Maybe we need to simplify things a bit when it comes to our approach going forward as a nation.
Maybe we need to simplify things a bit when it comes to our approach going forward as a nation. Maybe we need to ignore the embellishments, fabrications and campaign sloganeering the politicians are spewing at us. Also, maybe we need to look beyond that book about God and Jesus and creation and sin and commandments that so many people conveniently use and abuse to cherry-pick words to fit their narrative of the moment.
Maybe we need something like a national motto, something both legitimate and profound. And, just to end any molecule of suspense that might be floating in the ether, Make America Great Again is not a contender. We can argue until we're blue or red in the face over whether America was ever NOT great, but MAGA doesn't make the cut because a great America, one would think, would be built on a backbone of great Americans, and we appear to be home to too many Americans at the moment who simply aren’t up to the task.
But if you insist that Make America Great Again is the best campaign slogan and presidential mission statement ever, maybe you'll leave your door slightly open to a minor tweak, like, Make Americans Great Again.
How do Americans become great again? Possibly through some serious soul-searching, a search that begins not with a Bible verse or what any soiled, compromised, hypocritical politician thinks is the true way forward, but with what is known far and wide as "The Golden Rule," which basically calls on people to treat others the way they would like to be treated. You start there...you dedicate every single fiber of the being you should be to those simple, few words, and then you continue in your journey until you find yourself in the vicinity of the directive that your mom or grandma or other adult figures in your life recited when you were a kid pouting because no matter how dramatic you played your role as the sad, dejected child, you weren't going to enjoy some ice cream at that particular moment: Turn that frown upside-down.
In other words, smile. It’s a long-held, unproven myth that smiling requires the use of fewer facial muscles than frowning, but, still, smile real quick right now, and then follow it with an attempt at frowning. Which seems physically easier? It’s not even close; it’s smiling. Smiling, and then being good and positive and friendly is easier. And smiling, and then being good and positive and friendly, and then being welcoming of others and doing things for them is easier.
Take the Foundation for a Better Life. It's a non-profit that runs feel-good commercials on TV to convince people how borderline effortless it is to be a good person and, outward from that, a good person toward others. The latest commercial is 15 seconds in length at the most, but the message is so obviously clear and unmistakable it could probably cut glass. A teenage boy who looks like a kid you might see at your local skateboarding park is about to enter some random store and he encounters a mom about to exit, pushing a stroller while trying to manage her purse on her shoulder and a couple bags in her hand. Does he rush to her aid by offering to carry her bags to her vehicle and help load them while she straps her young child in a car seat? No, he does not. He could have done all that, one could dreamily imagine, but what he did do was dedicate a couple seconds of his life to holding the door open for her. The mom looks at him and a brief flash of surprise seems to flash across her face before gratitude kicks in and she thanks him. In return, the kid doesn't take a bow and wait for the applause, and he doesn't look around to see if anyone is recording the moment on their phones in the hopes that it goes viral. He simply gives a quick nod and offers a brief grin, and that's it. The moment passes, and if the only benefit the mom and that kid get out of it is a minuscule jolt of feel-good endorphins coursing through their bodies, so be it.
Sure, somewhere in the scene played out in that commercial there's probably a "pay it foward" angle that could and maybe should be strived for. Maybe our "Make Americans Great Again" mission needs to be more ambitious if it has any chance of becoming a real nationwide movement. Maybe our motto should be "Make Americans Great Again by Paying It Forward." No, that's too long, and too wordy for a hat.
I don't know where this column is coming from. Maybe I'm getting waved at too much these days. It's true. As I'm driving down the highway, I'm getting waved at by all these people I meet in the opposite lane. Is it just a pickup thing? Over a several-year span around two decades ago I owned two Dodge Dakota pickups, but I don't recall being the recipient of so many waves back in those days. So maybe it's a full-size pickup thing. After going through our Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevrolet Avalanche years, we bought a full-size GMC Sierra last year, and now all these people in their full-size pickups that I meet on the highway are waving at me.
And, yet, I'm slow to catch on, and in the highway wave game, you can't be slow to catch on, or react. If you're driving at highway speeds and the person you meet waves as your vehicles meet and then whiz past, even if you raise your hand or lift a couple fingers off your steering wheel in lightning-fast fashion, it's too late. The person who waved to you first will not notice that you offered a reciprocal wave. Will it ruin their day? Of course not. But, come on, who wants to offer up a kind wave and get no kind wave in return?
Maybe that’s how we Make Americans Great Again, by taking “Minnesota Nice” nationwide. We love to wave around these parts, from our boats and apparently also from behind the wheel of our full-size pickups.
Yes, let’s keep it that simple, and start with waving. Waving first. And if someone beats you to the random kindness punch, then be nanosecond-quick with the react wave.
Do that, and we’ll be on our way.