On Sunday I put out a request to readers -- a little project called One Good Thing. I wanted people to say one good thing about some group they oppose. The idea was simple.
But simple doesn't mean easy.
"Perhaps I can find something good to say about lawyers," said a reader named Greg. "I'll work on it."
"I have been wracking my brain and I still can't find a positive thing to say about the Dems other than I will love them when they leave," said my Facebook friend Tom.
Other people gave it a try, but couldn't quite hand over an unadulterated compliment. There was always a catch.
"As much as I dislike..."
"Even though they are completely wrong..."
"Despite the fact that I choose to spend my life as far away from them as possible..."
It took a day and a half before I got the first pure compliment, from a reader named Jessica:
"I admire the Tea Party for actively using their Right to Assembly as I don't know if I would ever have the guts to attend a political protest."
But by the time Jessica weighed in, it was clear that the story wasn't about how people could find ways to say one good thing. The story was how hard it is to do it at all.
Why is that?
Maybe it's the way we've turned life into sports. We argue a lot of issues now the same way crazy basketball fans argue Carolina vs. Duke -- there's nothing bad about our guys, there's nothing good about the other guys, no quarter, no surrender. Giving an inch, or conceding the other person might have a point, doesn't show that you're reasonable; it shows that you're weak.
Maybe it's that we're overwhelmed. The more information that we need to process, the more we need filters. It takes time and effort to think about some group you oppose and try to find some common ground. It's a lot easier to just filter them out as bad guys.
Maybe it's just that it feels good, in a frustrating world, to have a nice soft pillow to punch.
"I don't mean to undermine your attempt at creating a bridge to understanding, but I don't think the bridge will withstand the weight of fear and anger that is growing," a reader named Tim said back on Sunday.
He could be right.
But as the week went by, other voices stepped in.
Brendan said, "I respect those who frequent the Epicentre for their energy and zest for life."
Doc B said, "I am impressed with the attitude and courtesy I've seen from high school age students."
Bonnie said, "One good thing about Rush Limbaugh is he has saved AM talk radio."
And Tom said, "The Board of Education for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System deserves a pat on the back. They have a daunting job that requires commitment, passion, and understanding. I am not sure I could deal with all of the criticism, pressures, and issues they face daily."
Tom wrote in a little later to say he had been a high-school teacher but had decided to resign: "Believe me, it was a tough task to say something positive about the school board."
So it turns out it's really hard to say one good thing about a group you don't like. But it's possible.
And, I believe, it's necessary.
Here are more attempts at One Good Thing... some of these didn't quite qualify as unadulterated compliments, but take a look. -- Tommy
Republicans: I admire their commitment to national security. -- Esther
A lot of Christians, myself included, should pay more attention to that.-- Rod
One good thing about the Panthers is that they are located here in Charlotte.-- Tawanya
I really get annoyed at panhandlers. When necessary, I look the other way, cross the street or turn around. My radar is up and I can sense when I am going to be approached. After capturing the scene below, I have been thinking I spend a whole lot of time and money of stuff that may seem important; it's not really. I should at least speak to the person. An urban camper has no less standing than me.
-- Scott (who also took the photo)
I believe that the Republican Tea Partiers are right in their belief that something is wrong.
Far-right radio and TV talk show commentators surely love their families as much as I love mine. -- Sandy
I think Nancy Pelosi sticks with her convictions through thick and thin... no matter how wrong they may be! -- anonymous