Kill ’em with kindness: Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway and the ‘Old People Hypothesis’

Ever been told to be careful about that sour expression on your face because “It might freeze like that?”

The truth is actually simpler and more complicated, and I offer up as Exhibits A (male) & B (female) our current mess of a president and one of his “counselors.”








Look at Donald Trump’s and Kellyanne Conway’s faces and try to imagine that you’ve never seen them before.

Now, picture yourself  in a situation where you need to ask a stranger for some small thing – standing on a corner in a strange city and not being sure whether to turn left or right to reach your destination, wanting to know what time it is or whether you just missed the bus you’re waiting to catch.

Do they look like people you’d want to ask?

Over the past five years, I have been spending a lot of time hanging out with old people. And by “old people,” I mean the 80-plus set.

Back when 30 seemed like 100 and I blew out the candles on my eighth birthday cake, those people looked unimaginably ancient. Now, those eight and 30-year-olds look at me and see what I saw back then.

[Confession/digression: I kind of like it. Sure, mass media is all about youth and beauty, and it might be fun to be firm and wrinkle-free and all. But the truth is that learning to steer older has been a fairly smooth ride.

Benefits include the ability to call out someone with nothing more than a smile and a kind word or two. There’s zero attitude and the exchange often moves on from there, ending on an upbeat note for everyone involved. Which is, I think, is directly connected to my sense of entitlement – or lack thereof.]

An angry co-worker at a previous job once accused me of thinking I owned the world, and in my head I was l all, “Well, yeah, and so do you!”

Also at that previous job was an older female co-worker whose features could have settled into something pretty, or gentle, but didn’t. She looked mean. Because she was mean.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then observing old people – and that was way before Mom went to the nursing home. The result is my Old People Hypothesis.

Old People Hypothesis: As we age, we tend to look more on the outside like we are on the inside.

In other words, that mean-looking older person (assuming they haven’t had “work” done or been caught up by some disease that changed their physical appearance) is likely to be a mean older person. Conversely, the one whose default expression is soft and kind is also likely to be soft and kind.


I see it with the residents in Mom’s nursing home, and I see it now with Kellyanne Conway, who, at 50, already is well on her way to a truly gruesome old-person face. Then there’s her boss. Who, at 70, looks on the outside the way he is on the inside.

The Old People Hypothesis doesn’t extend to spreading that ugliness around. But after his first week in office, I’m pretty sure of one thing for those of us out here on the ground.

Killing ‘em with kindness has never mattered more.

Ranting with manners: Donald Trump, Larry David and why Tribe Golden Rule needs to start role modeling polite rage

Larry David calls Donald Trump a racist on live television. People magazine writes about it. What comes crawling out of the woodwork?

The love children of talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Who are, in turn, the love children of talk show hosts like Father Coughlin and Bob Grant.

Wouldn’t you just love to invite these two to your next dinner party? (If the answer is yes, I’m washing my hair that night.)

Here are the first two comments on the story:

  1. “That’s how we get rid of the spics (sic). OFFER $500 BOUNTY ON EACH SPIC’S HEAD. As the saying goes dead or alive. Help out the economy at the same time getting rid of the spanish (sic) rats.” Vote trump (sic)
  2. “International Zionism has relentlessly pushed for open immigration in every Western country going back to the days of the Russian revolution (sic); especially just before and right after WW2 where the guilt tripping has never stopped; with the advent of terrorism and the proliferation of Muslims entering Europe and the USA they are no (sic) backtracking a little bit, and obfuscating their role…..the open immigration is for the USA and other countries, of course, but ironically not for Israel. That is just for Jews..” The Advisor 77

Aren’t they nice?

There are so many things to find wrong with the writings of “Vote trump (sic),” “The Advisor 77,” but I will refrain from any critique of their ability to construct grammatical sentences or logical arguments in English and focus, instead, on the messages they are attempting to send.

For starters, it’s a good bet that Vt and TA77 are not the names that appear on their birth certificates. Then, there’s the fact that People seems to have no problem featuring their comments on its web site. In this, People is not unique. My hometown paper’s comment section reads like the Greek Chorus from a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

It’s easy to point the finger at haters and trolls who seem to have unlimited time and energy to post their vitriol on all kinds of web sites. But people like Limbaugh, Trump and, in my town, our sheriff, David Clarke, have and continue to pave the way for people like VT and TA77. The big monkeys beat their chests, spouting nastiness and getting rich. The little monkeys, inspired by their behavior, peep out from behind the trees to throw poop. Then they run for cover.

So what’s to be done in a world where the voices of people doing their best to play by the fair and honorable rulebook are drowned out by an endless parade of extremism and nastiness?

How do we raise voices and create pathways to tangible kindness in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, a world in which 158 US families will control the purse strings of the upcoming presidential election and the loudest, meanest voices get the most attention?

What do we do to reclaim our collective humanity in a world in which a nonstop parade of mean-spirited fear-mongers are successfully pitting people with common interests against each other for their own benefit? (A point illustrated by the following joke I heard back in 2010, just after Act 10 was passed.

“A 1 percenter, a Tea Party Republican and a union member sit down at a table, on which sits a plate containing a dozen cookies. The 1 percenter takes 11 cookies. Cocking his head at the union member, he addresses the Tea Party Republican.

‘Look out for that guy,’ he says, conspiratorially. ‘I think he’s trying to take your cookie.’”)

We stop being quiet, that’s what. We can get angry and stay polite. We can find each other, our tribe of angry, polite people. We can stand, together, and fight for decency, civility and tangible kindness.

Postscript: A recent checkback an hour after taking the screenshot in this post showed that Vt’s comment was deleted. TA77’s is still up. So what’s the takeaway? That coded hate phrases (“International Zionism”) are okay but overt slurs (“them spics”) are off-limits? (Note to VT: You might want to tear a page out of TA77’s book next time, couching your rage about your tiny privates in hateful terms more acceptable to People’s comment moderators.)