People early on learn the Golden Rule, essentially to treat others (regardless of differences) as you wish to be treated. This idea is found in many religions as well. For example, love and compassion, not hatred and coldness, are a key part of Jesus’ teachings as well as part of other religions.
The outcome of the recent election has served as a wakeup call for many. The campaign and its outcome demonstrated the need for people to recommit themselves to the Golden Rule. There is now a widespread realization that there are increased threats, including violence, to vulnerable populations, including minorities, gays, disabled, the elderly and lower middle class and poor groups in this country. It is great to see the turnout of so many people promising to protect those under threat.
It’s not just individual and group acts of discrimination that are of concern. Many have long worked to assist vulnerable groups that have been under attack by biased economic policies and by systemic racism for decades (centuries) prior to the Nov. 8th election.
People are also working to help those under threat from policies designed to benefit those at the top of the income ladder. Those under this threat include the homeless, the jobless, the hungry, those mentally challenged, people facing foreclosures, prisoners, people without health insurance, minorities, etc. Groups are working to protect the public good, for example, to protect and expand Social Security and Medicare, to campaign for a living wage, to have publicly funded childcare, to defend prisoner rights, and to have a clean and safe environment.
From colonial time, and especially in hard economic times, the rich and powerful used the idea of divide and conquer to keep the great majority of the people from coming together to challenge the power of the few. Unfortunately this approach is still effective. Hatred against and fear of minorities (including immigrants) is stoked by scapegoating them for the recurring economic hardships and for crimes. Until we come together and understand how we are being manipulated to protect the interests of the 1%, we won’t succeed in making the economic system meet the needs of the people.
In addition, we, the U.S. public have allowed and often encouraged our government to use extreme violence against people who were different from us, especially when we coveted their lands and/or resources. We tended to view the other as inferior, even less than human, and therefore we seemed to think that we could violate the Golden Rule as well as international and human rights laws.
The genocide against Native American tribes is a horrific example of our violation of the Golden Rule. Our government and our population acted shamefully against Native Americans, violating most treaties negotiated with them and massacring or starving many tribes. Unfortunately, the treatment of the Sioux water protectors at Standing Rock demonstrates that we have made little progress in following the Golden Rule towards these fellow humans.
Two further unspeakable violations of the Golden Rule occurred: 1) against the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century; and 2) in WWII against Germany and Japan who were themselves also guilty of ghastly crimes.
Regarding the U.S. public, according to J. Robert Oppenheimer, before the approval of the use of the atomic bomb, Secretary of War Henry Stimson expressed dismay at the “appalling” lack of conscience and compassion ushered in by the war. Stimson stated that he was disturbed by the “complacency, the indifference, and the silence with which we greeted the mass bombings in Europe, and, above all, Japan.”
The fire bombings of several German cities as well as Tokyo and the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed almost total disregard for civilian lives. In its method of fighting the war, the U.S. had joined Germany, Japan and Britain in committing atrocious war crimes.
More recently, the U.S committed horrendous crimes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as well as in the Middle East, starting in Iraq. The illegal and immoral attacks on Iraq have played a major role in creating the disaster spreading throughout the Middle East. The U.S. public has generally shown a lack of compassion for the victims of these crimes.
If the message of ‘peace on earth’ is to have any meaning, all people must realize that the ‘others’ are fellow human beings whose lives have the same value as ours.
Ron Forthofer, Ph.D. is a retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado