“Political” isn’t a dirty word

Dear President Trump,

I’ve thought some more about both the “stop to think” and “Kindness is Magic” messages I wrote to you about yesterday and want to add a couple more things about them. First, I realized this morning that the encouragement to “stop to think” is probably mostly about being intentional about thinking, it’s about not being on autopilot or being swept away mindlessly by the dominant rhetoric – it’s about stopping what one is doing (including what one’s mind is doing) and refocusing specifically on thinking. The sidewalk writer didn’t encourage a particular type of thinking – critical, creative, or even just independent, though at least the latter is implied since if one is not thinking independently it’s hard to see the mental activity as real thought. Whatever is behind the decision to spray paint that particular message on that random (to me) section of sidewalk, I love the reminder to be a thinker and to be intentional about the act of thinking.

Then there is “Kindness is Magic.” What occurred to me about this message is that it’s kind of curious that it didn’t say “Kindness is Magical.” I just looked up the definitions of the noun “magic” and the adjective “magical” and I believe the sticker creator got it right. Here are the definitions:

Magic: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces

Magical: beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life

I think I came to the essence of the sticker message yesterday when I said that kindness has the power to transform us (and here I’ll note that it has the power to transform both the giver and the receiver), as if by magic or some mysterious force we can’t readily explain. Had the sticker creator instead used “magical” it would have risked making the transformative power of kindness too other-worldly, too removed from everyday life, when instead we need to be pulling it into everyday life in as many ways and as often as we can.

I started to suggest that you see what you can do with these two messages, but given your proclivity towards reactively debasing anything you find threatening (and you certainly seem to find both independent thought and kindness threatening), I think it’ll be best if you just move right along and pretend there’s nothing to see here.

However, I do want you to take notice that we are starting to hear screaming, howling, and lamenting from some new quarters. Did you see the statement from the CEO of Highlights magazine, Kent Johnson, taking a stand against your administration’s family separation policies and practices and the inhumane ways you all are treating children? In case you missed it, here’s some of what he said:

“This is a plea for recognition that these are not simply the children of strangers for whom others are accountable. This is an appeal to elevate the inalienable right of all children to feel safe and to have the opportunity to be their best selves.”

He makes a point of saying that Highlights isn’t taking a political position or advocating policy and I wish he’d left that part out. It sounds like he’s trying to appease someone. Plus, it’s patently untrue that the statement is not political – to step up and come out against an odious, inhumane, soul crushing set of policies and practices carried out by one’s government is an inherently political move. And it’s fine. It’s good, even. It’s what we should all be doing; we need to be asserting our values out loud and claiming the high road. We need to exercise our political muscle for the common good. And the same goes for the Wayfair employees who’ve walked out in protest over their company’s decision to sell furniture to a Texas children’s detention center. They too have said their protest isn’t political, but dang it, it is political and we need to stop shying away from this. Here’s the definition of political, which amply demonstrates that Highlights and the Wayfair employees’ actions fit the bill:

Political: relating to the government or the public affairs of a country

So there you go.

May we feel safe to call our actions political when they are political.
May we be willing to take the high road in support of the common good.
May we scream, howl, and lament when children’s health and well-being is at stake.
May we give and receive transformational kindness and peace.

Tracy Simpson

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