(Above: The Golden Rule as defined by the different major world religions...)

When I was but a wee nipper, trying to learn all about that great big wonderful world out there and looking to find my place in it, my parents and my teachers and my Sunday school instructors devoted a great deal of time and attention striving to impart upon me the value of something they liked to call the “Golden Rule.”

That rule, they told me, spoke of the importance of treating other people the way we ourselves would want to be treated. Which on the face of it certainly seemed like a perfectly legitimate manner in which to endeavor to live; at the very least it held greater appeal than the notion of spending one’s entire life with his lip curled into a perpetual sneer and always looking for a fight. 

And so I accepted those lessons at face value and promised them and myself that I would try to live my life in accordance with the Golden Rule... realizing that humans aren’t perfect and many times fall short of the ideals they set for themselves, but armed with the knowledge that one only becomes a failure when one stops trying.

But somewhere between learning about such tenets as a wee nipper and working to put them into practice as an adult, I learned a few other things. 

I learned, for example, that many people do not hold the Golden Rule in the same regard as my parents and my teachers and my Sunday School instructors. I learned that there are some folks in the world who don’t seem to care much about trying to do good things for their fellow man. And I learned that such people typically look upon those of us who do believe in trying to help some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters with disdain.

They brand those who want to help the less fortunate with such negative labels as “socialist” – as if to imply that the very thought of lending a helping hand to those in need is somehow less than American. 

They accuse those who want to help of being “shills” for a political party they don’t happen to agree with or belong to – apparently forgetting or ignoring the fact that many of those trying to help are actually members of the same political party they themselves swear loyalty to.

They sometimes go so far as to accuse the helpers of deliberately misleading the public about their goals, offering little if any factual information to support such accusations – and all the while gleefully spreading their own lies and distortions about those they oppose, again with little real evidence beyond their own word. They often refer to “documented” information, but somehow rarely seem to get around to sharing any of it. (And many times when they do provide such “facts,” those “facts” turn out to nothing of the kind.)

They argue that those who are in need of such help are only trying to take away from those whom they say worked hard to obtain whatever material wealth they may be enjoying in life – ignoring the fact that many of those enjoying such wealth actually inherited it from previous generations who really did all the work. Either that or they did build the wealth themselves, but in ways that were somehow less than ethical and often at the expense of those less fortunate. 

(That’s not a blanket condemnation of rich people, by the way. There are some good and honorable rich people out there who do try to use their good fortune to help their fellow man in various ways; I know, because I’ve met some of them and have even been lucky enough to have worked with one or two. But these days such good people do appear to be the exception rather than the rule...)

And they are quick to redirect their venomous comments in the direction of those who feel moved to stand up and say something in support of those trying to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. 

Such support is labelled as “blather,” and the supporter is often portrayed as somehow being even less of an American than those whose causes he may have espoused support for. 

In other words, they spend a lot of time with their lips curled into a perpetual sneer, always looking for a fight.

There was a time when I would have allowed myself to be goaded into such a fight. But no more. Somewhere along the way it finally dawned on me that this was exactly what those “on the other side of the street” want: to create a distraction from important work that needs to be done. 

That’s something else I learned in the years between wee nipperdom and adulthood; life is far too short, and the work far too important, to give such misguided and misinformed people the satisfaction.

I make no apologies for wanting to help my fellow man. I make no apologies for speaking out in support of those who share such goals. So call me names if you must; make me the target of your vitriolic ramblings if it truly makes you feel good. I really don’t care.

I’m too busy working to put that Golden Rule I learned about as a child into practice. And if you don’t like it, then you’re the one with the problem. Not me.