Saturday, July 9, 2016

Empathy and Compassion for the US

Yesterday, I saw some of the continuous news stories about the shooting of five police officers in Dallas, Texas at a peaceful protest over recent shootings by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. This was, of course, devastating and heartbreaking for all involved, if not for the entire country.

I do not normally watch TV, so I do not claim to know all the details of any of the shooting events around these stories. But from what I did see, my heart went out to both the police officers and the shooter. I felt empathy and compassion for both sides of this story, because I could understand the grief that both sides were feeling: the anger that the shooter felt, and the unjust loss of police lives. Both are, I think, caught up in the seething tensions of contemporary America, with young Black men being 21 times more likely to be killed by police officers than young White men.

At some point, soon I hope, events like this will get all Americans to empathize and feel compassion for both sides of this dilemma, as I did while watching and thinking about this event. Only through true empathy and compassion will people be able to see past their ignorance and delusions, and the resulting hatred and aversion that they those generate toward different groups in our society.

I have often felt that it would be good if more people understood the Buddha's teachings on topics like delusion, aversion and compassion, and that more people practiced some kind of meditation to experience those teachings from a subjective feeling level. However, now I am now thinking that it would not only be good, but it may be the only way that the divisions and stresses of today's world can be made better.

The personal tragedies that are broadcast across all of our media outlets today are, I think, increasingly senseless, out of control, and random. In that context, the only logical response possible is compassion for all involved. This is an opening to a Buddhist understanding of the challenges (dukkha) of life.

(P.S. I, personally, have no interested fiction TV of movies, and I prefer to get my news on my smart phone, where I think I can better avoid the hype and click bait of commercial media. When I do see our TV, it is usually because my wife is watching the news, and I happen to be in the same room.)

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