Accentuate the positive
Dec. 30, 2013
by Ivan Raconteur

Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative.

Most of us are familiar with these quaint sentiments from the old song, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

It was first recorded by Mercer with the Pied Pipers and Paul Weston’s orchestra in October 1944.

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters recorded their version in December of that year.

Plenty of others have recorded it since.

Perhaps we would do well to heed the advice of this old song.

It is worth remembering that, at the time it was first recorded, the US and other nations were immersed in World War II.

People were dying in vast numbers, and the world was changing quickly.

It is easy to see how people at that time would have welcomed some good news for a change, and the catchy new song with the upbeat lyrics apparently helped to give them some hope, by reminding them to focus on the positive, rather than getting mired in the negative things that surrounded them.

This was good advice then, and it is good advice today.

It may seem out of character for a cynical old curmudgeon to advocate such a positive message, but the fact is, whenever I hear old Bing crooning those words, I can’t help but smile.

We are about to start a brand new year.

The calendar is a blank slate. It can be whatever we want it to be.

My wish for all of us is that we take some time to remember those simple words in the year ahead.

I enjoy a healthy dose of cynicism as much as the next guy, but the overwhelming climate of negativity that has permeated this country is getting me down.

There are many positive things going on, but much of what we see, hear, or read seems to focus on the negative side of things.

It seems almost impossible to escape.

Perhaps some of this comes from the environment in which I work. As a newspaper editor, my in-box is flooded with e-mail every week.

Much of this comes from people with an agenda.

One thing I have noticed in recent years is the extreme negativity of this correspondence, especially from people supporting the two major political parties.

Much of this vitriol is directed at the other party, or, in broader terms, anyone who believes differently than the sender.

This seems extremely destructive, and the recent gridlock in the political system supports this.

It’s no wonder our elected officials have difficulty reaching consensus, when they spend so much of their time demonizing the opposition.

I don’t know about other voters, but when I go to the polls, I am looking for candidates who will do the best job serving their constituents and running the state or country, not representatives who will spend all their time and energy sniping at the other party.

It is not only elected officials, however.

I see the same thing in letters to the editor in various publications, comments on blog posts, and on social media sites.

The tone of many of the comments is harsh and negative, and it seems to me it is getting worse.

I am not suggesting we need to agree on everything. Healthy discussions of important issues will benefit all of us.

However, this needs to be based on civil, fact-based conversations, not malicious personal attacks.

If we ever hope to move forward and resolve problems, we need to remember that.

Calling someone an imbecile, or suggesting he is the spawn of Satan is not likely to win him over to our way of thinking.

No matter what our political or other affiliations, it is unlikely any of us are going to get our own way all the time, so we should be prepared to make compromises and concessions to reach consensus.

Apart from the practical side though, it seems like this would make the world a more pleasant place.

I am sick of the name-calling and divisiveness.

If we make a conscious effort to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, it won’t magically solve all our problems, but it will probably help us work together in a more constructive way, and it may even lead to some mutual understanding.

The next time we are feeling angry or argumentative, perhaps we should think of Bing and those goofy Andrews girls.

If they, and those simple words, could make people smile during the darkest days of World Ward II, I’ll bet they can do the same for us today.

Research shows there are all sorts of health benefits to laughing, and smiling just looks better than frowning.

Have you ever tried to say something nasty while grinning ear-to-ear? It’s not easy.

Something tells me we could all use more smiles in the year ahead. We are probably going to need all we can get.

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