President Obama admitted something in his State of the Union speech that most politicians are loathe to do. Failure. He has not succeeded in getting both sides of Congress to agree. About anything. But, wait. There's still time!
While it's true that animosity between Republicans and Democrats, as well as between Tea Party Republicans and their bewildered conservative base, is at its zenith, with each side wishing the other would seek psychiatric counseling, there is a model for resolution. If Arabs and Jews can kiss and make up, why can't we?
Recently, the Israeli Ministry of Education banned an award-winning novel, Border Life by Dorit Rabinyan, from the high school curriculum because it contains a romantic relationship between a Jewish woman and an Arab man. (Imagine a novel describing a love affair between Donald Trump and a Muslim.)
To protest the ban, the Tel Aviv edition of Time Out magazine posted a video of twelve Israeli Arabs and Jews kissing. Male and female, straight and gay. Some were couples. Others had never met before. The video has gone viral. According to Israel's liberal newspaper, Haaretz, when asked how it felt to kiss a stranger - the enemy - on camera, one of the men in the video said, "It's less strange than the Arab-Israeli conflict."
How about it Congress? Time to kiss and make up. There's nothing the public would like to see more than Bernie Sanders in lip-lock with Carly Fiorna. Or Ted Cruz with Hillary. Want to solve the deficit? Americans who plunk down two bucks for the Lottery would be thrilled to pay the same amount to see Chris Christie shut up and pucker up to the President. Or how about a tender embrace between Elizabeth Warren and Ben Carson? Think how cathartic it would be for the entire nation if our political differences could, for just a moment, be vanquished by a kiss.
The sad truth is that distrust between Republicans and Democrats is higher than between Israeli Arabs and their Jewish neighbors. The current Presidential race is only making it worse. Gun violence and police shootings aren't helping. We seem to be just a sound bite away from toasting marshmallows on the flames of civil disobedience.
What if ordinary American citizens, black and white, straight and gay, Republican and Democrat, NRA members and pacifists, reached out to the other side? Not for a kiss, although that would be a nice touch. And not for political debate. (God knows, we've had enough of those.) But simply to share a meal with one another.
Not long ago, the owner of a café in Tel Aviv offered a fifty percent discount and free humus to any Jewish customer accompanied by an Arab. If, they can do this in Israel while terrorists stabbings occur all over their tiny country, why can't we Americans stop ranting on Facebook long enough to have a mocha latte with a neighbor who doesn't share our political views, race or religion?
In the 1960's, the slogan was Make Love, Not War. That bumper sticker wouldn't sell today. But how about Make Chamomile Tea, Not War? Or Make Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, Not War? Are we so entrenched in our differences, that the only solution is take up arms, not just against foreign invaders, but against each other? Consider how our gun ownership compares with other countries. For every 100 people, we own over 112 guns. We have ten times the number of guns in all of Russia. You think Mexico is a shooting gallery? They only have 15 guns per 100 people. The only countries that come close to us are Serbia and Yemen. And they have half as many.
In the interest of bringing down the volume, let's create new national holidays to help the President make good on his promise:
• Kiss a Republican (or Democrat) Day
• Bring a Gun Owner to Work Day
• Have Lunch with a Muslim Day
• Hug a One Percenter Day
It may not seem like the actions of individual citizens can turn the tide, but after years of waiting for trickle down economics and politics to work, maybe it's time for some trickle up protest. Marital counselors say couples should never go to bed angry. Let's help Congress and our President get a good night's sleep.
This essay previously appeared in Newsworks
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