The only problem with this very healthy instinct is that the yardstick we use with it is all crooked. It's the "I" part in "What would I do?" Barring an incident with a clone factory or a showdown in a hall of mirrors, the person you're considering is likely to be pretty different than you in a number of important ways.
An example: If I was pulled over by a police officer, and he thought I was a criminal (for whatever reason) and decided to search my car, I'd probably be startled. But I wouldn't be particularly upset, and I'd probably politely deal with him until the mistake had been cleared up. It's just a guy doing his job; I can sympathize with that, even if it is all a minor inconvenience to me. But that's an attitude I can afford to have, because this scenario has never happened to me, and will probably never happen to me, because I am white as hell.
Paper companies use me as a baseline for measuring the quality of their product.
That instinct I'd have to just be polite to the police comes from a lifetime of having gotten no grief from them. Other people have not been given that luxury, and it's completely understandable that their interactions with police will be more tense and confrontational.
It's the same deal with wondering how people can be offended by a joke you found hilarious. It's hard to ignore your gut instincts here -- the laughter you had was genuine. But your instincts and sense of humor are based on your experience and your history, and all the baggage and blind spots inherent in your particular upbringing. What's normal, reasonable behavior for you might not be for someone with a different background.
The solution is to always consider other people's background and circumstances when ... oh god that sounds like so much work.
OK, then. The solution is to only hang out with people exactly like you in every way. No wait, that's Scandinavia, and their food's terrible. Let's not do that.
I don't know. It might be hopeless.
Just let people merge more, OK?
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and is waving you in. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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