Today we see constant bombardment from extremes — left and right, religious and secular, nativist and immigrant, racial bigotry and inclusion — but little attention is given to the majority: the moderates.
What is fundamentally different with the ranks of moderates among us, and a notion that is not readily recognized, is the quality that brings this true majority together: kindness. Or, in other words, the absence of hatred and evil.
Often, kindness is not self-evident to the purveyors of this quality. Kindness can simply be the recognition that all of us are living in the same set of circumstances, known as life. It is the recognition that life is a series of constant struggles experienced in different ways by every individual, ultimately coming to the same shared end for all, death.
How, then, can the majority attempt to engage with the extremists? Through kindness, recognizing their struggles and inviting them to recognize that we are all in a state of struggle, albeit, in as many forms as there are individuals.
These acts of kindness open minds, change hearts and encourage communication between differing views, races, cultures and values.
The truly evil will not accept your invitation to kindness. There will be some, since evil is part of the reality of life and does not respect the struggles of others. Rather, it is selfish and perceives only itself as a victim and therefore victimizes others in retaliation. It glorifies ignorance.
The glorification of ignorance is a true evil and has contributed to the lack of kindness in the United States and around the world. Leaders in many institutions use divisiveness, subtle negative innuendo and outright bigotry to convince large population sectors that they are somehow victims of the mysterious “other.”
Some leaders intentionally belittle scholars, intellectuals, scientists and artists who bring progress, prosperity through innovation and outlets for free expression. The attempts to diminish these are actually a glorification of ignorance, the most serious threat to freedom and civilization, and perhaps the most dangerous evil today. It is the evil that attempts to thwart free thinking and open conversation among the populous.
The antidote to the glorification of evil is kindness — the willingness to listen to those who are struggling, hearing their cries, their plights, and responding to them in a manner that will open a closed mind. Even if it is a small crack, a sliver of light will shine through. With persistent acts of kindness, that door will gradually begin to open wider.
I hope that moderation will prevail in the future. If it fails, I fear that our society and our civilization will fall into a sort of dark ages, blinded by ignorance and superstition, the many subservient to the few in power, economies devastated, and a crudeness of manner accepted as the norm.
The signs are all there, and it is up to every thinking individual to be proactive in administering the antidote to ignorance: kindness.
Patrick Orlich, a 25-year resident of Weatherby Lake, has music degrees from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., and from Schiller College in Berlin. He taught vocal music in Kansas City, Kan., and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 31 years. He sings in the Kansas City Symphony Chorus.