In August of 1988 George H.W. Bush in accepting his party’s nomination for President pined for a “kinder, gentler nation.”
Nearly 32 years ago his plaintive plea was met by derision by many and seen as shallow political rhetoric by others.
Yet, in this age of what we are told is the “New Normal” I wonder what will happen when we are back to the “Old Normal?”
It will come As sure as the sun will rise and fall and rise again the “New Normal” we are experiencing today will become a thing we remember years from now. Stories will be told of how we coped being cooped up with one another — that people hoarded toilet paper — and tragedy struck nearly every corner of the globe and hurt and killed people no matter how powerful or weak or rich or poor they may have been.
The stories abound online of great generosity by so, so many.
People making masks — delivering food — caring for one another’s dogs — singing to one another from afar — and just getting on the phone to check on how somebody is doing.
We have seen remarkable acts of bravery, as well.
Men and women in health care who are going to work each and every day to care for those who have been stricken in a desperate race to save more lives and be prepared for when the peak of this pandemic reaches our communities.
Law enforcement and EMS and a host of public servants, including our nation’s military, are doing the things right now that they do every single day — yet they are doing it with more burdens and challenges than they have faced ever before.
Our nation’s political leaders are doing their part, too. Not always without bitterness or finger pointing or snark but they understand they will be judged — not for what they did before this moment — but what they did during this moment.
So, then, when it becomes a moment in our nation’s history, as bleak and as awful as it may be, what next? Who will we, all of us, become?
When the “New Normal” goes back to being the “Old Normal” will we have found ourselves chastened at the foot of nature?
Will we find a place in our hearts and our heads to recognize that all of this goodness during all of this sadness doesn’t have to stop just because the virus was stopped?
Can our politics get better and less polarized? Will politicians return to an era where, despite their differences, they understood that their responsibility was to govern our cities, our states and our nation?
Will our treatment of one another on social media become less brutal and vicious? Can the temptation to post the snarky comment on someone’s page or the glib quote against someone because of their beliefs or political affiliation be deleted before its shared online?
The wave you made while walking in the park to the person of color, or the smile you shared with a young person and the simple “How are you doing?” you said at the store to the grocery clerk bagging your groceries — why does that all have to end when the “New Normal” returns to the “Old Normal?”
Over the past two weeks I have deliberately refused to post or comment on anything on social media except to be as positive and supportive as I can be.
I’ve snoozed or unfriended those who continue to offer political commentary, criticism or crude or hurtful remarks on my social media pages.
Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of opinions on many things and have never been known not to find my way to a sharp quip or pointed rejoinder.
But, in my “New Normal” I can’t be that person. For myself. For my family. For my friends, co-workers or community.
When the “New Normal” becomes the “Old Normal” I want to know that what I did, how I conducted myself and the way I treated others during this time is something I will be proud of at the end — and that my children will respect in the years ahead as they reflect and remember their Dad.
Why can’t America be a “kinder, gentler Nation?” in the future that we find ourselves being in the present?
Maybe it can be. Perhaps it could be.
For our children and their children it should be.