By Daniel Dunaief
When she was little, my daughter loved to build sand castles. She’d put wet sand in a bucket, gently pull the bucket back and marvel at the details in the castles that came out.
My son wasn’t as interested in building castles. He derived special pleasure out of stomping on the castles she made. It wasn’t just that it gave him power over the sand: he also felt power over his older sister, who was furious with him for crushing her castles.
While I tried to reason with him, which is almost as effective today as it was when he was two, I came up with an alternative plan that required additional energy from me, but that created peace on the beach. I’d quickly put together a ring of 15 castles, grabbing wet sand and dumping it several feet from where my daughter was working on her creation.
Like a young Olympic sprinter, my son would race over to the collection of castles and stomp all over them, while my daughter slowly built her own city of sand.
These days, it seems, we are surrounded by people eager to stomp on everyone else’s sandcastles.
Sure, it’s satisfying to feel the figurative sand in our toes and to revel in tearing down what other people have created.
But, really, given all the challenges of the world, I think we should ask a few questions of all those people who are so eager to belittle, attack and undermine others. What’s your solution? What are you doing better? How would you fix the problem?
Insulting others for their efforts, their awkwardness or their perceived flaws often seems like a form of ladderism. No one wants to be on the bottom rung of a ladder, so people try to push others down or to shout to anyone who will listen about how much better they are than the people below them. That seems to be a sign of weakness or insecurity, reflecting the notion that other people are below them.
In addition to dumping on others, we live in a society of people for whom hearing views that differ from their own somehow turns them into victims. Surely we have more choices than simply, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” If someone doesn’t agree with you, maybe it’s worth finding out why.
Anger, frustration and hatred, while they may make us feel slightly better in the moment, aren’t solutions and they don’t improve our world. They are a form of destructive energy, like stomping on sand castles.
We should ask more of ourselves and from our leaders. I’m tired of hearing about politicians who will fight for me. I don’t want to send people into office to fight against others who are trying to do the best they can for the country. I want leaders who will learn, listen and, gasp, reach across the aisle in the search for solutions.
While platforms aren’t as sizzling as slogans or take downs, they include ideas and potential solutions.
Civility makes it possible for us to hear and learn.
We have enough threats to our lives without needing to turn against other people or to give in to the urge to crush other people’s sandcastles to feel better. We don’t all have to be best friends, but it’d be nice to look forward to a holiday season and the start of a new year that focused on a shared sense of purpose. We need better ideas, not better ways to attack.