The Golden Rule and Hypocrisy and True Intelligence
When the talk turns to politics or religion I tend to curl up into a little ball. I don't do this because I have no opinion or because I am ill-equipped to have a discussion. I simply feel like it's so often a hollow and meaningless discussion, and I don't see the point in having one of those. If we're on opposite "sides of the aisle", as they say, then there is nothing you can say to change my mind and vice versa. If we're on the same side then it's an excercise in sucking each other off for being so superior to the other idiots. I believe that simple principle is at the core of my mantra about politics and religion as not being suitable for "polite conversation".....it's a useless endeavor. There are no 2 subjects people feel more strongly about and will defend with vim and vigor than politics and religion. Hence, the avoidance.
I'm a vulgar creature with the temper of a mass murderer and a proclivity for things that people frown upon. I love a politically incorrect and highly offensive joke; that shit gets me off. And yet, for all that I have the sensibilities and the sensitivity of a refined gentleman. I hate to see people fight (especially when it's up close and personal). I will do what I can (within reason) to avoid conflict. I like to make people laugh and smile. I enjoy being the life of the party, probably a little too much. Simply put, I want those around me to be happy. I find rudeness deplorable above all things.
In case you don't already know I am a Southern man who was raised in a Wesleyan family. I come from a very "religious" family (I put that word in quotation marks because it means different things to different people). We went to church every week; usually more than once. My family at large (and my grandparents in particular) are what I consider to be fine examples of what a Christian should be and how they should treat others. And yet.......
I am not a "religious" person. I have never (despite my wicked ways at times) questioned the existence of God. I have always known in my heart that He or She exists and always has. I believe that He or She created us and watches over us. It's the particulars that I get hung up on, as there are so many different religions with wildly different belief structures and tenets and commandments. Who's right? Who's wrong? Why this one and not any of the others?
And there's the crux: why shouldn't I question everything? God gave me a moderately gifted brain with which I can examine the situation and the free will to walk away should I so choose. My heart says it is important to respect the beliefs of others even if my initial reaction is "holy shit, that is the dumbest shit I have ever heard!" Do I always succeed at this? Nope. You don't either, I'm sure. We're just flawed and limited creatures. That reaction, though.....that voice that says "hold on and listen to what they have to say" is my driving force.
I spoke in a previous post ("If you haven't got anything nice to say......") about the amazing Mrs. Morris. She was a woman with a lot of catchphrases. One of these was "to be a truly intelligent person you must be able to see the both sides of the argument". She hammered this home with unmatched fervor on a regular basis, and it hit home for me the very first time she said it. You see, I had run through life until that point following the herd around me. I kept my parents' beliefs and those of my friends (for the record my parents were not racist folks, but boy my friends were). I saw all black people as niggers and queers as worthy of a beating (tell the truth and shame the devil, right?). I did what everyone else did. I thought what everyone else thought. When a news story came on about practically anything I accepted my Mom or Dad's response as the only truth. Total sheep stuff. I think we've all been there.
The ones I feel bad for are the ones that are still there.
I've been lucky enough to have moved around the country some and to places that are very opposite, culturally (The Bible Belt of South Carolina and The Wild West of Albuquerque, New Mexico). I was raised in Tigertown and GREW UP in Burque. I'm thankful for that. When I moved out to Albuquerque with my future wife in early 1998 I had had no personal interactions with either Mexicans or homosexuals or gangs or hard drugs. I was about to suffer from some serious culture shock. My mind was blown in the best way possible. I thought I would be treated as the outsider- the redneck from the East Coast with the funny accent.
I couldn't have been more wrong. It was revelatory. It brought me back to the one thing that all religions have in common. In Christianity it is commonly referred to as The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you'd have done to you. It's the only "rule" that I live by now.
Does this mean I look down on people around me who are "bible-thumpers"? Nope. Atheists? Nope. Racist rednecks? Nope. Black Lives militants? Nope. If you treat others the way you want to be treated then you're cool in my book, despite some of the beliefs you may spout when you're to be a part of the herd. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
If you let your beliefs and your creed define every aspect of who you are as a person, however, then you and I have a serious problem. That makes you the true bigot, the simpleton, the cretin. If you want to label me a liberal because I entertain the notion that the other side makes some good points too then there is very little that we have to say to each other. If you want to label me as a "good old boy" or a "redneck" because I firmly believe in the 2nd Amendment and I hate to see Christians labeled as a hate group then you should probably stay far away from me. Keep that close-minded shit to yourself, regardless of where it comes from.
At the end of the day it's all about the Golden Rule. It's all about walking that mile in the other person's shoes. It's all about having the humility to admit that you could be wrong. It's all about true intelligence- the kind that makes you look at the other viewpoint. Grow the fuck up and wear some big boy shoes.
They're kind of stylish. Sexy, even.