An angry country

If one had to choose one word to describe today’s American politics, an almost universal choice would be the word “anger.”

Two years ago, Alabama Republicans nominated a man for Jeff Sessions’ open U.S. Senate seat who showed his “commitment” to the Second Amendment by pulling a pistol out of his pocket and twirling it during a speech. More than mildly threatening, we thought.

Does anybody remember Hubert Humphrey, “the Happy Warrior?” Do today’s political activists remember the absolute humor that resounded in so many of John Kennedy’s news conferences? Does anybody remember the camaraderie of Ronald Reagan and political rival Tip O’Neil as they enjoyed watching comic juggler Michael Davis together at Ford Theater?

How about the party Reagan hosted at the White House where Princess Diana danced with Saturday Night Fever’s John Travolta? That dance brought the house down – and it was enjoyed in person by politicians of every political stripe.

Willingness to share friendships with political rivals is an underappreciated asset in a democracy. The ability to gently poke fun at political adversaries — and even at oneself – is an attribute sorely lacking in today’s Washington.

And that is too bad. A few smiles would reassure the American public. A willingness to laugh together would soften the walls that divide us.

Two folks that Hawaii residents are very familiar with are great examples of what can be accomplished through friendship. Sen. Daniel Inouye was a loyal Democrat, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was a staunch Republican. Yet, their decadeslong friendship brought immense benefits to the 49th and 50th states — and also did wonders to strengthen the defense of the United States.

When they disagreed politically, it never affected their affection for each other. Until Stevens’ death, they often referred to each other as brothers.

Respect for political opposites is key to compromise in a democracy. A smile and a laugh will go a lot further to gain that respect than a shout and an epithet. Or twirling a pistol during a speech. Anger only breeds anger.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.


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