I didn’t come up with that like, “If the past were a foreign country, it just invaded.” Someone else it. If I’d been more responsible, I’d have closer attention to whom so that I could give them credit, but these last couple of days I’ve been in kind of an emotional daze. I remember the same kind of numb fog when my father died.
Over reaction, you say? Trust me, I was not that emotionally invested in Hillary Clinton. But since my childhood I have been deeply emotionally invested in America. The America that I thought I knew.
The afternoon of September 11, 2001 and for at least the next week, everything felt different. Worse than being trapped in an episode of the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits. Anxiety and uncertainty gripped us. The day of the 9/11 the skies were conspicuously empty. Having grown up with my dad working at the airport for American Airlines, I had always been unconsciously aware of the constant mostly unnoticed rhythm of traffic in the skies and of the crisscrossing of vapor trails.
This week, after the unthinkable happened, I now eye everyone with suspicion.
At school, I wait for the middle school boys to become Rolfe, the delivery boy teenage suitor tuned Hitler youth and challenge my authority and accuse me of being a traitor to the new state.
At the grocery store I worry that every immigrant or Latino is afraid of me because they imagine that I hate them, I’m judging them or I’m ready to falsely accuse them of something or deport them- because I’m a white male. A middle-aged, middle-class, white male. Especially the girls. I’m acutely aware (even if it’s irrational) that they fear me most. Almost as if I’m Frankenstein’s Monster visiting the village, and they cower around corners to avoid my slightest glance.
Yeah, my Black and Latino and Gay “friends” are just former students on Facebook, far away, not people I live around or work with every day (I’m not trying to show them off as Liberal trophies of tolerance), but I fear too that they may not trust me or like me anymore. Will they resent me? Will they be waiting for me to turn on them like everyone else seems to have in the last few days? Am I just another “one of them” to them?
I view everyone differently. Dear friends and neighbors and family too. Who can I be open with? Who feels like I do? Who’s going to scoff at my concerns? Who will judge me derisively as a “libtard?”
Who casually, callously, uncritically voted for him just because they didn’t like her, didn’t trust her?
Who voted for him with conviction, with passion, because they were convinced that he truly is the only one who can take back our country and make it great again?
And who relished voting for him because he lets them say what they’ve always wanted to say. He legitimizes their fiery, passionate, fucking hatred of those fucking fucktards that have been fucking up our country so long?
Who would write me off and marginalize my values, the compassion and kindness and egalitarianism that I was taught- as soft, irresponsible, weak, not really Christian.
Who would betray me should the day come, like it does in Sinclair Lewis’ novel ‘It Can’t Happen Here,’ when the the thugs come to take me to the re-education camps? Or at least, who would let that happen if someone else betrayed me?
Who would beat me up, vandalize my home, threaten my family?
And I think of my daughters. Will they never be allowed to hold office? Will they lose their right to vote? Will no one believe them if they’re ever harassed, or assaulted, abused, or raped?
Will they never be good enough because they’re not thin enough, not blonde enough, not sexy enough?
What about my daughter with the speech impediment and variety of other special needs.
Will she be denied Medicare? Will she be denied a job? Will she be beaten up?
So yes, I feel like we’ve been invaded. But maybe not like France or Belgium. Maybe more like Austria. Invaded by invitation. And yes, I’m resentful, but if it makes the invaders feel any more self-satisfied, I’m more fearful than I am angry.
But don’t get too complacent or smug. Soon my fog will lift and righteous indignation and deep commitment will connect to others who feel like I do. We know we’re not alone. We’re already reaching out. Soon we’ll shake off our funk and reorganize. And then we’ll begin to rise back up.
And love will find a way. Decency will find a way. Kindness, compassion, community… even justice will find a way and she will take her country back, so that she can once again offer liberty and justice to ALL.
Because the arch of history is long, but believe it or not, like it or not, it will bend toward justice.
This morning the news was full of examples of inhumanity to man.
Two police officers were shot in their cars in the predawn hours in Des Moines. A Black church in Mississippi was torched and vandalized with “Vote Trump.” A YouTube Government teacher whom I follow on Twitter had a “troll” tell him to drink bleach because he was a “P.O.S.”
Admirably, the teacher responded with pity, telling the attacker that he thought it must be difficult to go through life with so much hate and anger.
All of these things reminded me of the simplest thing any of us ever learn; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others the way you want to be treated.
There are three simple things that many of us often overlook about this “Golden Rule.”
