You’ve undoubtedly heard both of those phrases. And I know you’ve heard “Do unto others, yadda yadda, etc. etc.” C’mon, admit it, your parents taught you all those when you were little. Usually they accompanied them consoling you when the bigger kids did something to you that you didn’t like, right? And you internalized the principle as you grew up. So now like most good people you try not to do anything that you wouldn’t want done back to you. But that’s only half of the story, there’s a tootsie roll center there too! Like most good philosophical principles there is something deeper hidden inside it that doesn’t make itself too clear at first glance.
By now you’re used to me asking you, in these pages, to figure out what the heck that premise has to do with anything of import in your life. So here I go asking – can you figure it out? What exactly makes them important? Here’s my early clue – there’s something in there that lies at the heart of what could eventually bring our nation to its knees unless we find the tootsie roll first. You read that correctly. The “Do unto others” line is critical to our survival as a nation.
So let’s step back and look from a distance, just for a minute, at the political climate today. Right now I’m pretty sure that you’re thinking that the answer is somewhere in the realm of “we shouldn’t bully other countries around”. Or maybe “America doesn’t have a good reputation in the world, so let’s try to be nicer people”. Or “What gives us, the big country, any right to try to dictate what some foreign country does”. Nope! Not even close. You fell into the trap of looking only at the outside of the tootsie pop. Too easy for these pages. Let’s delve a little deeper.
We live now in a culture that suggests, no demands, that we TOLERATE other people’s cultures, other religions, and every other “other” that comes along. We hear political leaders stumping about being tolerant. We instruct educators to include inclusiveness in their lesson plans. We have religious leaders pontificating about how our religions are more alike than unalike. We must reach out and make it known that we will tolerate each other’s differences. Americans will not be outdone in this matter. Now don’t assume that I think this is a bad policy. On the contrary I endorse it in the extreme. I think it is a noble goal of an educated society. I happen to personally like the idea that we can have a country that is at once inclusive and unified. There are few places on the planet where tolerance is given out so freely.
But here’s the rub (isn’t there always a rub?). All of those politicians and educators and religious leaders have only looked at the outside of the pop. The answer lies in what we’re NOT doing! That’s right, we’re not doing enough. In fact we’re only doing half. The other and equally important half is that we need to demand, from all those that we willingly tolerate, that they in turn tolerate US! That’s the tootsie roll. And we don’t get it, literally or figuratively.
Yes, Christians will accept Muslims, so long as Muslims accept Christians. Yes, Whites will accept Blacks so long as Blacks accept Whites. Yes, I will recognize your individual right to do pretty much whatever you damn please, as long as you accept my right to do the same. And in the end, if it proves out that the other guy won’t tolerate me – then I stand by my right not to tolerate him. That’s the “as you would have them do unto you” part. It’s the part that speakers are always too shy to mention. Oh, and by shy I mean scared!
Can you imagine a President standing up and saying to the country “Let’s accept and tolerate the XXX’s – but only if they accept us too – and by the way, stop trying to kill us!” Nope, never happen. Not unless another Teddy Roosevelt comes along. But why not? It is just as good for the goose, isn’t it? But until we start demanding a bi-lateral approach, we are very likely going to tolerate ourselves right out of existence!