Kindness As An Option

Kindness can be a rarity in the culture of the times. Actions taken with kind intent can be immediately and sometimes violently contested. War and confrontational rhetoric turns the world into an endless “us and them.”

However, the concept of kindness seems a basic from childhood, at least to keep from clobbering rival siblings in the house, disrupting Mom’s baking. Writer Kurt Vonnegut’s famous quote was, “You’ve got to be kind.” It has a bumper sticker simplicity that someone like John Lennon could offer on behalf of humanity, instead of fist-pumping nationalism.

The anchor of what Kurt says comes from some of the grimmest work experience of the Second World War in Europe. Kurt survived the firestorm bombardment of Dresden, Germany as an American prisoner of war held by German forces. He came from a once-proud German-American family who suffered a loss of status after First World War anti-German propaganda and campaigning. Kurt worked to clean burned bodies out of the fresh ruins of a peaceful city of museums and art. The bombing of Dresden was a deliberate act of cruelty and frustration from the Allied forces of which Kurt was a member. All of this influenced controversial works like Slaughterhouse Five, the book named after the building that housed the prisoners while Dresden burned.

Kurt says we have “got” to be kind. There is a forward finality to it. Things will occur and the directions in which we will be influenced to go can be categorized in many ways for things like social status, wealth, or even a sense of security in the world. Kindness in these pursuits may not be given as an option. Kindness is not weak. It takes strength to be kind when materialism and reactionary emotions seem to be the popular choices.

Reinhardt lives in Boyle Street with his wife, Keri Breckenridge.

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