Sunday, January 25, 2009
When the Golden Rule goes against the grain
It was a joke the adults got immediately. It was a novelty: a roll of toilet paper printed with the likeness of the 43rd U.S. President.
At nearly $10 a roll, it was an expensive bit of uncouth humor. But we come from a long line of Tax-and-Spend Liberals, most of whom were celebrating the end of the Tax-Cut-and-Spend Neo-Cons’ rule, so it wasn't terribly surprising to find this crass toiletry among our gifts this past Christmas.
And it might have remained merely a tasteless bit of memorabilia had we not run out of bathroom tissue."Mama? Who is that man on the toilet paper?"
And in one sentence a new era in our lives as parents barged into the room, not bothering to knock. She had cracked our code; and soon, I knew, the days of spelling things we didn't want her to understand would be behind us, too.
I looked around, exposed and embarrassed. I am confronted with the fact that my behavior is in direct opposition to how I want her to behave. This little joke, at this very moment, seems juvenile and mean-spirited.
"Well," I stammered, flirting for a moment with the idea of a lie. "That's our former president. To use his likeness as toilet paper is showing distain or disrespect."
"But he's not our president anymore,” she replied “Why don't we have images of Barack Obama?"
“We approve of him,” I stammered. “We wish to show him respect.”
She doesn’t understand. Everything she’s learned up until now has pointed her in the direction of The Golden Rule … an ethic of reciprocity … Do Unto Others.
It seems as if no other time in our history has the line between adult and child — prankster and parent — been so hard to distinguish.
Yet, it falls to me — a person of a certain age — to make sure that she is prepared to be an adult. It is my job to make sure she has the skills she needs to successfully maneuver through this life. She must learn how to play by the rules. She must learn the art of diplomacy and tact. She must understand what it means to care and how to turn the other cheek without allowing it to be slapped.
But she must also learn how to question the system. She must learn that being polite isn’t always preferred.She must learn that we live in a country where people have the right to live without fear of oppression, even if that right has morphed into a kind of crass protest. She should learn that with that right also comes great responsibility, and sometimes great personal harm, too. In making choices, we are not afforded the right to determine what people think of us. And we can’t always direct how they react.
So when I write about the little roll of toilet paper in my bathroom, stashed away now for emergency use, I know I run the risk of ruffling feathers, changing opinions and even incurring the wrath of harsh judgment.
I know I can handle that.
But what I never really counted upon was the fast work of Karma.
Let’s just say there’s a reason most people steer clear of harsh dyes and printing inks in their toilet paper.
Posted by toyfoto at 6:43 AM