I love the Rachel Maddow Show like Joanie loves Chachi. And I want to take a moment to thank you for allowing me such a topical reference.
One of my favorite segments that Rachel does is the Best New Thing in the World Today. It’s usually a little one-minute segment at the end of the show highlighting something she finds whimsical, yet meaningful.
On August 23rd, Rachel’s Best New Thing in the World that day was a piece about a performance art installation created by an improv troupe called Improv Everywhere. It consisted of a megaphone and a lectern placed in Union Square in the “mean streets” of New York City. A simple instruction read: “Say something nice.” Inevitably, and refreshingly, pedestrians picked up the megaphone and proceeded to complement their fellow citizens or New York in general.
They all chose to say something nice.
Once again Rachel brilliantly found something in the media to prove a point about the very nature of our national character.
George Lakoff, in his book Don’t Think of an Elephant, talks about the inherent philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans – so his theory goes – believe that the highest aspiration of citizenship is self-sufficiency: to not be a burden on others. Democrats believe that the highest aspiration is to be nurturer of fellow citizens, creating ever more nurturers of citizens.
According to Lakoff, Republicans believe that people are inherently self-interested and “bad” and therefore the only way to keep them in line is through swift and severe punishment.
It’s his assertion that Democrats believe people are inherently “good” and just need the opportunity to let that natural goodness that’s within them out.
Independent voters believe that people are inherently good in some situations and inherently bad in others. These Independent voters are the battleground – the very people the Democrats and the Republicans will be fighting to sway in this next election.
Therefore the battle between Democrats and Republicans is not a political one, but a battle of identity. If left to our own devices, are we a nation that identifies Americanism as participating in the collective care of all of our citizens, or are we a nation of Individualists who believe that every man is an island?
According to Improv Everywhere, Americans, when asked to say something nice - even in the cynical world of New York City – will do so. And it is always something nice about others and not themselves.
I think the greatest illustration of the point that Americans indentify themselves as nurturers lies in one simple but obvious fact…
No one stole the megaphone.
God Bless America. God Bless Rachel Maddow.
Previously on Mad About Maddow: