Can’t we all just get along?” an NPR reporter rhetorically asked.
“Nooooo,” another answers decisively.
It’s impossible to count all the ways we can’t get along. Congress can’t get along. Republicans and Democrats nationwide can’t get along except when we agree to hate Congress for their petty, childish, ridiculous, asinine insistence to shut down the government. Then we resume not getting along again.
The news media does its best to keep us from getting along. Getting along isn’t sensational. Getting along doesn’t get watchers, listeners, readers. So the media exaggerates each minor difference, whipping up emotions until minor becomes major. Routine problems are magnified into crises. Honest mistakes are ballooned into unforgivable transgressions.
We hear, we read the words “historic, inevitable, inexorably, irreversible damage, legendary incompetence, dysfunctional, adverse impact, outrage” far more frequently than the words “optimism, idealism, positive, honorable, approval.” Optimism, idealism and positive don’t sell like legendary incompetence, dysfunctional and outrage.
Editorials bring us misleading misinformation at the best; lies at the worst. It’s labeled opinion. Listeners, readers believe what we want to believe, never mind checking for accuracy, for truthfulness.
Religions, instead of emphasizing universal similarities where they agree, often shout out their differences, teach hate, bigotry, intolerance.
Racial slurs and insults get promoted into violence.
Countries form and dissolve friendships, alliances, treaties. Sometimes the next country over is a valuable friend. Next year, it’s an enemy. Destroy their homes. Starve their children. Kill them all.
It’s not that we don’t have good examples. There are statesmen, stateswomen, religious leaders, journalists, educators, philanthropists dedicated to the greater good, leaders in a multitude of causes working for the good of the whole earth, for getting along.
Even in sports, we have good examples. Think: “A little child shall lead them,” when you see kids starting to learn sportsmanship — getting along — as soon as they’re big enough to hit a T-ball. Elementary, middle school, high school and college teams line up after games, shake hands and sometimes say a few nice words. Pro team athletes, even in defeat, often search out players on the other team for a quick hug, a handshake. Coaches meet briefly after the game, no matter how brutal, how bitter the defeat, how unfair the victory. It’s called “Being Civilized.”
But somewhere between T-ball and being elected to public office — or maybe between street soccer and declaring yourself a religious or political leader — civilized behavior takes a hit, gets lost, is as forgotten as yesterday’s dreams.
I’ve noticed in all of the 77 counties of our state, in all of the 50 states in our nation, in Europe and Scandinavia and Central American and China and Russia and the Balkans, that the soil is much the same, that the same flowers grow and many of the same crops. There are the same white puffy clouds, the same blue sky overhead.
The languages are very different — but in every single country, “OK” and “No Problem!” leap over barriers. In every country, every state, every county, there is always, always, the kindness of strangers, the friendliness of the common people, the basic qualities of human decency to be found.
So why, we ask, why can’t we all just get along?
Mary McClure lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.