It is the biggest story of the year so far, whether you realize it or not or want to admit or not.

It occurred about a week and a half ago when Ellen DeGeneres responded on her daytime show to criticism she received after sitting next to George W. Bush at an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers two days earlier.

“When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do,” she said. “I mean be kind to everyone. Doesn’t matter.”

Never have truer words been spoken.

No matter who you are or aren’t, what you believe or don’t believe, what your gender is or isn’t, who you voted for or didn’t, what your origin or birth is or isn’t, what your political affiliation is or isn’t, or any other factor, never have truer words been spoken.

Know that. Understand that. Accept that.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and all those anywhere in between, this – this lack of kindness – is the biggest issue facing this country right now.

You may laugh at that, but you shouldn’t because it’s true and it’s no laughing matter to begin with. It’s oh, so true, just as true as DeGeneres’s response.

For this lack of kindness is like a cancer in that it infects everything it touches, and it touches everything, all the problem areas in the country, including the biggest ones involving politics, race, religion, ethnicity and all the rest. A lack of kindness is at the root of all of the issues in them. And if we can’t stop the wildfire effect of the cancer, then it’s going to consume all of us. It will be the death of us and everything we know and love.

That lack of kindness divides us, polarizes us, segregates us, builds walls between us, angers us, disappoints us, saddens us, demoralizes us, humiliates us, weakens us and breaks us down in every way, shape and form physically, emotionally and mentally.

When we can’t respect each other enough to embrace and even welcome, and revel in, our differences, we make it impossible to communicate in even the most minute ways. And since communication is the most important part of building relationships, we just can’t get along.

So be kind. Don’t be nice. Don’t confuse nice with kind. Nice is a cheap facsimile of kind. Nice is how you act when you don’t really care. You want to fool those around you that you do, but you don’t – not even the least little bit. Nice is a lazy, irresponsible form of kind.

Kind is when you are invested in that person. It’s when you are concerned with their well-being, and are troubled when it not is as it should be.

Kindness is when we cleanse ourselves of the notion that everyone who does not look, act, think, speak and live like us is inferior and is not worthy of us or our time.

Kindness is when we know that those things don’t matter at all, that what is of real importance is what’s in a person’s soul. We need to all be alike in that regard, and if we are then we wouldn’t have all these problems, all this angst and animosity.

We just need to love our neighbors like ourselves. I think I’ve read that somewhere before.

The Dalai Lama advises us, “Be kind whenever possible. And it is always possible.”

Yes, it is, though we don’t want to take the time to believe that, trust that, invoke that.

That has to change. We need to lock in to that simple truth. The viability – and future – of this country depends on it.