By no means do we wish to diminish the urgency of the social and political crises threatening this nation, the likes of which we have not seen since the clashes of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. This weekend’s violence should give every American great pause about how we conduct ourselves, how we interact with people of different beliefs and ideas, and how we make our choices each election day.
Change may be necessary in every nook and cranny of this toxic culture, and we cannot act fast enough to find and demand solutions.
But these trying times also should give us great pause about the priorities in our daily lives. If only for a few hours today, turn your thoughts inward and set a course for making American life great again.
If we use just a fraction of the time we spend poking the bull on social media for more productive endeavors, what might we accomplish? Rather than watching insipid television talking heads spew venom at one another or hanging on the president’s every tweet, what if we were using that time the way we once did?
Before there were video games, smartphones, Snapchat, streaming video and 2,000 cable channels, there were games of kick-the-can, campfires, family softball games, firefly chases and puppet shows. There were neighborhood potlucks, family reunions and company picnics. There were family board game nights, bridge clubs and bowling leagues.
Sure, many of us still do those things, but their presence in our lives has taken a back seat to impersonal electronic devices and obsessions with other people’s shortcomings. We seem to live to be mad about something. Even family gatherings are breeding grounds of discord and resentment. We can’t resist inserting our political salvos into everything we do at work and at home.
So where to start? Unplug for at least part of the day. Leave the opinions to the pundits and enjoy each other. Plan a party. Call (don’t text) your cousins. Harvest some tomatoes with your dad. Watch a baseball game. Talk about recipes, gardening tips, DIY projects, your favorite beers and your memories of grandma. Volunteer at the food pantry or collect clothes for those in need.
Talk about anything other than immigration, health care, gun violence, Russia, Iran or “The Squad.” All of that will be there when you get back. You’ll have plenty of time to get involved in those debates, but come at them from a perspective of opportunity, not defeatism.
And most importantly, show and tell the special people in your lives just how much they are loved and appreciated. “I love you” should be the first and last words you say to them every time you meet or speak.
If this weekend’s tragedies remind of us any single thing, it is that life is fleeting and precious. We can guarantee you the families of those lost in Texas and Ohio would give anything to be able to say those three little words one more time.