Part Six of a Series: Restoring the Nation's Integrity
Polarizing speech in the U.S. is being used by talk show hosts to dig a canyon between the political right and the left. In addition to words, images are beginning to be used to demean and dehumanize "the other." Is the idea that we are to treat the other as we want to be treated dying?
With her permission, this series of articles incorporates segments of a speech about polarizing talk given by Kathryn Ruud, a linguist who has studied the manipulative language used by fascists in interwar Germany and by communists in post-World War II East Germany. This is the last in the series. I invite you to watch the following segment before or after reading today's article.
Stop Polarizing Talk Presentation, Part 6 of 6 (5.34 min.)
Every major religion, in some form, teaches that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sometimes we don't seem to notice that this law (called the "Golden Rule" in some traditions) allows for no exceptions. I have heard it explained that it was actually only meant to apply to members of the particular tribe in which it was taught, not to the tribe across the valley or the one on the other side of the mountain. If this is true, why is it such a universal teaching?
Even if you accept the limitation that it only applies to your own tribe, who does that include if you live in the United States where the tribes were banished to the reservations and now include only a minority of us? Is your metaphorical tribe those who think like you do? Those who worship the same God you worship? Those who look like you?
Beyond applying the Golden Rule only to those who are like you, are there other exceptions that ought to excuse adherence to the Golden Rule? What if it interferes with winning elections? What if it makes it hard for you to seize control of the institutional structure that you want to control, be it government, a corporation, or the PTA at your child's school? And what if the Golden Rule does not fit into your plan to maximize profit? Is it okay to ignore it in these circumstances?
Perhaps an even more important question is this. If you ignore the Golden Rule in these, or any other situation, is there a price that you will pay for doing so?
We tend to assume that the Golden Rule is something we should do to benefit others, like it's a nice thing to do. But what if it is actually a universal principle because our survival depends on it? What if the intent of the sages and prophets of old who passed this piece of advice along was to save us from ourselves? Do we ignore the Golden Rule at our own peril?
Take Nazi Germany, for example. Hitler ignored the Golden Rule, believing he had a duty to destroy the Jews, whom he saw as less than human. In the annals of history, it is Hitler who is judged to have been less than human, ignorant, and destructive, not those whom he attacked.
The Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. provides another example. A band of young African Americans trained in nonviolent civil disobedience sought to end legalized racial segregation in the southern United States . They had heart-felt needs they wanted to express, but they did so without violence, even when they were attacked, as the Golden Rule would have it.
White southerners also had heart-felt needs. Those needs could have been expressed in ways that fostered a search for mutual understanding. Instead, the police chose to be brutal, using police dogs, water hoses, and clubs against those whom they saw as a threat. There were civil rights activists who were murdered, some with the complicity of the police. The verdict of history is clear. The Civil Rights activists are now revered, while few who perpetrated or supported the violence of the white majority want to admit their complicity in it.
Why are we judged positively when we follow the Golden Rule? When the world was shown images of the Selma police attacking young, non-violent black Americans, the hearts of people around the world immediately opened to the protesters. They called to us, they reminded us of who we are when we are at our best, courageous, patient, peaceful, connected to our Oneness. They continue to inspire us, even today.
Something else happens when you attack another in violation of the Golden Rule. To hold a grievance, to hate or attack, keeps you bound by the chains of duality and breaks your connection to Oneness. When you attack others, you split yourself off from the core of what it means to be human. How you treat others is a statement about who you are, not who they are. As you measure others, you measure yourself. In dishonoring others, you dishonor yourself.
There is a lesson in this for the talk media hosts, both right and left, who are using polarizing and dehumanizing words and images to pit American against American. When history judges them, the verdict will not be in their favor. When it comes to honoring ourselves and our nation, the Golden Rule is not optional.
Also posted on GenuineJustice.com.