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Luskin: The Good Thing

A kindergarten teacher once taught me a game that I play all the time in my adult life. It’s called The Good Thing, and it’s a way to make the best of a bad situation. For instance, one good thing about forgetting your school lunch might be tasting a tidbit from each classmate’s meal.

Lately, I’ve been playing The Good Thing in response to much of what Donald Trump and some of his rivals have been saying.

The Good Thing about Trump’s suggestion to build a wall along the US – Mexico border is a chance for a history lesson about The Berlin Wall. Erected in 1961, it became the concrete symbol of the Iron Curtain and a physical manifestation of repression. Older voters will remember when the Wall was built; this year’s youngest voters were only nine when The Wall fell and may not know this history. The majority of voters, however, will remember the Wall’s demise as a tangible moment of freedom regained.

It’s hard to call it a good thing when I hear proposals to ban Muslims from entry to the US regardless of their citizenship, but it is in fact a good opportunity to remember similar attempts at limiting civil liberties by singling out one group from others, from the antebellum enslavement of Africans to the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II.

It’s not good that these things took place; they’re shameful episodes of human behavior and in American history. But it’s a very good thing to remember them, so we can try to prevent them from happening on our watch. We can prevent repeating history’s mistakes not by banning appearances of people with whom we disagree, but by speaking up ourselves in response to what they say.

And that’s the really good thing about candidates like Donald Trump. They make us remember the civil liberties we might otherwise take for granted, like those protected in the first amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion and speech.

So the good thing about inaccurate, intolerant and inflammatory campaign remarks is that those of us who maybe have been taking our first amendment rights for granted, or perhaps have been trying to shield ourselves from the ubiquitous bad news of the day, or have been trying to ignore the campaign circus of presidential prospects - the good thing is that we, too, are reminded of both our freedom – and responsibility - to speak up and speak out.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator.
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