Like kids in their Sunday clothes, lawmakers should wear their State of the Union behavior more often.

For the first time in recent memory, Democrat and Republican lawmakers sat together in the House chambers during a State of the Union address, at least some of them, in an act of solidarity championed by Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Col0rado.

But a commentator I heard on NPR said he thought Obama’s address was boring. Actually, it wasn’t his speech that made him yawn. It was the lack of riotous applause from members of Obama’s own party, due in large part to the absence of factionism in the House chambers.

Our elected officials exhibited more moderate behavior because they had “company,” which is what courteous people do. When company comes, you get out the “good china,” and sit up straight. You for sure say “isn’t” instead of “ain’t.”

It was a coming together of hearts, if not minds, after the tragic Arizona shootings; a call for more moderate speech and behavior. Most importantly, a testimony to the fact that how we act does matter.

Some say the shootings were fueled by contentious partison rheteric; rheteric that only seems to get more venomous with each election.

Whether or not poisonous verbiage had anything to do with encouraging the shootings is debatable. But to describe the State of the Union Speech as boring is like saying it’s boring when a bully stops hitting.

The human brain gets used to excitement, to upset and contention. Stress hormones released into the bloodstream increase the heart rate; raise blood pressure. People in abusive relationships live like that all the time.

So do people who listen day after day to media “personalities” whose rantings create hatred and fear of others whose views differ from their own.

It’s like a neighborhood gossip coming over and spewing rumors about half the town. Would we listen to that? How would we know if it were true?

We need to use the rational, thinking part of the brain: the neocortex. But according to research by Dr. Bruce Perry, the more anxious we become, the less we are able to think. When fear takes over we actually become less smart.

This quote from Born for Love by Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D.,  and Maia Szalavitz (William Morrow, 2010) sums it up: “When calm, people can use the most “human” part of their brain, the neocortex, to think abstractly, to consider information already storied in the brain (memories) and be creative. In this state, you can reflect on the past and plan for the future. It is much easier to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ when you are calm and reflective.”

It’s time we get used to living without the stress of divisiveness. Somewhere in the middle of our opinions is a thinking place; a place where we can listen to the other side without raising a voice, a fist… or a gun.  FFG

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