Looking for the kindness candidate among the angry men

Because you can never have enough angry dudes, right?

After the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, the caucuses in Nevada and the “caucuses” in Iowa, it’s beginning to look like angry white men will feature prominently in the 2020 presidential election: Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump.

Sanders, who calls himself a Democratic socialist, says he’s angry because of economic inequalities, racial injustice and an out-of-whack healthcare system. Trump, who was elected to this country’s highest office in 2016, survived impeachment and has continued to do pretty much whatever he wants, continues to be angry about everything.

Personally? I’m not a huge fan of anger. Sure, I get angry, but actions rooted in that emotion have not served me well.

Of all the lessons that could be learned from the 2016 presidential election, one big one -- I thought -- was that people turn out to cast their ballots because of what they WANT, not what they don’t. And, crazy as it sounds, wouldn’t you bet on uplifting messages and inspirational words to get people to vote on Election Day? I don’t think angry white men, pointing and yelling from behind a podium, is the kind of thing that feels reassuring and conveys, “This is the way.”

We’ve heard a lot this election cycle about the Unity Candidate, the Electable Candidate, the Billionaire Candidate(s). But after four years of divisiveness that stretches back to those “LOCK HER UP!” chants, I’m looking around for the Kindness Candidate.

Kindness has been on my mind a lot lately. While kindness might FEEL like a rare commodity these days, I’m certainly HEARING the word a lot.

During a recent spin class, an instructor reminded the class that “being nice is not the same as being kind.” (Right?) Our 11-year-old son recently gave a presentation about school shootings and, in it, he emphasized the importance of kindness. How about the kindness and love explained in a heartwarming, but kind of random Super Bowl commercial by mutual life insurer New York Life?

And then there’s Valentine’s Day. “Even if it’s someone you barely know, there’s always something nice to say,” Melanie McCabe, an English teacher at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia, wrote in her touching Washington Post column about the way she uses her own Valentine’s Day horror story to teach kindness.

I have to say, the warm acceptance of kindness provides a particular relief as a parent.

It’s no secret, parenthood is a really hard job. Parenthood in the era of trolls and Tik Tok? It’s exhausting. It means monitoring the news, and oftentimes instituting a news blackout, which is why our family watches a lot of cooking shows.

But censorship becomes increasingly difficult as kids get older. Because of that, we’re having more conversations that feature us desperately trying to explain the world today.

One that I will always struggle with: Gun violence. It’s a hard conversation because of this country’s inability to have any meaningful control over who can buy a gun. And it’s especially difficult as students across the country, including our son, have those “drills” at school.

While we as parents may struggle to get through conversations about school shootings with our son, he has no such difficulties. As part of a Forensics Club activity, his personally selected persuasive speech topic focused on school shootings and gun control. Because of course.

Suddenly the statistics and nightmare scenarios we had been trying to avoid discussing are now part of his 11-year-old vocabulary. And he doesn’t just know them, he’s got a solution: Kindness.

He wrote: “First of all my speech will be talking to you about how we can stop school shootings. … there is a way to prevent this from happening and it’s not through security cameras or drills. No. It’s actually one of the easiest things we can do as humans. We can be kind. … If we can do this simple act we can save lives.”

If only we had a candidate for president in 2020 who could turn down the volume on anger and put kindness on 11.

Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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