I am sure most of us heard of the Golden Rule as a child: do to others as you would have them do to you. We were taught that this was a good rule for any decisions that involved other people; as adults we would learn this principle as empathy.
Empathy is a fundamental issue of human morality; without it we are lost, left alone to our own interests to make the difficult ethical decisions throughout our lives.
The golden rule should not just be about those in our immediate surroundings, though. We should extend the empathy and grace to everyone on Earth.
The judgments of our actions that affect others should extend from the small talk we make with our waiters to our votes for high office. How different would our political system look if we voted with others in mind?
Throughout the campaign season, politicians repeatedly argued that we needed to keep refugees from the Middle East out of our country to protect our safety. Instead of thinking of those who have been bombed mercilessly in Aleppo, many voters and politicians opted for a more self-centered policy.
Putting aside the overwhelming evidence that refugees from Syria would be unlikely to commit acts of terror, we should still weigh the lives of those being slaughtered in Syria more seriously.
President Donald Trump is attempting to fulfill his campaign promises of lowering the number of refugees allowed to immigrate by a factor of two. This is not how we make America great.
Similarly, there has been a war waged against combatting the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change. Instead of thinking of those affected by climate change, some American politicians have decided to think of the interests of large corporations, as well as their party and job.
While children in Madagascar starve from climate change-induced droughts and the ocean swallows entire islands with their inhabitants in the Pacific, many Americans vote and consume as if the science were a myth.
We often refuse to even consider the future generations of our own nation. This is not how we make America great.
In our own country, there are people suffering all around us. We know these people, and we know about their suffering, yet we refuse to act.
Cyclical poverty swallows communities generations at a time, racism divides and kills in the streets and the LGBTQ community is discriminated against and abused in horrific ways.
No wonder people feel there is a need to go to the streets to demonstrate that black, LGBTQ, female and underprivileged lives matter.
I do not mean to shame anyone, but I implore all of us to wake up to the realities of our selfishness. No one is immune to it, and it has escalated to the point of dominating our legislative system.
Now is the time to stand up with empathy, consider those who will be affected by out decisions and love all people, whether American, Syrian, black, white, hispanic, gay or straight, with the same love we have for ourselves.
Daniel Payne is a freshman integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.