Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 24, 2021
Here’s a holiday thought: How about we gift one another a dose of humility, and remember who needs actual help, whether from governments, corporations, cultural tribes, or neighbors?
It might mean keeping in mind the thousands displaced by those terrible tornadoes just a week ago, or those whose drinking water is still coming from lead-tainted pipes, or those forced into makeshift refugee camps on the Mexican border or those facing an end to monthly child tax credits because Washington politicians were too haughtily focused on reelection and power to worry about the point of their jobs.
It could mean some thanks to a government that is being responsive to covid, even if running late, and to having addressed reported clearing of clogged shipping lanes in a reasonably short time.
It might mean thinking about someone other than yourself while you are in public places where you could be carrying a pandemic contagion. It might be going out of your way to help a neighbor or even to greet someone you otherwise just pass on the sidewalk or keeping an available gun away from your mentally ill teenager. It might mean thinking again before committing the epidemic of sexual assaults in our country. It might be learning something you otherwise reject about a different way of looking at our nation’s history, to attempt to take in 200 years from the point of those who were forced here in chains.
It might require listening a bit more to an argument with which we do not agree, even at the cost of what looks like party-line betrayal from a single senator who manages to screw up an entire presidential program for months. Maybe paying for fewer social programs more fully for 20 years is an acceptable way to get at least something done that makes it easier for those skirting the poverty line in a time of rising prices.
Looking at Humility
Merriam-Webster reminds us that humility reflects the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people. The humble are people who know the difference between self-confidence and pride, who seek ways to add value to others, who are grateful for what they have.
We shouldn’t need religious holiday seasons to remind us of our responsibility to show some caring for others, should we? Are we that far gone on our various self-centered campaigns for winning at all costs that we can’t tip the hat to others, or to remember that a democracy formed to “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” means that we lift others along with ourselves?
It cost Joe Biden absolutely nothing in political terms to note earlier this week that Donald Trump had helped scientists and pharma companies to jump start the development of covid vaccines — faint praise that Trump himself said he was surprised to hear from the mouth of his successor. But, as with his entire presidency, Trump somehow couldn’t offer as the next sentence public encouragement to take the jab, even, as he did, to protect himself, if not others, from contagion.
It was a momentary acknowledgment of humility for Biden, who seems better at presenting the human side of comforting those in trouble than most politicians.
Humility in a Sen. Joe Manchin, D-VW, would be some public leadership on securing the votes for the winnable portion of the Build Back Better legislation he just scuttled in a most ungracious manner. He could show some humility for the predicament that besets all of us who are not Manchin by helping to guide a Senate cut-out of rules that are keeping us from a successful vote on the voter rights compromise that Manchin himself helped write. Of course, humility would be Manchin actually sticking by his word.
Humility would be Republican Senate leadership not congratulating Manchin for seemingly betraying negotiations with Biden over the spending bill and inviting him to join their caucus instead. Humility would be Republicans disowning the calls and increasing incidents of violence being conducted in the name of their cause, not celebrating an 18-year-old for crossing state lines to take a rifle into the streets and killing two protesters.
Internationally, we all can recognize that Russia has abandoned any sense of humility in placing tens of thousands of threatening soldiers on its border with Ukraine, and that Iran and North Korea’s policies about aggressive nuclear weapons development is the antithesis of humility.
The Partisan Quandary
Perhaps humility would guide a now established conservative Supreme Court majority from running rampant over legal precedents to outlaw abortion rights, misconstrue freedom of religion into making us a parochial nation, and generally insist on a partisan set of outcomes first, with legal thinking to follow.
Humility would certainly push Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell into allowing votes to occur on Supreme Court nominees and on legislation that he well may be able to block by needed head counts rather than stopping even the discussion of issues with which he personally disagrees.
Humility would require Team Trump associates to cooperate with a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 coup attempt and save their partisan defense for what to do about an agreed-upon timeline of the events that led to the insurrection. Humility suggests that asking people to offer their testimony about that day should suffice and keep us from endless delaying subpoenas, losing counter-lawsuits and technical wrangling.
The customer here is the American voter, the American family, not the people now trying to hide their involvement behind legal protectionism of would-be executive privilege or overly broad subpoenas.
Humility would have the Biden administration and Team Trump own up to mistakes and miscalculations, to ask Americans to take up the shortcomings of government, and to agree generally to following the rules of the governmental road.
Especially in a holiday season, or in my case, my dad’s birthday, perhaps consider some reason and humanity should govern our public affairs.