In my Buddhist practice, I begin each day with these words (thanks to Thich Nhat Hanh):
Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to view beings through eyes of compassion.
That last line would be easy if it referred only to those beings with whom I feel a connection, a comfort level. But I know it means all beings.
In addition to practicing Buddhism, I sometimes refer to myself as a devout Unitarian Universalist, a term some see as an oxymoron. After all, even Garrison Keillor refers to us as the religion with the “Ten Suggestions.” But the very first principle of Unitarian Universalist is to…
…affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person
Again, there’s that pesky “every person.”
Many of my liberal friends have reacted to Tuesday’s election results by donating money to groups that will stand up for the oppressed who we fear will become more oppressed in a Trump presidency, and that’s for the good. I will do the same. Like many of my friends, I have started wearing a safety pin, a symbol that I’ll do what I can for the safety of all in the face of possible bullying (of the left or right, I’d add).
But most of all the election result has called into question my own eyes of compassion and commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I failed to see how fearful and angry were so many of my fellow Americans. If I were listening with compassion for those people, I would have understood it better, and if more of us were listening with compassion, maybe the result of the election would have been different.
Before Election Day, I did get a glimmer of the pain on the right by talking with some friends and by watching the three-part interview series Van Jones, TV commentator and former White House staffer, posted on his Facebook page. He went to Gettysburg to try to understand why we seem to be in another Civil War.
What I think I’ve learned is that both liberals and conservatives feel that we have lost control over our country, but we are looking at different things.
Liberals see a governmental structure that over the last four or five decades has become far more conservative — less financial and environmental regulation, more money for war and the military, more people in prisons, more holes in the social safety net, more big money in elections. Even after almost eight years in office, Barack Obama failed to close Guantanamo, bring the Patriot Act under control, or end our military involvements overseas. Meanwhile, the right portrays him as an extreme leftist.
Conservatives are concentrating more on the social fabric of our lives. Families no longer stay together, either geographically or emotionally. The movies and TV shows — with liberal producers, directors and writers — emphasize the individual over the family, and a wink-wink attitude toward sex and drugs has invaded our schools, even middle schools. Mainstream colleges teach political correctness. Unskilled and semi-skilled labor has been devalued. Hook-ups have become a casual fact of adolescent life. And (forgive my bluntness) former President Bill Clinton got a blow job in the Oval Office from a woman 27 years younger than him and then avoided conviction after impeachment because he said he did nothing to stimulate her.
You may disagree with some of my points in the two paragraphs above, but this is what I’ll ask you to do: Find one friend or acquaintance who voted for what you consider the other side. Sit down with him or her and say something like this:
I value and respect you, and I’m having trouble understanding why you voted as you did. I’d appreciate it if you’d explain frankly what led to your decision, and I’ll do my best to listen with compassion.
You may be surprised at what you learn.
— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine