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emmy [AT] curious-notions {dot} net
July 2010
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Do you really think that love is gonna save the world?

Sometimes my mom sparks deep thoughts in me. Often it’s because she has such a completely different view of the world. She even has such a completely different way of thinking. It’s not even generational. It’s just DIFFERENT. Most of my family members even think she has a different outlook on the world, but that’s going completely off topic.

I do know that for a long time, I’ve had the opinion that the golden rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) is mostly indulgent bullshit. That’s a strong statement, but I’m not overstating my feelings.

Let me give you a really really simplistic example. My mom absolutely loves skin scratching. If you idly scratch her scalp or her arm, she just thinks that’s a lovely touch. I cannot ABIDE someone scratching my skin unless I’ve got an absolutely mind melting mosquito bite on my back and desperately need your assistance and even then ONLY if I ask. Despite my distaste for nails touching my skin, my mom often softly scratches me with her nails because she loves it. It’s not meant meanly. It’s not done out of carelessness. It’s just done because it’s something she loves and so when she’s not paying strict attention to who she’s with, she just does it. The same way my dad’s mom loves to pat our hands when we sit next to her.

The golden rule is most often meant to be applied in a high minded way. Be “kind” because you would like others to be “kind” to you. How does kindness feel to you? Does it feel the same way to others? My bestest friend in the whole world hates when people tell her what to do. I grew up in an opinionated family where we all were very “mean” to each other. I used to just tell Linda when she was “wrong” not realizing how incredibly badly she took it and how shut down she felt when I spoke like that. I now try very hard to listen and then offer opinions only when asked. It would undermine her understanding of my love for her if I still consistently trampled all over her boundaries like that. I, personally, think she believes I love her more now than she used to. My respect for what she wants and needs out of life are the biggest part of it. She might feel differently, but I think I love her better now. Not more, but definitely better.

My grandmother often said things that she doesn’t think are in any way offensive that would offend even the least PC people I’ve ever met. She doesn’t think that calling someone mulato is offensive, so in her mind, it never occurs to her to think they might. Often they shove away any offense because, hell, she’s an old woman. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t offend them. (I’m picking the only example I bring myself to publicly share.)

I think in a world that is increasingly mixing cultures and languages and modes of thinking and religions, the golden rule is probably a terrible one to follow. I remember years ago having a discussion with Linda about how not being racist wasn’t enough. Some of that is what I’ve heard called white guilt. Some of that was my poorly stated feeling that just avoiding certain words or behaviors isn’t really enough.

Over the years, something that has crystallized in my head is that the best thing in the world to do is ask someone what they would like or what they need or how they do something before giving or doing something. Often you’ll do it how you like it, and projecting how I would like to be treated onto others has consistently not worked for me. Maybe it’s just me though. I try not hard not to assume anymore.

My final thought: Even if these examples seem to you like they should be obvious things that everyone should know. You wouldn’t want people to touch you in ways you don’t like, even for innocent touches. You wouldn’t want people to tell you what to do. You wouldn’t call someone mulato. Understand that there is SOMETHING you do that you like but that plenty of other people would hate. There is something that you hate that others love. Find just one example that applies to you. Just one.

For Linda, the rest of the quote is “I really really hope so. I don’t think so.” It’s from The Cardigans.