Grow Up

Not long ago, I went into a library and found one of the best books published this century. It contained such wisdom, such flawless accuracy, such insight into human nature, that I just had to share it here.

It was a kids’ book, of course.

The book tells the story of a president who is having a rotten day and steps over to the local kindergarten, where his old teacher, Mrs. Applewhite, still works. He spends the day learning about manners, taking turns and naps, and having fun with friends.

He returns to the White House, but his good mood is ruined by a looming international crisis: Two world leaders whose countries are enemies need him to liaise between them. Rather than use any of the strategies or workarounds he’s learned over his political career, Mr. President goes back to basics. He invites the other leaders to sit with him on the floor and have milk and cookies. They play in the gardens and do the hokey-pokey. And by the end of the day everyone is in a listening mood, and they actually get stuff done.

It’s funny to think that everything we need to know about civil interaction we learn in kindergarten. But that’s among the major things we’re taught then, and with any luck, those good lessons stick and we become decent human beings.

Doesn’t seem to work for everyone, though.

Take the camera-perfect moment at the end of this year’s State of the Union. President Trump refuses to shake Speaker Pelosi’s hand, and Pelosi tears up her copy of the speech.

Who would have thought we’d have to exhort people over 70 to grow up? People whom we have appointed to lead us and take care of our needs, no less. People who have supposedly spent a lifetime successfully dealing with other people.

People are jaded about politics. It’s expected that Republicans and Democrats oppose each other simply for the sake of it. People expect politics to be about mudslinging and scoring points off of enemies.

But we are not taught to sling mud and score points off each other. Immature, mean people do that. Certainly, no one we admire behaves that way. People we admire are courteous and don’t embarrass others — certainly not in front of hundreds of millions of viewers. They may not even have enemies.

And — are you listening, politicians? — they still get incredible, important things done. Amazing, isn’t it? Who would have thought it was possible?

Mrs. Applewhite, that’s who.

Mr. Trump, Ms. Pelosi, and everyone who looks up to you — do your kindergarten teachers proud for a change.

Sarah Hinda Appelbaum