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Spitting Image 2:4 — Don’t say “Cheese!” Really?

ISIS threatens to bring terror to our shores.  Iran and North Korea threaten to launch nuclear missiles against our cities.  The national debt soars out of control.  The divisions of ideology and race widen inexorably, as does the gap between rich and poor.  The structure of the family continues to disintegrate, along with the core values that once gave us a sense of higher purpose and national identity.

Woman-with-hands-on-hipsSo what is the one issue that really gets people’s blood boiling?  Apparently, it’s the suggestion that Hillary Clinton doesn’t smile enough.

I’ve never paid any attention to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, so I have no preconceived notions, although he seems to be a surprising voice of moderation on that most immoderate network.  And I wasn’t watching the news on election night, so I can’t comment on whether Hillary Clinton should or should not have been smiling more when Mr. Scarborough tweeted:

Smile. You just had a big night. #PrimaryDay

This was too much for many women.  Of all the belittling, misogynistic comments that Mr. Scarborough might have made, this one crossed the line of lines.

As the Washington Post explains:  Being told to “smile” may be the ultimate nails-on-the-chalkboard comment for women.

Sorry, ladies, but I’m with Mr. Scarborough on this one.  Because the truth is that we all need to learn to lighten up and smile more.

Like almost everything else in our society, our view on humor is completely backwards.  The most caustic personal attacks are the standard fare of light-night television, while innocent quips and casual banter are condemned as “microaggressions.”  Biting sarcasm is seen as the pinnacle of wit, while self-effacing irony is misconstrued as condescension.

This has nothing to do with Hillary, and it’s not just about women.  If we really want to do something about the rise of violence and the demise of civility, the answer is right here:

Smile more, take pleasure in the company of friends and strangers alike, find joy in good-natured wordplay, laugh at your own shortcomings and inconsistencies, and look for ways to connect with others instead of staking out claims and drawing battle lines.

Indeed, the sages of the Talmud urged us relentlessly to draw others into our sphere of happy influence.  Here are a few examples:

smileRabbi Masya ben Charash said:  Initiate a greeting to every person.

Rabbi Yishmoel said:  Be respectful toward a superior, be pleasant to the young, and receive every person with joy.

Shammai said:  Receive every person with a cheerful countenance.

Hillel said:  Be like the disciples of Aaron — loving peace and pursuing peace, loving others and bringing them closer to the ways of wisdom.

Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa said:  If the spirit of one’s fellows is pleased with him, the spirit of the Almighty is pleased with him as well.

So stop whining and start smiling.

Light up your world

SmileA smile is like a flame.  You can give one to someone else without giving away your own.

In Hebrew, the word for flame is lahava, related to the word ahava, which means love.  A flame is broad at the base and narrows to a point:  in the same way, two people might be very different from one another, but if they share a common sense of purpose they come to love one another.

And as with a flame — as well as a smile — you lose nothing by loving others.