We all need to calm down
I saw a meme once on the internet, and, like many of the best ones, while funny, it also had a note of truth to it.
“Never in the history of calming down has anyone actually calmed down after being told to calm down.”
Based on my personal experience with several excitable types — including my late wife — I can attest to the general truth of this statement. However, I feel compelled to give it one more shot.
Some of you really need to calm down.
On Wednesday, a newly elected president of these United States will be sworn in at our nation’s capitol. This is not unusual. It’s happened every four years since 1789. Since that time, there have been 44 different men installed in that office, all elected by the people through the electoral college.
Wait, 44? Is that right? Donald Trump is the 45th president, isn’t he? For those who’ve gotten a bit foggy about American history, Grover Cleveland was elected twice, serving non-consecutive terms, which means he counts as both the 22nd and 24th president. In addition, Gerald Ford, who was never actually elected, served as the 38th president.
In nearly every case — George Washington was elected unanimously twice — there have been those who were unhappy with the choice. Although I’m no historian, I’m fairly sure there were those who weren’t especially pleased with Washington as well.
This year is no different. Joe Biden received the majority of the electoral college votes and the majority of the popular vote (which, as we saw four years ago, doesn’t really mean anything when it comes to the office of president thanks to that same electoral college), making him the 46th president and the 45th different man to hold that office.
I turned 49 last month. There have been nine different men who have served as president in my lifetime, starting with Richard Nixon. I don’t remember some of them — Nixon and Ford barely registered on my infant and toddler brain — but I’m told when I was young I could do a pretty passable imitation of Jimmy Carter.
All of these men differed politically, personally, ethically and in myriad other ways, but they did their time. Some did damage, some did good, and most left office after some mixture of the two.
Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but I think, no matter the result, these men were trying to do what they thought was best. In some cases, what they were trying to do was best for them rather than best for the country, and as a result, two were impeached — one twice — and a third resigned before impeachment proceedings could begin. The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, also was impeached but that was long before anyone alive today was born.
There were those who were unhappy about those instances, those who were pleased, and those who were merely amused.
Through it all, we managed to maintain a sense of decency, strained though it might have been at times. These past several weeks — the past five years, really — that sense has been absent.
While I can’t specifically place the blame for all of it at the feet of any one person, I can point directly to one of the main individuals responsible for stoking the fire, opening the dampers and adding fuel to the low-burning flame of dissatisfaction, and in the process, doing more to harm our nation’s image both at home and in the international community than any single person in history.
That’s all I’ll say on the matter — no sense in beating a dead horse — but my point remains. This inauguration isn’t that big of a deal. There have been plenty before, and unless we continue to fall apart as people and a nation, there will be plenty afterward.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t have your own opinion on the matter or that you shouldn’t share it, but at least try not to be so ugly about it. That may be a tough task — when it comes to politics, reason goes out the window — but I urge you to give it a try.
Like the man said, “Everyone’s got an opinion — and they all stink!” People have disagreed with every president since the first one and have never hesitated to share the reasons why, and there have always been those on the other side who have a different view. There’s no need to add to the stink by being ugly about it. You won’t change anyone’s mind by calling them names, no matter how clever — or right — you think you are.
When it gets to that point, you might as well be yelling at clouds, standing in your own stink.