- UNIVERSALITY- While Jesus did say it in Luke 6:31 & Mark 12:29 (and I deeply love, am grateful for and try to be devoted to my Lord & Savior), He’s not the only one to teach it. I feel totally comfortable talking about it as a Public School teacher without violating the anti-establishment clause of the First Amendment because there is a version of the Golden Rule in virtually every major world religion AND most secular, agnostic, atheist, and humanist philosophers and psychologists also agree that it’s a great idea. It’s a universal principle that truly transcends sectarian and doctrinal differences.
- CIVILITY- It’s not just analogous to, but pretty much embodies the concept of Social Contract theory as expounded upon by Enlightenment thinkers and American “Founding Fathers” from Locke, Rousseau and Burke, to Jefferson, Madison and Martin Luther King Jr. An exchange of individual rights and privileges for responsibilities to shared principles as a member of community. Compromise. It is the very nature of constitution, covenant, compact- more perfect unity, domestic tranquility, general welfare, even justice itself depends upon the Golden Rule.
- IT REFLECTS OUR OWN PERSONAL SELF WORTH- Most of us (at least in our consumer-driven, materialistic, individualistic, Western, middle-class, White Anglo-Saxon, Protestant world) think of the Golden Rule as an if-then proposition. Mathematical, logical- “If I threat others the way I’d like to be treated, they (in response) SHOULD, ought to, if there is any justice in the universe, if God is doing His job right- they will then (as a result of my playing by the rules & doing the right thing) treat me well in return.
This often disappoints. People are selfish & greedy & inconsiderate. They don’t care about me, they’re only worried about themselves and their own interests. That’s human nature. It’s enough to make you become a Nihilist.
But what if we looked at it in a different way? What if I told you that how you treat others is a unconscious projection of how you believe that you deserve to be treated? What if, just maybe, the Golden Rule triggers the “Law of Attraction,” that principle that says that you get what you give, that what goes around comes around, that you reap what you sow?
What if, the way I treat others is sending them subliminal messages that that’s exactly how I expect to be treated? That subconsciously at least (even if I try to deny it consciously) but inside- if I disrespect you, it means that I don’t believe that I deserve respect? If I’m hostile toward you, it means that I have anger, contempt or self-loathing for myself? If I try to dominate or manipulate you- it actually means that I wish someone would exert control over me?
Does that shift in perspective make you question your own behavior?
Does it make you reconsider other people’s behavior?
Why would anyone ever call someone else a piece of defecated feces?
Remember the Golden Rule is:
- A REFLECTION OF YOUR SELF-WORTH
I heard a report today that former Arkansas Governor, Baptist minister and GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee spoke to a group of conservative evangelical pastors today about how to become politicians. His goal is to raise an army of political candidates who will be able to clarify and represent “Christian values.”
Seems like we’ve heard this story before. Back in the 1970’s at the very moment that we had a born again Christian, Sunday School teaching Washington outsider in the White House (Jimmy Carter), the religious right organized themselves around Jerry Fawell and his “Moral Majority” whipping up the politics of division with indignation over wedge issues like abortion rights and the place of prayer in public schools. All through the Reagan era the like of Pat Robertson, Pat Boone and Pat Buchanan beat the drum of “family values.”
At best, I think this is another case of earnest, well meaning believers being used and taken advantage of for political leverage by oligarchs, ideologues, and opportunists. Posturing and pandering for power and privilege. At worst, it is the perennial ploys of shameless shills and charlatans.
Huckabee & his disciples claimed that “Christian values” included traditional marriage and the prevention of deficit spending.
Here’s what I believe true Biblical values are: What does God require of you? At justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27). Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you (Matt.5:43), forgiveness, don’t judge or condemn others (Matt.7), encourage, build, community, share, sacrifice, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:21-24), selflessness, being supportive, trusting and hopeful (1 Corinthians 13). Being willing to lay down your life for someone. Being Christ-like and exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit as your character- these are values worth having.
I hate to say it, but I’ve seen secularists, atheists, Muslims and homosexuals who are far more humble, far more committed to justice, and far more merciful than many evangelicals.
Anger, fear, outrage, smugness, superiority, wealth, ambition, competition, privilege, gun rights, avoidance of regulation and supervision, tax evasion, racism, sexism, homophobia? violating the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Fourteenth Amendment rights all in the name of protecting your own First Amendment rights? None of these are Biblical values. Whoever you are and whatever you believe, please don’t ever conflate the “values” of some conservative evangelicals with those actually taught by Jesus Christ or the Jewish & Christian Bible. And no matter who you are or what your political leanings, please, please don’t conflate American social or political “conservationism” for Christianity.
“Then Jesus said to all the people (in Luke 9:23) : If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me.”
