Photograph from Words Without Borders
Dear Mr. President,
You and your spokespersons have insisted that you have signed more bills during your time as president than any other president in American history. And, in a bizarre twist, Politifact has rated this claim as mostly true. You have, in fact, shown a very keen desire to sign your name as often as possible. However, it turns out that only one of these new laws has actually created a new policy. The majority of the rest of your signatures have been on laws that “have been passed through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations imposed by the executive branch, and are aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s legislative legacy.” This really isn’t groundbreaking legislation after all.
And so, I have a proposition for you: I propose that you craft a piece of legislation that not only would be groundbreaking and legacy-creating, but that would actually make America greater.
I would like to propose that you create and sign a law instituting a mandatory “count to 10” rule. As any parent knows, a “count to 10” rule is a great way to teach children anger management. Thomas Jefferson said,
Just think of the legacy you could leave if you taught our entire country to stop, count to 10, and actually think before speaking. Think of all the lies you would no longer have to tell if the law of the nation demanded that you stop and think before responding. Think of the covfefe you would no longer have to tweet.
As Dan Johnston, PhD and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Mercer University School of Medicine explains on WebMD, “The “energy” of anger often leads to impulsive behavior that only aggravates an already tense situation. If given enough time to cool off, however, most people can learn to control their initial impulses.”
If the citizens of our country could learn to control their initial impulses, just imagine all of the violence that would no longer occur. Think of the strides we could make in human decency and global policy if only we could learn to control our impulsivity and anger. “Don’t react,” says Johnston. “Respond. Make a carefully considered choice about the best course of action to take and guide your response by the three anger-regulating principles of empathy, compassion, and assertion.”
Imagine a country where impulsivity was replaced by empathy, compassion, and assertion. Imagine what an incredible leader you could be if you simply learned to count to 10 (or 100, or 1,000) and considered the consequences of your actions before you acted. Imagine the civil discourse that could occur if we all stopped aggressively reacting and instead started thoughtfully asserting our ideas and responses with empathy and compassion.
You could lead by example and start exercising this behavior. You could encourage your children/cabinet to do the same. You could demand that those who voted for you and those who voted against you stop sniping at each other, take a deep breath, count to 10, and then speak and act with civility.
You could actually make a difference. You could actually make our country greater than it already is. But first, you have to stop throwing petulant temper tantrums. You have to stop mocking civility and instead be mindful of it. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Act and speak with empathy, compassion, and assertion. Be a calm and thoughtful leader. I promise you, your countrymen will notice your example. They will follow your lead. You could make this newfound civility the law of the land.