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Being kind is hard, but it's easier when we stop and get to know one another
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

It’s hard to be kind.

Ellen makes it look easy, graciously poking a little fun and deftly defending her choice to sit next to a conservative president at a football game — an image that took the internet by storm.

She shared a laugh with former President George W. Bush, and the haters jumped on it.

I don’t know if she cursed those haters in the privacy of her own home. I do know it’s hard to be kind when people are flinging insults at you, pretending they know who you are. 

I imagine Ellen shouted at least a few angry words at those on the other side of the screen, then grabbed a beer and pulled herself back together and reminded herself to be kind before she shared that important message with the rest of us.

She’s in the public eye, and people seem to think that gives them the right to hate on her in public spaces — to have opinions about her choices without ever having had the first conversation with her.

Lobbing attacks from behind a keyboard doesn’t require much on the part of the attacker — just a little righteous indignation and a few exclamation points, often paired with bad grammar. No one seems to be seeking to understand other viewpoints — Ellen’s or anyone else’s. Instead, they decide what the other person believes and why and then judge them for it. Expressing outrage is of upmost importance. 

It’s easier to put each other into categories — crazy socialist or MAGA racist — and dismiss all the other parts that make the whole person. 

I look at comments with incredulity, wondering how these people could be so ignorant. And you do the same.

Then we build shallow relationships on shared hatreds rather than see people for the complex human beings we are. And it seems we then drift ever closer to those extremes.

But we can hate ideas without hating people.

And we likely could unite over shared loves, instead; I love hiking along mountain streams, eating dark chocolate with sea salt, watching my kids play pretend, listening to a great guitar riff and laughing at a clever TV show. But those kinds of things — the things that make us who we are — are getting dismissed in light of political differences these days.

I don’t know what loves unite Ellen and former President George W. Bush, but I believe they know each other better than the haters know either one of them.

As Ellen pointed out, they can disagree over important issues and still be friends. 

We can disagree about important issues and still be kind. 

None of us are defined by one belief or even one set of beliefs. And none of us have it all figured out, as much as we wish we did.

I know you’re wrong about a few things, and I could probably whip out at least a few reasons why you’re wrong. You could probably say the same about me.

Or we could set that to the side and we could actually get to know each other. Maybe one day we could talk again about who’s in the White House or on Capitol Hill and understand each other’s opinions on a deeper level and share respect even if we don’t share viewpoints.

If Ellen and George W. can do it, there’s hope.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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