Deconstructing the Golden Rule ~ Treat Others as They Wish to be Treated

“Do unto others . . . “ we tend to fill in the rest without thinking. The infamous line is considered to be an ethic act of reciprocity… or does it mean the proverbial “eye for an eye?”

At times I get confused. What I do know is that the so called “golden rule” is a maxim historically promoted by many cultures and religions shaping equality and a poetic sense of justice . . . of sorts.

Name the group and that golden nugget is among its basic core principles – well . . . except for Nazis, White Supremacists, Domestic Terrorists, Insurrectionists, Racists, Sexists, anti-Semites . . . you get the point.

To believe in the golden rule is quite a statement and responsibility or could be a burden for some evangelicals. It may take some of us out of our Golden social-cultural-political-religious comfort zones.

It sounds marvelous, idealistically delicious with nuances of social justice, equality, democracy, inclusivity, empathy, compassion, juris prudence, impartiality – far beyond tolerance.

Surely this is a constant calling for Diversity and Equity. Or does the “rule” apply exclusively to like- minded comrades with similar dispositions, attitudes, beliefs and appearance? Let’s review the members mentioned each time we say or think of the essence and nobleness of the rule.

The rule centers on “me, myself and Iin power and control doing to “others” and what “others” are expected to do to and for “me.” A classic American “Quid pro Quo.”

Lest we forget that the “me, myself and I” gets to define the “other.” A dreadful assumption considering the historical cataclysmic multi-generational disrespect and disdain towards “others” . . . who may be different.

The golden rule is one of those constructed truisms based on acceptance and repetition. These interpretations are normalized by those that it serves, typically going unchallenged.

My contention is that the golden rule needs serious review and clarification in the 21st Century.

It is understood that well-intended Christian egalitarians will quickly point out the benevolence and universality of the rule based on holy scripture and documents such as the Bible, Constitution, and Declaration of Independence, pointing to inherent inalienability. Not so fast well-intentioned aversive fellow citizens and humans.

Are we talking about a truism or a contrived delusion? If the golden rule was actually true in word and deed . . .
~ Would all human beings unequivocally agree that all human beings are equal under God and law?
Would we vote accordingly?
~ Would we agree, without hesitation, that inclusivity and equity are part of the golden rule?

Would we vote accordingly?
~ Would we agree that the “other” in 2023 is viewed by all segments of our society as equal without “exceptions?”

Would we vote accordingly?
~ Would the quality of life of each citizen – each human being be of the highest priority – especially the youngest and eldest among us?
Would we vote accordingly?

What if we tweak the golden rule to “Do unto OTHERS as THEY wish to have done unto THEM.”

That shifts the paradigm and dynamic, taking the “me, myself and I” out of the position of power and control. The reconstruction shifts the capital of presence and voice.

This would mean the “other” setting the stage – the agenda as to what the “doing” should entail. The “other” having a voice as to defining “otherness” and “difference.”

Imagine if at the Continental Congress of 1776 – white-male-immigrant-slave/land owners – holding all of the power and control over “others”, would have asked women, Native Americans, slaves, indentured servants and recent immigrants, “What do you want to be done unto you?”

Maybe a civil war could have been prevented. Unfortunately asking such a question during these times was as foreign as the notion of the internet and social media. It’s still a critical question to be asked.

Let’s be honest . . . the golden rule applied to “some” but not to “others.”

Imagine if throughout the 1920s and 1930s industrialists would have “done unto their workers” with profit sharing, environmental awareness and concern, humane working conditions and hours. If they would have been so pro-active on behalf of others – would there have even been any reasons for unions?

Imagine the counterstories of women – little girls living as domestic commodities for men to prey on. Imagine “good old boys” doing unto women with equitable recognition, validation and respect. Imagine each woman being looked at and touched with dignity.

So many “others” left out during our history. So many lives needlessly made voiceless, invisible and lost over centuries due to exclusion. As the “Soup Nazi” would have screamed – “No Golden Rule for YOU, and YOU, and YOU and YOU!” It was never a comedy for the victims, invisible and voiceless, living traumatized lives.

The tarnished gold plated rule “that all men are created equal with inalienable rights” would cling throughout American history as a fictional metanarrative followed by what was not written and lived – “equal but separate.

Since the inception of America, the “other” has been classified and defined as a second-class citizen with a history of struggling to be heard. The “other” has seldom been invited to the table of discourse as an equal, rarely asked to share counter-narratives, infrequently validated as being worthy of the golden rule and its collective sensibility.

American citizens are living in a time when the ethos – the core of the golden rule – has been politicized, questioning whether the “other is truly equal, has value and should even be considered.

The political circumstances in 2016 and because of COVID-19, America was thrust into having to fight against two deadly viruses – one political extremism and the other medical. Domestic Terrorism, White Supremacy, anti-Semitism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Xenophobia all continue to be on the rise – yes in the 21st Century.

But the majority of Americans are critically analyzing and reflecting on the Golden Rule as it applies to empowering “otherness” and “difference” – and doing so without fear or apprehension of their own identities.

A new generation of citizens are validating the “other.” A new generation is listening and recognizing the “other” and then doing unto “them” as “they” wish to have done – with mutual dignity, respect and authenticity. It is time to make the golden rule the gold standard as it is meant to be – 24 karat with no melting down of its pureness.

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