Ask yourself, how many of Huckabee’s troops in the new “culture war” are willing to give up control of government, party and culture in order to help feed the poor, heal the sick, free the oppressed, visit prisoners, and care for widows and orphans? Will they turn the other cheek? Go the extra mile? Give people the shirt off their back? If they do, then you know they’re genuinely following Jesus Christ. If on the other hand, they’re wearing designer suits and asking for donations so they can buy a plane- probably not.
Which displays Christ’s values, fighting to root out systemic racism in our institutions, or fighting to help petroleum corporations keep their tax loopholes? Allowing gay domestic partners to have medical, legal and financial status when their spouse dies, or fighting to prevent semiautomatic weapons from being regulated? Fighting to protect the environment and reduce or reverse global warming, or fighting to deport people who’ve lived in this country for decades after their parents brought them here as children?
I’m not claiming that Jesus is a registered Democrat or that fundamentalist pastors shouldn’t be allowed to run for office. But I am saying that anyone who thinks that the “Christian values” are the ones you’ll see proposed by Super Pacs, the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, or FOX News doesn’t know either Jesus or Scripture very well.
This may be very vain on my part, but when I am pleased with something I’ve written, I like to share it. The following are my responses to a discussion that’s part of a class I’m taking this Summer on Character Education. I’ve annotated it just a tad for this blog with additional comments which are italicized.
Differences between views, values and virtues.
I suspect that many teachers hope to engage students by having them explore and share views in class discussions. Politicians, parents and interest groups often want their values propagated in schools while vehemently opposing having students indoctrinated with “wrong” values. Unfortunately, I think all too often school districts and teachers have avoided instilling students with virtues because they mistakenly conflate them with “religious” values and therefore want to avoid controversy from the aforementioned parents and interest groups. The result has been a diminishing amount of virtues necessary for lifelong learning such as curiosity, persistence, courage and a general work-ethic. Not to mention virtues necessary for promoting a culture and climate safe for learning like compassion, empathy, and community.
Views may be perspective or paradigm. They determine how we perceive things and react to them. These are very subjective and personal.
Values are influenced by views. Values are what we deem important and are greatly determined by our culture, family, personal life experiences and the institutions we belong to. While they may be deeper, more stable and more widely shared than our views, they’re still very subjective. Like views, they aren’t necessarily constructive or productive, instead, they are constructed and produced. They are things we think we need to defend or stand up for, rather than things that help us to grow or progress.
A good synonym for Virtues might be disciplines because virtues aren’t just concepts you believe in like values, they are principles which you can proactively use to help determine your decisions, choices, and behaviors. They can help you pre-plan your reactions to potential scenarios. They also effect how others perceive you and present a “brand” or “stance” you hope to portray.
How they relate, or do not relate, to educational success, living well, mastering 21st Century Skills
Being virtuous involves intellectual authenticity. Virtues are active processes. Angela Maiers might argue that they are taking positive attitudes toward learning and developing them into habits that help you learn. Carol Dweck might say that they being virtuous is being willing to work and grow, no matter how often you fail. William Glasser might say its the difference between being responsible and irresponsible, or between being negative and reactive or being positive and proactive. Civic, financial, and technological literacy and being healthy and employable all demand that students be actively engaged and deliberate and committed and disciplined, rather than passively receiving information or being entertained.
Views and values certainly have a place in learning. They’re useful for exposing students to the marketplace of ideas and to exploring you own feelings and ideas, but without virtues, they may be somewhat superficial or reactionary at best and inflammatory at worst.
Creating a foundation of deeper meaning.
Woodrow Wilson once said, ” When I think of the flag…. I see alternate strips of parchment upon which are written the rights of liberty and justice, and stripes of blood to vindicate those rights, and then, in the corner, a prediction of the blue serene into which every nation may swim which stands for these great things.”
It’s not just a matter of “being deep” or having poetry in one’s soul. It is a matter of comprehension and application; being able to genuinely understand learning and proactively, deliberately apply it, rather than just casually being exposed to, passively acknowledging it or emotionally reacting to it.
At the risk of sounding too much like a Social Studies teacher- it’s the difference between hearing the Gettysburg Address as “yadda yadda yadda, blah blah, blah… of the people, by the people, for the people, etc. etc.” and hearing it and thinking, “wow, how dedicated and committed am I (are we) to the unfinished work which they so nobly advanced there 150 years ago? How can I (we) dedicate myself (ourselves) to the principles of equality and liberty so that those who gave their last full measure of devotion might not have died in vain?” That’s how important I think that virtues are to creating meaning in one’s life.
Views are how we respond to circumstances. Values are what we’ve been raised to think of as important and worth defending. But virtue provides us with purpose and direction. I think both Victor Frankl and Rick Warren could agree on this.