a new book by Nina Englander
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One day last week I was driving to work – it was a beautiful summer morning. The sky was clear and blue with that special kind of ‘summer in New England’ warmth. I didn’t have the radio on because listening to the thoughts in my head seemed just as entertaining (for better or for worse) as listening to someone else talk. And anyway, I was attempting the meditative practice of not listening to the news in the morning in an election year (this crazy 2016 election year) because when I listen, I am totally stressed out by the time I get to work.

Although I was on my third traffic jam of the morning commute, I was still very calm. This is what I expect in early morning rush hour. I slowed up behind a red Honda Civic with one bumper sticker in the lower right corner. It said, simply, “YOU LIE!” and the “O” of “YOU” was the Obama insignia – the one with the rainbow coming out of the circle. At first I was not sure what this bumper sticker meant. Was this an Obama fan with a weird sense of humor?  I soon realized it was an Obama hater. There was virtual hate emanating from the car in front of me.

I was feeling pretty good; I had expected the traffic so it didn’t bother me. I had been breathing in the beautiful fresh air and taking in the light of the day. Then this one little piece of paper stuck to the back of someone’s car made my whole body feel different!

I understand there are people who are not fond of President Obama the way I am, but that isn’t the problem. I accept that people have different viewpoints from me. But why do people have to put negative messages on their cars? What is it about a person that thinks it is a good idea for the world – putting on a bumper sticker that says, “YOU LIE!”? I’m not asking that question rhetorically: I’m really wondering what propels someone to put that on the back of a car? Is it going to allow that person to have meaningful discourse about how he feels about the current political situation? Will it allow him to express to another person how he feels about our current president? There is absolutely no way to have discourse, exploration or conversation ( even an all-out screaming match) when the person is sitting alone in his car and his bumper sticker is yelling at you, the driver behind him, from the back bumper of the car.

It got me thinking. Did I react because of the general nastiness of the bumper sticker or did I react because the message of the sticker was not MY message? I honestly don’t know the answer. What would I do if it had been a snarky bumper sticker about a president that I did not support? Maybe that would make me giggle. Maybe that would have sparked a sense of comradery for that driver. Or maybe I would have felt equally uncomfortable.

Either way, I think that to communicate with that kind of anger – the exclamation point on the end of “YOU LIE!” giving it that extra dose – is needlessly confrontational and antagonistic. I don’t see how it’s helpful to anyone. Especially when that anyone is sitting in traffic.

It reminds me that there is so much that we can do in our daily lives to promote kindness. In this crazy election season, it seems that we have such a long way to go. But how about we start by smiling at strangers more, making eye contact with each other and holding doors for each other. We can also do better when we are driving; allowing pedestrians the right of way, letting other cars in when we can, smiling and waving thanks to other drivers who let us in. Having good will towards other people raises our vibration (and theirs) in positive ways. You can feel it when you do something nice – it just feels better. Think of it even down to the smallest detail – like what messages you choose to put on your car – “HAVE A NICE DAY! -can make a difference in the world.