The Unpopular Golden Rule
We all claim to at least acknowledge the profundity of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But who really follows the Golden Rule? I’ve seen one example of the Golden Rule being applied in my lifetime, and that was from a close friend who shocked me by offering a gift to someone who had just been mean and ungenerous to him. He was hardly religious, and may not even have realized what he was doing. But it moved me deeply and left a huge impact on me.
Most of us have difficulty getting along well with our loved ones. Dysfunction is normal in American families. It’s even expected, and promoted relentlessly by the culture. So imagine how hard it is to be kind to those who have not been kind to us. Jesus told us to love our enemies, as well as our neighbors. Most Americans feel fortunate if they’re not feuding with their neighbors. I really have never met anyone who is magnanimous enough to love those who despise them.
As a civil libertarian dinosaur, I’m prone to speak up for those who are being figuratively lynched by the mob. I was inspired by Patrick Henry’s bold “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to my dying day your right to say it” as a young child. They used to teach that kind of antiquated stuff in grade school. Henry was saying essentially the same thing that Voltaire said. Great minds- classic liberals- realized how important the right to free expression is.
As recently as the 1970s, many on the left truly were able to “walk a mile in the moccasins” of others. Liberals used to be concerned about prison reform, the rights of those behind bars, and unilaterally opposed capital punishment. Could Elton John’s song Have Mercy on the Criminal even be recorded today? Once Bill Clinton transformed the Democrats into social justice warriors, who were nevertheless just as enamored with war, the intelligence agencies, police power and corporate corruption as their Republican peers, civil libertarians were kicked to the curb.
Jesus said that the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself” was one of the two precepts upon which the entire religion stood. Despite this, most devout Christians I’ve met are remarkably lax in following it. This is especially true of the most pious, “born-again” fundamentalist types. Born-againers are also notably averse to the crucial “judge not lest ye be judged” thing. They judge constantly.
Perhaps you’re thinking that the women who unfathomably forgave their migrant rapists in other countries were, in fact, practicing the Golden Rule. On the surface, that might seem to be so, but if you study those reports, and the way the establishment left presented the issue of migration into European countries, you’ll understand that this was purely driven by political correctness, in one of the most extreme cases of Stockholm syndrome imaginable.
This is a complex issue. The absence of Civics is apparent everywhere. Civics used to be a staple of every high school’s curriculum, but it stopped being taught around 1970. Our leaders want obedient, unquestioning proles, not good citizens. Civics wasn’t just about producing good citizens. It was about transmitting values. As Aristotle recognized a very long time ago, a civilization must have a shared set of values. Clearly, in today’s America, there are almost no shared values.
The Golden Rule is the basis of human decency. Even without following it strictly, most people in the past had some kind of empathy for others. In present-day America, there is almost a complete absence of empathy. As just one example, a man dropped dead in a Target store a few years ago, during one of the yearly Black Friday displays of collective madness. No one stopped to check on him, or even appeared to notice him other than to step over his body in their quest to save a few dollars. Considering how fast America is deteriorating, today we might see youngsters posing for selfies next to his lifeless body, or perhaps stepping on or even jumping up and down on it.
America is fractured; almost completely broken around bogus, politically correct lines. Few on either the left or right would hesitate to lock someone away for life, despite any concrete evidence, simply because they “offended” them and fit their particular definition of a villain. They hate their political opposites with a venom and a passion that would appall Jesus. There is nothing about America’s present political discourse that bears the slightest resemblance to the Golden Rule.
Those associated with Donald Trump in some way have been thrown out of restaurants, or heckled until they leave them. This is pretty similar to how black people were once not permitted to dine in restaurants, but no one seems to sense the irony. All decent people found the protests of funerals by the Westboro Baptist Church to be repugnant. Considering the hypocrisy of today’s left, I think it’s a certainty that they would support identical protests of the funerals of “racists” or “Nazis” or “white supremacists.”
Donald Trump’s abrasive, divisive personality is perfect for present-day America. Certainly, it is impossible to imagine Trump forgiving others or treating them the way he would wish to be treated. He can’t even refrain from getting down in the gutter with the lowest common denominator entertainers, and exchanging juvenile poisonous barbs with them. The civil disobedience that began with Thoreau, and was utilized to great effect by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, has been supplanted by profane shouting and physical attacks on others.
We are so far removed from any “do unto others” concept that many, especially on the left, proudly advocate violent attacks on those who “offend” them. I’ve heard many people declare, “free speech doesn’t include hate speech.” Just what constitutes “hate speech,” of course, is something only they can define. Like “obscenity,” a ridiculous notion like “hate speech” is entirely in the eye of the beholder. So, if those you disagree with have no right to eat in public establishments, or to exercise their right to free speech, what rights do they have?
Obviously, if you can’t tolerate views that “offend” you, to the point of demanding that those expressing them be fired, jailed, or physically assaulted, then you certainly aren’t about to follow the Golden Rule in any way, shape, or form. I can’t count the number of parents and adult children who don’t speak to each other. Ever. Those are the closest human relationships possible. And too many people nowadays can’t even follow the Golden Rule with their own parents, or children.
Someone commented here recently that this blog was “Grumpy Old Man Central,” and questioned what century I was living in. It’s hard not to sound like a curmudgeon when looking at America’s blossoming Idiocracy. For those of us who grew up forty or fifty years ago, this is not only a different country, but an entirely different world. A different reality. A different dimension.
No, things weren’t always great back then, but there was a lot more empathy for others in general. It was a more polite world, even if “politeness,” as defined by Ambrose Bierce, is just “the most acceptable form of hypocrisy.” We need shared values. We need the Golden Rule.