We have an ongoing challenge in our house, my husband and I. I think that while our children are young and we are trying to impress upon them certain manners and rules of etiquette, we need to make sure that those rules are enforced consistently. My husband has a tendency to introduce certain exceptions, often unintentionally. Each time, it becomes clear that the exceptions will have to come later, once we've established the main rule and they understand why it's proper to eat with utensils, to not feed human food to the dog, and to not dip their supper into their milk or juice (seriously, it's so gross).
They are too young to understand when it might be okay to eat with your hands, when the dog can have a treat, or that only cookies are good for dipping. In general, they don't understand why some things are okay in certain situations and others are not. This is especially true when it comes to how we treat other people.
I'm not sure why or how we eventually learn to believe that it's okay to treat people differently because of things they cannot change about themselves. It blows me away that certain churches or religions can preach their version of the Golden Rule - treat others as you would like to be treated, love one another as I have loved you - and then add on: EXCEPT ________________. Who decides what these exceptions are, anyway?
That's why I think what President Obama did today, when he announced his support for same-sex marriage, was so...parental (and all leader-like too, of course). When he says:
"Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated different. It doesn't make sense to them and frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."
It's like he asked himself, "How can I logically justify denying this basic right to my friends, just because they're gay? How do I explain that to my kids?" Getting back to my first paragraph, once you do that, how do kids not take that exception and apply it to other people that society might deem to be "different"? And I honestly don't care about the political consequences or considerations that went into this announcement, because ultimately what he did was simply the right thing to do.
So let's start with the basic rule that everyone - regardless of race, culture, religion, ability, income, gender or sexual orientation - deserves the same level of dignity and respect. That everyone deserves the same rights we ascribe to ourselves. That we should all be treated EQUALLY. Because after all, in this giant melting pot that makes up human society, where can we possibly begin to decide who is "other" and who is one of "us"?
There's lot of work to do before we have that rule down pat, but I think that when we do we'll find that there won't be many exceptions, if any. Oh happy day indeed.