SO I Lied
I am going to write about politics, but not the “this candidate is better than that candidate” or “So-and-so is an idiot” side to politics that I’m sure we’re all sick of hearing.
There’s a group based out of New York City called Improv Everywhere. The main premise of the group is that improv can be enjoyed and conducted anywhere, like the Pantless Subway Ride, or flash mobs. I love this kind of thing, so if anyone is in on an improv group or has a hook-up with a flash mob in the Twin Cities, let me know—I do impressions! I really don’t want to get into a political debate, but if I were the campaign manager for a presidential candidate this current election, I’d propose taking a page from Improv Everywhere, not with “Hope” or “Change” or “Forward,” or even “Believe in America,” although those are great messages, but with a larger, more encompassing and specific idea: Empathy. Imagine a world under which we employed the idea of Empathy Everywhere, not just for specific groups to which we belong, but to everyone. Everyone deserves a little empathy.
Empathy Everywhere says: hold the door. Press the “Door Open” button for the person running to catch the elevator, and if you’re the other person, run to catch the elevator, if you can, because Empathy Everywhere realizes how annoying it can be to have someone amble over and then push the button for the next floor up. Empathy Everywhere walks the extra 60 feet to the elevators specifically designated for floors 1 through 10, even though it is less convenient for them, because Empathy Everywhere can imagine how frustrating it is to work on floors 11 through 20 and have to stop on every floor. Empathy Everywhere says we all should have an education and health care, not just people who can afford it, because Empathy Everywhere understands not everyone comes from a place of privilege, and providing health care for everyone helps prevent epidemics and outbreaks that affect all of us. Empathy Everywhere recognizes the importance of contributing to society and Empathy Everywhere lives within its means. Empathy Everywhere stays home when it’s under the weather, even if it means using sick time, because Empathy Everywhere knows how icky it feels and doesn’t wish this nasty cold on anyone, even the people who don’t hold the elevator. Empathy Everywhere understands that the people who don’t hold the elevator are just in a hurry. Empathy Everywhere gives people the benefit of the doubt.
Empathy Everywhere doesn’t judge the harried mother with the screaming children because Empathy Everywhere can imagine it’s tough to get everything done with multiple children under the age of five. And Empathy Everywhere leaves their two-year-old in someone else’s care if they need to, because sometimes it isn’t helpful to other people to have small children underfoot. Empathy Everywhere listens when someone else is having a hard time and doesn’t jump in with suggestions or one-uppers because Empathy Everywhere realizes that sometimes we just want someone to listen and that everyone does the best they can at what they do, so fighting over petty things such as “who works harder” makes for a pointless endeavor. No one wins that contest—”Congratulations! Your life is suckier than mine!” both makes the “winner” feel awful and undercuts any problems the “loser” may be having. It’s like when my friend’s son had a nightmare that his father stole all of his candy. My first reaction was to laugh because the biggest problem this three-year-old could conceive of was someone taking all the M&M’s, and man, I wish that were my biggest problem. But then I realized that it doesn’t matter that there are greater problems than this; you can always find someone worse off than you are, and he’s only three, so the biggest problem he has should involve not enough candy. Empathy Everywhere doesn’t belittle the problems of others because you can’t compare a burglary to a broken heart to cancer and why would you want to?
Empathy Everywhere doesn’t say “I’m withdrawing all my money” to George Bailey at the Bailey Bros Building and Loan like that guy, Tom, from It’s a Wonderful Life because Empathy Everywhere understands that money in the bank is being used to fund loans for other people. And with that, Empathy Everywhere recognizes when it screws up as a bank and doesn’t charge ridiculous fees for things that don’t cost it anything, because although it may be better for said bank, financially, to charge $20 a month for services that should be basic, Empathy Everywhere understands the banking relationship: we’ll safeguard your money with the idea that we can use it to fund other people’s loans, for which we make a substantial amount in interest, only a fraction of which we pay back to you, the original backer. Empathy Everywhere isn’t susceptible to greed or self-serving endeavors because Empathy Everywhere sees the greater good. Sure, Empathy Everywhere would love to eat two pieces of cake on its first turn through the serving line but Empathy Everywhere realizes that there are 35 pieces of cake and 30 people, so it waits until everyone has a go at dessert before going back for seconds.
It doesn’t take much, just a little forethought and some observation of the world at large. It means we have to stop for a second and think about how our actions affect other people, about how what we want might not be the best for everyone, how stepping aside, being patient, and seeing the other side of things doesn’t make us weak or waffling, it makes us one step closer to getting along and more open to—gasp!—compromise, which Empathy Everywhere fully supports. Along with sharing. And saying “Thank you,” because, gosh, I don’t know about you, but I never, ever get sick of hearing those two words said in earnest. Empathy Everywhere. It’s a radical idea, I know, but I’m optimistic it will catch on. It all starts with you. Okay, it starts with “Me” backwards, but that’s why I wrote this post! Write your congresspeople today (but don’t write me in for President, because I’m far too young…)
Okay. I’m getting off my soapbox now and I won’t write about politics again*. I promise the next posts will be more lighthearted. In fact, some high-profile** guests have agreed to take over as I go into the final weeks of my thesis. Look for posts by my dad, my mom, my sister, and some other wonderful people. It’ll be blogtactular!
*At least, I don’t intend to. But if they throw another Clint Eastwood having an imaginary conversation with an empty chair at me, all bets are off.
**High-profile in that I’ve written about them. 🙂