May 22, 2018
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A son’s death, war and the golden rule

By Pat LaMarche

John Travolta’s 16-year-old son died. How unspeakably sad. Wealth, talent, fame, and still there’s nothing a man can do when something dreadful happens to his child. My heart breaks for him. One life — gone — reminds us how important all life is.

So somebody tell me why they are bombing in Gaza and shelling in Israel. Oh, don’t bother. Then you’d just have to tell me why we’re still in Iraq and there’s no excuse or explanation that’s adequate.

I could write some long historical essay about how all these wars are the fault of imperialists and selfishists and religionists and racists, and it all would be true. But not as true as the fact that we just don’t value human life and we can’t quit hating each other or ourselves. That’s the great fundamental unspoken truth. We’re more afraid of other people being bad to us than we are of us being bad people ourselves.

And in the meantime, some bonehead wants his or her representative to get the Maine Legislature to make road rage illegal. Superfluous, incredibly stupid legislation violating the First Amendment makes you just want to flip people off, doesn’t it?

How do you enforce a law like that anyway? After somebody gives you a dirty look at a traffic light do you hit 911 on your cell phone and rat them out? Or just drive straight to the local constabulary and say, “Some lady gave me a dirty look. I was jaywalking and she looked at me really mean. I don’t think she was actually ugly or her face just looked like that or that she was mad at something unrelated to me. No, I know it was personal, now arrest her.”

I remember the worst driving I ever did. I was going about 20 miles per hour when the speed limit was 55 mph. When I realized that I was barely moving, I wiped my tears and pulled over. I was driving home from the hospital where my mom had just died. Now when somebody’s driving drives me nuts, I think maybe their mom just died and let it go.

For the love of Pete — call me Pollyanna — but couldn’t we just love each other? We all had instruction as children. Most of us learned something like “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We must have some serious self-loathing going on.

You know there’s a law of behavior that’s called the “Ethic of Reciprocity.” It basically says that every culture preaches that love your neighbor thing.

The ancient Greeks — some guy named Pittacus — said it like this, “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”

And next Buddha: I love Buddha. He was a skinny dude that folks adored so much that they made his statues fat. They thought fat was beautiful. Imagine how much less cruel we could be if we didn’t pick on fat people. Anyway, Buddhists believe, “Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.”

Yeah, it’s a pretty universal morality. So forget the road rage, what’s up with all these wars? And don’t waste your ink writing me letters claiming Judaism and Islam aren’t like the rest of the world and don’t respect the ethic of reciprocity.

“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself,” quoted from the Koran spoken by the prophet, Muhammed.

Or as Hillel the Elder, a wise man at the time of King Herod and Jesus explained, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

Want a resolution for 2009, as a driver, a human, a citizen, an occupant of the earth and as the government of your land? Resolve to live by the universal moral code and remember the words of the Taoist, T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

Poor John Travolta. And poor us, we must learn to feel the pain of others. Especially the pain we inflict.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at

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