Part I- The Golden Rule
Today is Martin Luther King Day 2013. My kids stayed home from school and it was exciting to watch the Presidential inaugural ceremony with them now that they are old enough to understand the historical significance. I’ve been thinking about the equality of mankind recently and I am troubled by the current state of our culture. My husband and I took a trip to Alabama and Florida last June and during that trip had the opportunity to visit The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama where Dr. King worked as pastor. I have always admired Dr. King’s work, his passion and his dreams. However, standing in the geographic location where much of the history occurred gave me a renewed perspective. His message of hope continues to touch me.
Yet, perhaps we have not gone far enough in seeking equality for all our fellow citizens. I believe the inability to empathize has become an epidemic in this country. We live in an era where the cries of victims are overridden by rhetoric, politics and overreaction. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, we have seen an out of touch NRA casting blame largely upon the mentally ill instead of taking a serious look at how guns play a role in multiple tragedies in our communities. Gabby Giffords Takes on NRA
We have seen demented politicians suggest outrageous solutions that are dangerous, irresponsible and obtuse. Sheriff Joe launches ‘posse’ to patrol schools
We’ve even seen the ridiculous and laughable overreactions by school officials, who are so scared of public judgment that they make a case for the absurd. Kindergartner Suspended over Bubble Gun Threat
Everyone wants to cast blame and find ‘the’ culprit for these sad and depraved episodes of violence. Unfortunately, terribly few people are willing to take a good hard look inside and see the sad, sad truth: ‘society’ is the problem. I am certainly not an expert in social psychology, but I do think that if we all contemplate human nature, it’s easy to what propels behavior. The way we treat each other, for good or for worse, has a lasting reverberation. The world is full of abuse, ignorance, indifference and the world is full of the casualties of such behavior.
In practice, I believe that most people posses a hopeful spirit, which seeks peace, social equality and compassion. However, sometimes in doing so, stories of the disadvantaged become swept ‘under the rug’ as the subject is uncomfortable. Yet, we need to be sensitive to the needs of less fortunate, down trodden and forsaken. I especially have a soft spot in my heart for those who are purposefully ridiculed, held back and persecuted by others. The appeals of those who suffer adversity happens in places where it may or may not be obvious:
- Those who are born with impairments that make them act ‘different’, and stereotyped as unusual.
- Individuals who suffer from a disability. Their physical impairment prevents them from taking part in everyday activities.
- Those who suffer from peer bullying. They fear physical, social and emotional cruelty at school and through social media and digital realms.
- Our teachers, who often have over 30 children in their classroom, receive attacks by parents, administration, legislatures and the public and are treated like glorified babysitters. Yet they are only paid a meager salary for their heroic efforts.
- From the opposite perspective, students who struggle to pay the high cost of tuition and endure an awkward system with class sizes of over 500 students, and uncaring professors who teach through fear, manipulation and negativity, holding students to unrealistic expectations and inflict punitive consequences while lacking sufficient communication.
- Alternately, those who cannot afford to go to college and hold dead-end, future-less jobs.
- Peer academic and workplace bullying. The subtle passive-aggressive ‘politics’ that make or break the ability for someone to move forward in their career.
- The ‘glass ceiling’ for women… alive and well.
- The elderly.
- Those who will not ever make a livable salary despite an ethic of hard work.
- Helpless children in abusive homes who do not have an understanding of their neglect, nor a pathway to safety.
- Domestic violence victims who have nowhere to seek safety.
- “Majority” or ‘clique’ dynamics, where the cries of the few are ignored because they are the minority within an organization. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of this knows its nothing more than Jr.-High behavior dressed up as professional conduct.
- Divorce settlement victims, whether that be the children or one of the parents. Surprisingly, dads are more likely to receive less time with children, pay more money on child support and suffer from court discrimination than are moms.
- Victims of gun and hate crimes of any kind.
- Victims of natural disasters, man made accidental disasters and terrorist disasters.
- Active military and their families. Although most military members have pride and an ardent love for what they do, their choices and liberties are restricted due to their commitment to this country. Many have paid the ultimate price.
- Civilizations with large populations that are dying of hunger and thirst due to corrupt governments who are more likely to kill and start wars than they are to take care of their own people.
- Abusive churches that: discriminate against women, same-sex partners, and force a congregation into submission through a culture of humiliation, fear and shame. By extension, church Pastors who have nasty habits of abusing their power, acting as judge and jury by threatening ‘exposure’ of a perceived ‘sin’ unless obedience occurs. Or even worse, hate groups, posing as a ‘church’, that protest in the name of ‘god’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church.
- People who are ignored, belittled or prevented from individual progression because they are too: fat, skinny, tall, short, poor, rich, democrat, republican, blonde, brunette, talented, non-talented, dim-witted, smart, beautiful and less than beautiful. Or because they have a different skin color, job, accent, heritage, dress code or belief system than the perceived norm.
The list of adversities humanity suffers is endless and profound. Yet, some find it acceptable to cast blame on large blankets of society, stating that their circumstances were of their own doing. Mitt Romney attacks 47% of Americans While some populations may not take the necessary steps towards self responsibility, I believe the large body of people in this country work sincerely towards a brighter future.
Perhaps modern society should take the advice of our medical community: Preventative medicine is the best antidote. Before we cast blame on those who perpetrate crime, blame mental illness, blame video games, lobby for or against guns, and administer judgment we MUST look at ourselves. We must be aware of how our actions cause others to feel, and by extension, how the long-term effects of our interaction with groups and individuals of every culture, country, stereotype and demographic impact their ability to cope with life. It assuredly comes down to one thing, and it is quite straightforward:
The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Or as Dr. Martin Luther King said about beloved communities:
“Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys. The aftermath of the ‘fight with fire’ method which you suggest is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community. Physical force can repress, restrain, coerce, destroy, but it cannot create and organize anything permanent; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
* Part Two of this blog deals with the restorative and healing power of profound music written about and for victims.