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Reclaiming the Narrative: A Call for Reason in an Unreasonable Age

Updated: Apr 25

Sound mental wellbeing is elemental to having a successful and meaningful life. The mental wellbeing of everyone in the civilized world is under assault by talking heads of many varieties on both sides of the great global cultural divide. For reason and kindness to prevail in the end, thoughtful people everywhere must take a deep breath, take a step back from the noise, tune out the talking heads, and listen to their conscience (“moral compass”). When you do, then you will realize that it is not about you and what you know to be true, it is about how you treat others.

The writer is currently doing so, and what a relief it has been! That is not to say that one should not follow the news; everyone must remain well-informed, especially during perilous times as ours. However, it should stop there for now, at least until journalism regains its former integrity. One grew up watching Walter Cronkite report the news; enough said.

Before the time of the Internet and television, neighbors used to talk to their neighbors, know their names, spend time on their porches, and borrow a cup of sugar. That is not to say that these scenarios do not exist anymore, but in the writer’s experience they are in sharp decline. One knows because one grew up during such a time. Little did one know then that these scenarios’ days would ever be numbered; they are such dear memories now.

One is not alone. One’s 4th grade best friend reached out recently; we picked up right where we left off. He feels the same way as the writer and laments the loss of what we all once had as a civilized society. Other people from that time in my life are reaching out to me wanting to reconnect; this is not a coincidence.

People on both sides of the cultural divide must stop digging in their heels and start listening to each other. Reasonable, thoughtful people find themselves having to choose sides rather than discuss matters, learn from each other, and come to compromise solutions to problems big and small. Maintaining the current atmosphere can only end badly for all of us. The most polarizing issues of our time can be tackled together, but only if good people everywhere can relearn how to reclaim the narrative. Several hypothetical examples follow of how specific scenarios can best be handled.

You are a college student. A speaker comes to your campus; you do not like his or her views. Rather than shouting them down or worse causing property damage, treat them respectfully and they will likely respond in kind, listen carefully to what they have to say, ask questions, then let them go about their business just as you do when the session is over.

You own a suburban home. Your neighbors have lawn signs with which you disagree. Rather than starting a lawn sign war which only decreases the aesthetic appearance of your neighborhood and increases the appearance of a lack of civility among neighbors, knock on their door, introduce yourself, get to know each other and eventually, discuss those issues if you are both comfortable doing so. Learn to compromise where possible, and learn to agree to disagree where you cannot.

You attend a house of worship. Unfortunately, like many these days, it has become politicized. That makes you terribly uncomfortable, so much so that you even feel unable to pray in the sanctuary. You feel powerless, insignificant. What if anything can you do about it? Do not lash out at anyone responsible for or involved with the politicized pulpit. You will not get anywhere, and you will only make matters worse. Rather, meet with the clergy; tell them how you feel. Perhaps even suggest that the house of worship adopt a pact of political neutrality with its congregation. This way you will be regarded as a peacemaker instead of a rabble rouser and everyone wins. Your house of worship will eventually return to its former glory where the congregants regard each other as neighbors rather than being adversarial with one another.

You are an alumnus of a school of higher education. You find yourself always on the outside looking in. (In fact, that phrase pretty much sums-up your life.) You made certain career choices that worked well for many years for you and your family. However, unlike other alumni, you are not actively engaged with the school because they ignore you for political reasons. You feel discriminated against. What if anything can you do about it? Again, do not lash out at anyone in authority at the schools for the same reason as before. Rather, keep on sending suggestions as to how you would feel comfortable engaging with them. Perhaps one day they will get over themselves, do the right thing, and engage with you in the same manner they do with others to whom they currently show preferential treatment.

Do not be mean, or worse, a bully! Bullying in our society is shockingly commonplace, comes in many forms both verbal and physical, and takes on many names. Rather, always be kind. Do not attempt to impose your will or wishes on anyone else unless they are helpless, and you have no other choice but to do so.

As for the writer, he is currently on a journey to discover whether he is on the autism spectrum. He grew up during a time when there was no such testing. If he is not, then he still has another journey of self-discovery to undertake.

Always respond to hatred with love, being canceled with calls for engagement, to a lack of engagement with gifts from the heart, and as one’s daughter has taught him, to put out into the universe what one wants to get out of it. If you have not already done so then you might want to consider making this philosophy your own. You will be glad you did.

One more thing: elementary, middle, and high schools everywhere must restore civics education to their curricula not to replace social studies but to complement it. Not only does this teach students how their government functions it also teaches them the increasingly lost art of how to be a good neighbor.

#kindness #civility #civics #teachcivics #reason #talk #discuss #reclaimthenarrative #autismawareness

Stanley M. Hoffman is a composer, arranger, conductor, and sheet music editor who resides in MetroWest Boston. You can reach him via his website.

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