I know that's not a very profound sentiment, but it's the lesson I drew from the past week. I sense a nation and state hungry for niceness.
Consider the story of how top officials in the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie intentionally closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to visit misery upon the town of Fort Lee because its mayor had failed to endorse him.
Commuter traffic in that part of New Jersey is like tornadoes in Oklahoma. It's so horrible that it's hard to imagine the mind of a person who would intentionally make it worse.
Journalists have unearthed some not-nice emails from the Christie administration, including one that reads: "Fifteen minutes from now, I will wreak a terrible vengeance on this city. No one will be spared."
Actually, that is something Mr. Burns said in a 1993 episode of "The Simpsons," but the email from Christie's deputy chief of staff was not much nicer: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." In public service, you do not want to be caught saying things to which there is an implied suffix of "bwah-hah-hah-hah!" or which in any way recall the cadence of Margaret Hamilton saying "How about a little fire, scarecrow?"
If the latter had not died in 1804, I would suggest that Christie appear at a press conference with Immanuel Kant, the closest thing there was to a Philosopher of Niceness. Kant wrote about treating people as ends, not means and about acting with good will with no expectation of any particular outcome — like when you pay the toll for the person behind you. So if Christie announced that all of his staffers would be assigned to read and discuss Kant's "Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals," that would be a step in the right direction.
Do you know what you create when you inflict traffic misery on unsuspecting people? A motorist's soul so poisoned that he will smash his car into a closed convenience store just to get a banana. That happened in Newington last week. A guy smashed his car through the façade of a convenience store, took a banana, peeled it, ate it and left, taking nothing else. I'm not saying you can blame the Christie administration directly for him. It's more of a climate thing — a polar vortex of not-niceness.
Who else was not nice? Tom Foley. Last week Foley smeared the good names of Salvatore and Stephen Carraba, with a complicated claim that they got money from the state through their first cousin Anthony Camilliere who is a partner with Chris Cloud, who is connected to a mess in Hartford that … Well, it doesn't really matter, because the Carrabas are not first or second or third cousins of Camilliere.
The Carrabas were understandably upset. They had done nothing wrong. Yet their names were tarred. They responded to Foley with an old Italian proverb: "Sei così stupida che si sarebbe guidare attraverso un muro di mangiare una banana." (Loosely translated: You are so stupid, you would drive through a wall to eat a banana.)
One thing we know about Foley is that, in the past, when behind the wheel of a car, he has sometimes behaved like a person who was once trapped on the George Washington Bridge for hours because of another man's malice. So he has to work extra hard on being nice.
You know who was nice? Tom D'Amore, who died last week, after being a Republican state chairman, the architect of Lowell P. Weicker's 1990 third-party win, a consultant to a Democratic candidate and even one national candidate in Ross Perot's Reform Party.
No matter what he was doing, everybody liked him, even the people he was trying to unseat. Democrat Bill Curry said, "He had many opponents and, to the best of my knowledge, no enemies."
I was told that on one of the first nights after he died, his daughter slept at his house. When Tom's alarm went off, it was tuned to a radio program where Weicker and Ned Lamont and some journalists, including me, were talking about what a great guy he was. That's what the daughter heard.
Isn't that nice?