In my experience, people, by nature, like to help each other. Helping a woman who cannot reach an item on a high shelf at the market. Helping an older man who has tripped over a curb and fallen. Offering a meal to one less fortunate than ourselves. Assisting a neighbor whose house has been flooded by a swollen river. Helping someone get to the polls no matter what their political persuasion. This is generally true when we’re talking about an individual helping another individual. Usually color, creed, religion, ideology does not enter the equation. Someone’s in trouble or inconvenienced: We’ll often go help them. No judgements. No hesitation. No decisions. The human instinct is to help, setting aside all conditions to the contrary, even one’s personal safety at times, as in helping the victim of a mugging while that attack is taking place.
Even the right wing radicals of Charlottesville would likely react this way to an individual in need. But as soon as you dehumanize and demonize individuals into a maligned class designation, such as Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Foreigners, Hispanics, Liberals, and so forth, you open up a Pandora’s Box of actions often tinged with innuendo, hatred, and even violence based on some stereotyped, prejudiced image of each group. When we start judging people more by “the color of their skin than by the content of their character,” paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr., we open the door to an Archie Bunker-barrage of slurs designed to denigrate and disparage.
The solution to this emphasis on hatred derived from prejudice towards broadly stated groups is a long term one. It starts with parents and teachers of elementary school aged children. This is where impressionable kids pick up their ideas, and, wanting to please their parents, begin voicing these same expressions of hatred and intolerance as their parents professed. It’s not the entire answer for kids also get their ideas from their peers, from the Internet, from violent computer games and movies, and from their own ancestry via stories and myths passed down from generation to generation. But parents, I believe, have the most influence on the way a child relates to the world along with the particular content that fills their minds and, consequently, how they relate to other human beings.
Consider this: We may be the only human beings in the universe, given that the only reason we were able to evolve was because a humungous asteroid hit Earth about 60 million years ago, killing off the dominate and intimidating dinosaurs. If it wasn’t for that asteroid and its consequences, dinosaurs might still be here eating up every little vestige of mammal or fish that could grow into a human being. There may be other forms of life on other planets, but I suspect none of them have the human traits that we evolved. That means that every one of our current seven billion humans are unique individuals in this universe, deserving of respect and acknowledgment of how we act not of how we look or what those of our group did hundreds or even thousands of years ago before the written word was invented. So, really, if Judas Iscariot, a Jew, really did turn in Jesus of Nazareth, also a Jew, for a sack of silver–and we really have no way of knowing the full story–do we continue teaching some of our children to hate all Jews in this 21st century? And since we kidnapped free Africans, sending them into a lifetime of miserable slavery in the Americas, even considering them less of a human being, do we now continue to consider these offspring of slaves inherently inferior to whites intellectually or morally? And do we presently continue linking all Muslims with the terrorist atrocities of ISIL, al Qaeda, and Boko Haram, trying to ban every Muslim from entering our country?
The answer has to be a resounding no, or the sins of the past will continue to stain the landscape and human-scape of the present. This kind of race-religio-zenophobic hatred must end or our seven billion human beings will literally perish as did the dinosaurs. The only difference is that our destruction will come more from our own hands and minds than a rogue asteroid.
Humans have evolved these amazing brains and resilient bodies, rising from a status of tree-bound brutes to one of civilization-building geniuses, only to hate each other to death and possible extinction. We must stop this avalanche towards extinction of the human race, or there is no hope of spreading humanity to other places in the universe. That’s right: We could see ourselves as one race, one social group destined and responsible for spreading the order of human being to other planets in this universe. And as such, live and work together, with the only law binding us being The Golden Rule.
It is that Golden Rule, i.e. treating all sentient beings as we would wish they would treat us, that is a starting point for all parents and teachers who are looking for guidance in how to “teach their children well,” as Neil Young’s song put it. That’s how my Jewish parents taught me. They had their prejudices towards Blacks and Hispanics, but my contractor father would hire these folks based on their expertise, and I would see how well he treated them as human beings should be treated, and I saw how he well he related to them, and I began to practice the Golden Rule as a result of the modeling I observed from both of my parents. As a result, I went into the helping professions and became a mental health counselor who could work well with people of all descriptions, giving each of them my full attention and respect each of our unique species deserves.
It may take a number of generations of employing this kind of universal application of the Golden Rule, but, only then, can the stain of hatred of people against people be wiped from the face of our beloved home planet, thus preserving our species and living in harmony.