What a perversion of the Golden Rule, the royal rule that is an integral part of every major religion on earth. What has happened to the inclusive view that we are brothers, that we are equals, that it takes a village to raise a child or that we might want to entertain a stranger who could be an angel? Where is the good samaritan when we need him? Where are the hippies, now, who protested in the 60's with "make love, not war?" Who among us can find a jury of our peers to judge us if we are the accused? Why are the words "assertive" and "aggressive" synonymous? Can a person not assert themselves without being aggressive? Can we not question our government without being unpatriotic? Why does "tribal" seem more like one than many? What has happened to us, as a people, that meanspiritedness has overtaken kindness? Our most base feelings seem now to be the only ones we are willing to wear on our sleeves.
I have more questions and observations than I have answers. But maybe, just maybe, it is in the asking that we can learn about ourselves, and even if we don't have the answers to the "why" of things, we can choose to use the lessons learned to alter the course. We need to redefine who we are and to go back, or forward, to a time when one person's pain hurts us all. Leave no child behind should say to us that we must leave no child unloved, unwanted, uncared for, uneducated or in peril. It should have nothing to do with school vouchers.
Should we all remind ourselves everyday that "there, but for the Grace of God, go I?" That would be assuming that God has purposely created all of the things we are glad we're not and given them to someone he likes less than us. Did the Grace of God create the mentally and physically handicapped? Is it by grace that I was born in an American home and not in an African village of HIV positive parents? Does God love me more than my African brother? Is a blue-eyed blonde better, in God's eyes, than a brown-eyed brunette, that he or she is entitled to have more fun? (Hitler thought so) What makes someone part of a class, lower, middle or upper? Is it just money, or does one think that they are better, or lesser, than the other?
Here is where I choose to stop asking questions that I have no answers for and begin to observe. (I need to insert the caveat that observations can be dangerous if they come with generalization. It is a bad thing to assume that people can be put into categories.) I have heard it said that so many of us are so enamoured of "reality TV." What is real about these television shows? We are mimicking reality by being on an island, eating bugs, running naked and outmaneuvering our fellow castaways. We choose the meanest, leanest most deceitful and outrageous of these characters to cheer on. What does this say about us? Does it say that we need to push the off button? Well, yes, but more than that if we want to alter the future. We need to turn off the advertising cash flow to the people who make this garbage that glorifies cruelty. We need to quit laughing at "my big fat disgusting fiancee" and teach our children that you laugh with people, not at them. I guarantee that our televisions will not being spewing forth this bile if the cash cow dries up.
Another observation I have is that we deify athletes and models and actors in our society. We worship them because they are stronger, faster, prettier or more dramatic than the rest of us, and we teach our children that they are better than the rest of us because of those attributes. We need to teach our children that we all have gifts and talents and we all have worth and value. We need to teach them that worth is more than how much money you can make tossing a ball around. Worth is the sum of all the parts of a human being. It involves a person's character as much as his talents, how he walks in the world, not just how he talks. It means personal responsibility and using those talents for good and not evil. It means holding those celebrities, and the entities who promote them, to a higher standard. What exactly is it that makes Paris Hilton newsworthy, anyway? Is it a coincidence that she looks like a Barbie doll?
It is nothing new that in our schools the jock and the cheerleader are venerated while the leader of the debate club is a geek! We buy into this hooey to protect our children. I am guilty of it. We get the designer outfits that they see on TV so that they can all look alike and not risk the ostracizing looks and comments of their "peers" if they are, heaven forbid, different. My youngest son is hearing impaired. You would not know it unless he told you, or you looked very closely to see his small malformed right ear. In his first year of high school an audiologist told us that he should have a hearing aid so that he could hear in stereo. Because his ear was mishapen, he would need to wear a headset to facilitate that improvement. My first thoughts were of what his high school life would be like with the taunts and teasing he would be subjected to. We chose not to improve on his hearing at the expense of his self-esteem, justifying our decision by telling ourselves that he was already an honor student and talented athlete so why burden him with something he didn't need. I still believe it was the right decision, but the reason it was right is wrong! It is wrong that he would have been judged and taunted by other kids because of a hearing impairment. The device, or lack of it, would not have changed who Andy was. But what if the aid would have made a difference? What if he was a mediocre student who functioned poorly because of that hearing loss? Could we have justified our choice then? No one should have to make those choices. Our children learn from us how to love and respect others. If we are in front of a TV cheering on the bad guys, the survivors and the bad boy athletes, the cynics and the liars, the anorexic models and actresses, why are we surprised if they emulate them?
Have any of us been made better by prejudice or arrogant bias? Are our marriages made stronger because an entire group of human beings is not allowed to take those vows? Are our children any better because they can hear and see, touch, smell and taste if they don't use those senses to learn and grow? If they build themselves up at another's expense, how tall can they possibly stand? How tall can any of us stand if any single one of us is belittled? It isn't "there, but for the grace of God, go I", but "do unto others as I would have others do unto me!" All of God's children have a place in the choir!
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