have an outlet like Twitter or Facebook.

In reality, there have always been things to frighten every generation. But our world features something that would blow the minds of those who have gone before us. That would be social media and the breakdown of journalistic integrity via 24 hour news channels.

Wish I had a dollar for every time my grandmother admonished me, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody then don’t say anything at all.” She also taught, “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” Most of all, she emphasized respect and restraint. For those times when you must speak up, she advised, “Choose your battles carefully.” She also told me, “If you have to fight, fight to win.”

No way that I have perfectly lived out her instructions. But I would like to think that some of it stuck. Maybe that’s why my heart is grieved over all this anger directed at one another.

When my boys were growing up they were into professional wrestling. You know: Hulk Hogan. Rick Flair. Andre the Giant. Those superstars and others, wrestled a little and trash-mouthed a lot. A precursor to today’s reality. Trash talk everywhere. The very behavior that my grandmother abhorred is now a way of life. If she were alive there wouldn’t be enough soap to go around. Her method for insuring compliance with her rules. “Wash your mouth out with soap.”

Did you know that not so many years ago, TV newscasts only lasted fifteen minutes? And they actually reported the news without commentary. “That’s the way it is.” No talking heads speculating and giving stupid opinions. What a concept. Here’s the news and we believe that you are smart enough to decide what it means.

There’s one more thing my grandmother taught me. “Don’t stir the stinky pot.” I’m sad to say, we have lost that battle too.

No wonder we think our country is divisive. Of course, that’s not your fault. It’s the other guy, right? He needs to get his act together.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe for a minute that we can all join hands, sing Kumbaya, and all this vitriol will go away. But I do believe we can achieve greater unity by curbing our incendiary opinions, exercising restraint, and being more respectful of others.

Corny? Yep. Old school? Big time.

I hesitate to bring this up because I know that it’s a controversial concept.”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Better yet, just try saying something kind or positive for a change. And if you can’t do that, then please do humanity a favor and keep your mouth shut.

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