Call it dignity, call it the Golden Rule | #12Days4Good

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There’s been a *bit* of angst and contention in the digital world this year about how to speak to each other with dignity. From the U of T students rallying against Psych prof Jordan Peterson for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns, to the individual in Waterloo being told he won’t get hired due to his Somalian ethnicity, and a bit further from our community but still pertinent, the entirety of Donald Trump’s campaign.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic because for 8 years’ of my life in this community, I worked with individuals with cognitive/physical delays & disabilities, and now, I manage marketing at The Walper Hotel.

In the previous line of work, the way you communicated with the people you seek to support is the literal difference between validating them as a human being versus treating them as a diagnosis – person first, diagnosis second.

In my current role, it’s the difference between being competent versus potentially misrepresenting the brand I’m responsible for. So I am glad to address people as they ask.

But…

Isn’t it also fair to let people have their freedom of speech? To let them say whatever they want? Isn’t that what a truly advanced society represents? Sort of. It’s a timely yet tired tussle: Your right to address someone as you see fit versus your right to be spoken to the way you feel is appropriate. These shouldn’t conflict, yet here we are…

Is it too cliché to ask what happened to the Golden Rule? Have we, in pursuit of political correctness, over-complicated our speech patterns? Did we push so hard for equality that we inadvertently created a backlash? Is it fair to ask people to change their own behaviour just so we feel respected?

Yes.

Let’s keep it simple: When the laws preventing women from owning property or voting were challenged, you better believe people resisted out of fear of change. “What’s next, COWS casting ballots?” That never happened. When we decided maybe it’s ok that people of colour were allowed to sit with white people, we all know there were (likely still are) people who resisted that request. People of colour just wanted to be treated with dignity and it didn’t end the world, it made it better. More recently, the LGBTQ community spoke up,  ‘hey, maybe we are real humans?’ And although some are resisting yet again, most of the world gave a resounding “Yes, you are valid, too!”

Now, people of other gender-identities are asking that we respect them, and of course, some people are resisting. *Yawn* Are we starting to recognize the pattern? We occasionally grow smarter as a society, and some fear that change and resist it. We’ve seen how this show ends too many times. Maybe let’s be on the right side of history for once?

Call it dignity, call it the Golden Rule, call it whatever you want, but a better community starts with your choice of words.

Happy Holidays, Waterloo Region.

by Chris Martin

Chris is today’s featured Do Gooder for #12Days4Good. To find out more about Chris visit 12days4good.com and share the good!

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