My Birthday Wish (and Request)


Yesterday, in anticipation of my 63rd trip around the sun, I started feeling a slow creep of melancholia. At my age, because all movements are slower than frozen molasses, I now have the luxury of spotting doom early on, as its ambling my way. Last night’s gloominess was mostly about aging, but amplified by my nightly dose of watching the evening news. As usual, the news inevitably featured Donald J. Trump being Donald J. Trump, and saying things that can’t—without the aid of a delusional disorder—be framed as anything other than mean, nasty, and dangerous. After yet again witnessing Mr. Trump’s malevolence, I turned to Rita and murmured, “I think he might be evil.”

As soon as the word evil escaped my mouth, I immediately thought of Carl Rogers. Rogers was an amazing American psychologist who, from the 1930s to the 1960s, developed a profoundly empathic way of working with people. Rogers was raised in a rigid fundamental conservative Christian family. He wasn’t allowed to dance or play cards. During college, at age 20 (the year was 1922), Rogers took a sharp ideological left turn while on a slow boat to China. He stepped away from his fundamentalist roots, and began embracing a broad and encompassing belief in the goodness of all people. Rogers stepped so far away from judgmentalism, and believed so deeply and persistently in the innate goodness of all humans, that many philosophers and psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s (like Rollo May and Martin Buber), viewed Rogers as dangerously naïve.

After realizing back in the 20th century that I would never be “Like Mike” (Michael Jordan), I started fancying myself as being like Carl Rogers instead. The match seemed perfect. Just like Rogers, I believe in everyone’s positive potential. Also like Rogers, I don’t really believe in evil. However, after four years of listening to someone with immense power mock the disabled, disparage the military, demean women, remorselessly lock migrant children in cages, stoke hate, division, and conspiracies, and threaten to blow up our democratic process . . . I’ve begun reconsidering my naïve Rogerian perspective on evil. Last night’s news snippet included Mr. Trump’s continued attack on the Michigan governor. As far as I can tell, the only times Mr. Trump manages to use his words to show empathy is when he’s reading—rather haltingly—off of a teleprompter.

Rogers might blanch at my judgment of Trump, but I think not. He wrote a book “On Personal Power” and his bottom line was that you should give it away. And when I interviewed his daughter, Natalie Rogers, in 2006, she made it clear that her dad was in favor of accepting and prizing all human feelings, but that he could be quite firm when people (and his children) behaved in unacceptable ways. I’m pretty sure that Carl Rogers, one of the most profoundly influential psychologists of all time, would be horrified by Mr. Trump’s behavior, and he would use his power to bring back civility, decency, and empathy.

A couple years ago I had the honor of meeting Joe Biden, face-to-face. He greeted me with flourish and enthusiasm. He oozed empathy, compassion, kindness, and a commitment to service. He spoke and acted without a whiff of arrogance. I’m convinced that he’s the sort of person who will use his power for good.

Here’s my birthday wish (and request). Instead of sending me all the lavish gifts you had planned to send me, just go out and spread the word that decency, empathy, respect, kindness, and love are making a HUGE comeback. And if you know someone whom you think isn’t voting, consider this: reach out with respect and kindness and ask them to vote for Joe Biden. That would be amazing . . . a little frosting on my birthday wish.

Thanks for reading this and for helping make my birthday wish come true.

26 thoughts on “My Birthday Wish (and Request)”

  1. Happy belated birthday. I know that I will do my part to make your birthday wish come true. Thank you for all of the positive impacts that you have made on people all across the world, including me!

  2. Happy day John…. you are a gift!

    On Sun, Oct 18, 2020 at 4:23 PM John Sommers-Flanagan wrote:

    > johnsommersflanagan posted: ” Yesterday, in anticipation of my 63rd trip > around the sun, I started feeling a slow creep of melancholia. At my age, > because all movements are slower than frozen molasses, I now have the > luxury of spotting doom early on, as its ambling my way. Last n” >

  3. Happy birthday, John! And, as always, thanks for your words of wisdom. I am delighted to do my part in seeing that your birthday wish comes true.

    1. Hi Gary! Thanks for the birthday wishes. I like to imagine what the heck happened with Rogers on that slow boat to China. He was traveling with a Christian group. Interesting stuff. I’ll get the tree of kindness started over here on this side of the divide. I hope you and Joyce are doing great.

  4. I completely agree and love that you can put these thoughts into eloquent words.
    Happy Birthday and May your wish come true!

  5. Happy Birthday to you! Just want you to know that I will hand deliver my part of your birthday wish tomorrow. Love that we are on the same team with our eye and concern for all people.

  6. Can do …..the very happy birthday wishes to you John and the sharing love to you. Can do the rest too all except vote in your country.

    I think you are correct about evil, even here. Although I think our Boris is an utter buffoon there are elements in his advisors who are not and of evil intent.

    May God preserve us x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s