During Hillary Clinton’s victory speech after winning the South Carolina primary on February 27, she went bold:

“I know it sometimes seems a little odd for someone running for president these days, in this time, to say we need more love and kindness in America,” she said. “But I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart, we do. We do.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard about Clinton’s desire to talk about needing to instill love and kindness in America. BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer wrote a lengthy feature titled “Hillary Clinton wants to talk to you about love and kindness” at the end of January, and it’s worth a read. But this speech was the first time I had seen Clinton discuss love and kindness on a national stage.

We could argue for hours as to whether Clinton is the right person to be delivering this message. After all, she did vote for the unjustified Iraq War, doesn’t support the total abolishment of the death penalty across the nation and once referred to kids in gangs, presumably Black, as “super predators.” Of course I’m setting aside many of the efforts she’s made to bolster the rights of minority communities, but it’s hard to argue these three things represent decisions made with love and kindness. To me, these instances represent a failure to value humanity.

But no matter what you think about Clinton, her message of love and kindness is one we all need to hear — and internalize. I know I’m not breaking this news, but anger and nastiness has permeated every corner of this election. It’s simply out of hand.

The venom tossed by (gag) Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who I’m sure has proclaimed himself to be the nicest man in the world, is gross, despicable and disheartening (feel free to insert your own adjective). The violence at his rallies, which he absolutely incites — don’t let him tell you otherwise — has me questioning what exactly is going on in America.

And the other remaining Republican candidates besides Ohio Gov. John Kasich are contributors to this problem. And to a lesser extent, the angry tone of Bernie Sanders’ message can be exhausting to listen to sometimes (the #BirdieSanders moment was pretty awesome, though).

People have a right to be angry about the current realities of the United States. In fact, they should be. Our economy is rigged to favor those at the top. We aren’t doing enough for lower-income communities. Institutional racism is alive and well. It’s a disaster that we don’t have paid family leave and equal pay for women. Our campaign finance system is out of control. I could go on, but the point remains: These are legitimate issues to lose sleep over and have steam coming out of ears.

And it’s not that I need Barney or Big Bird to explain these outrages in song and dance. But at a certain point, the presidential candidates and the people of the United States need to recognize the limitations of anger. This isn’t me saying that the protests should stop, because given how much traction Trump is gaining by winning one primary after another, they’re still needed. I just think we have to realize that when it’s time to write the policy and fix our wrongs, anger won’t solve these problems. Anger only identifies them. And nastiness? There’s no place for it (I’m talking to you, Big Donald).

The funny (actually not that funny) thing is that love and kindness aren’t ingrained in the United States’ values. After all, we were founded on violence. We owned slaves for hundreds of years where plenty of places today are actively trying to bury that part of our history. Lawmakers actively wrote policy to damage minority communities. And we’ve committed plenty of war crimes.

So instilling love and kindness into our national mindset would actually be a radical idea.

Now, of course, we all have different definitions of what love and kindness means. I’ll start by giving mine. Love and kindness is a belief in the humanity of all people, that we are all capable of success given the opportunity. Love and kindness is a belief in the power of community — the belief that in order to have a just society, we have to look out for each other’s needs and not just our own.

I know what I’ve laid out is idealistic, and frankly there are plenty of times when toughness is absolutely needed. But at the simplest level, love and kindness is another way of saying, “Let’s not screw each other over.”

You may have a definition that doesn’t quite jive with mine. Or at all.

But I’m sure whatever it is, it’d be a lot better than what we have right now.

Derek Wolfe can be reached at dewolfe@umich.edu.

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