Let a smile be your umbrella: a way to bridge the political chasm

I have heard of research that proves smiling, even when you don’t really feel like it, will improve your mood.

True, it doesn’t work for me – I tried it after the Super Bowl and I still threw the brick through the TV screen – but I think there’s something to it for most people. So smiling, even when there’s nothing to smile about, can make you feel like there really is something to smile about. Perception becomes reality, or something like that.

All of which is a long way of saying that I don’t care whether or not President W means all this talk about bipartisanship.

I don’t know what the man feels at heart, any more than you do. I think his transition has been the smoothest in my memory, and that he is well advised politically, and that these factors and his “take the gimmes first” strategy, have helped get him off to a good start.

And for those who find his approach similar to Reagan’s, well, they may have a point. When RR was president, his supporters talked openly of the “Reagan Luck,” and this W is showing signs of having more luck than Reagan in a four-leaf clover patch.

For instance, we are now told that all the attention paid to the Gore-Bush month-long election gave W the cover he needed to avoid the media glare that generally plagues president-elects.

And words don’t exist to adequately describe the amount of good fortune contained in that enormous thunderstroke of luck consisting of Greenspan’s unexpected endorsement of W’s tax plan.

But the biggest piece of luck concerning George W. Bush may not be anything he manages to do or not to do, but how he goes about trying.

W made much during the campaign of his bipartisan approach to politics. Never mind that the Texas version of a governor does almost no governing. This guy is the president now and, whatever he may feel about bipartisanship, he shows every sign of giving it a try.

And since W is taking the high road for all to see, the Democrats must follow suit, at least to some extent. And I don’t care if not a one of them means it even a little, it’s a good thing for all of us that they are now more or less forced to try and act more decent to each other.

Because Lord knows we’re all tired of the bickering and backbiting and, yes, the partisan posturing of our politicians on all levels. There’s just a chance that, like a forced smile, all this bipartisan courtesy and consideration may get them all to thinking that they mean it.

And then maybe all the rest of us will let up on each other a little bit, and we can stop suing each other and shaking our fists at the guy in the other car and snarling at the views of some so-called other side just because they are the other side, so-called.

All of which just may make life a little more pleasant for everybody.

So is President W going to usher in a badly-needed Era of Civility in this country? Are Republicans the ones, after all, who are going to return us all to the days before road rage, profane song lyrics and Jerry Springer? Is there really such a thing as a compassionate conservative?

I don’t know what era we’re headed into. And I’m quite apprehensive about what days we may actually be returning to.

But I can tell you for certain that the answer to the compassionate conservative question is a resounding, “Yes!”

A few years ago, when I was so seriously ill that they were just about finished digging the hole for me, I got a letter. The truth is I got a lot of letters, from a whole lot of people, for which I will always be grateful. But this letter, from a man I had never met, really caught me by surprise.

It was kind-hearted and gracious in tone, heartwarming in its obvious sincerity. The author expressed concern for my condition, compassion for my family and myself, urged me not to lose faith at a time when I needed to hear just that.

And I tell you now, having gained his permission to mention his name, that the writer of that letter was none other than Captain G. Russell Evans, the very conservative columnist whose “From This Corner” you find in the pages of this very newspaper.

Since then Capt. Evans and I have spoken on the phone more than once, and still correspond on occasion. His voice is that of a courtly Southern gentleman, his manner gentle and goodhearted, his beliefs as sincere as his writing is strong.

No, we don’t discuss our differing political views. But I will say that, though I may not always agree with Capt. Evans’ conclusions, I know for certain that he speaks the truth as he sees it. He writes his column with conviction and he lives his life with, yes, you guessed it, compassion. And I would be happy to sock any Democrat who says he doesn’t.

In short, though we may never meet in person, I consider Capt. Evans quite a good friend of mine. And if he and I can mange this, isn’t it possible that others can? That even our most partisan people, our most polarized politicians, can learn that compassion is not the province of any political party but the property of all people who would have it?

There’s not a bigger cynic in the whole world than my blushing self, and no one who views the entire Republican political philosophy with more suspicion and, at times, dismay. But I would like to see civility return to American politics, to say nothing of our way of life. And maybe then we can being to make some real progress on other fronts that so badly need the strength that comes from united efforts.

So really, no matter your private convictions, or even whether you’re Democrat, Republican, or a pro-wrestler-turned-governor, there should be only one reaction to the thought of George W. Bush as our president. Smile.

(You may write to Dale Wildman, c/o Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460. Dale Mail may also be sent via the Internet to Box376@aol.com.)

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