Marines.Together We Served

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rancor, or the Golden Rule?

Now here’s a topic I’ve been intending to write about for some time. You may be saying to yourself, “I know what this word means . . . at least I think I do. Agh! I can’t remember! All I know is it isn’t good.”

If you are able to recall that much about the word rancor – that it isn’t good – you’re half way home. Here’s what Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary says: “Rancor – bitter, rankling resentment or ill will; hatred; malice - “The rancor of sworn enemies.”

Not surprisingly both rancor and rancid (rotten smell) have the same Latin root word.

You are probably wondering where I’m going with this. I’ll tell you.

It is apparent to me that there is an emerging sociological shift taking place in the United States, as well as around the world, that places people at odds with each other, at times over the most ridiculous matters. Make no mistake, people have always had disagreements, and they always will. But the level of disagreement is clearly over the top.

The original rancor raised its ugly head when Cain killed his brother Abel.

Do you remember the story? Adam and Eve’s first son, Cain, became jealous of his brother, Abel. He was jealous because God was pleased with Abel’s attitude, and displeased with Cain’s. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Today I see far too many Cain’s with fewer and fewer Abel’s. One of the most obvious examples of this is what we call “Road Rage.” People will get behind the wheel of a car that weighs several thousand pounds, backed by lots of horse power, and go thundering down the road as if they owned it. Little care for the consequences of such behavior is considered. Hardly a day goes by that we do not hear of some car being T-boned, or run off the road by out-of-control drivers. Then there are those who take it personally when they are cut off in traffic, or find some other reason to feel slighted by someone they do not know and will probably never meet.

Another area that is disturbing is the matter of descent behavior in public. Recently, while having lunch with my wife on the garden patio of a very upscale restaurant in Napa Valley, we couldn’t help but overhear language being used a couple of tables over by four young men. Typically, people avoided looking in their direction, and the food servers simply busied themselves with their customers. This was unsatisfactory, so I told my wife I’d be back in a moment. I walked over to the table where these four potty-mouths were spewing their filthy talk. Politely I asked them to curb the language. They said they would. I returned to my table and resumed my lunch. No more obnoxious language came from their table.

But have you noticed how such language is common fare today? Movies and television are full of such ugly language. The cable channels are the worst. Because of my many travels, I spend way too much time in hotels. Not really being much of a TV watcher, I will occasionally click through the channels made available by the hotel. Wow! Emmy-winning shows like “The Sopranos,” and “Deadwood,” are as profane as anything I ever heard. And I’ve spent my entire adult life around sailors and Marines!

Such language does not work toward bringing people together. The opposite actually occurs. Tone of voice, inflection, and meaning are spewed out in an attack on another person, or simply as a form of speech.

Did we lose the bubble somewhere? Yes, we did. When as a nation we decided moral values and principles were no longer important, or were out of date, or were old fashioned, we opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box, thus ushering in an era of “Me-ism.” This is called other things, but it has as its focus the importance of self. It is usually exhibited in “I can do whatever I want, and you can’t stop me.”

Increasingly, we see more people opting for this attitude toward life. Such behavior starts in the mind, and eventually becomes a pattern of behavior. What would have been unthinkable only a few years ago is commonplace today.

Such behavior creates uneasiness in society because people never know what to expect. Now people are afraid to challenge such behavior, because there efforts seem wasted since “everybody’s doing it.”

There is a reason for the Golden Rule. It works. Every time. And it creates the sort of environment where people can relax.

You say you’ve forgotten the Golden Rule? Okay, here it is: “Do to others as you would have them do unto to you.” This principle is found in every major religion. Interestingly, in Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon, he says, “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.” In the Jewish faith we read, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.”

So what’ll it be? Rancor, or the Golden Rule?

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