Civility is not enough

The blame game over the tragic events in Arizona began immediately. Predictably, one side blames the harsh discourse of the other, and the other side takes umbrage at what will now be famously (if grossly inaccurately) called ‘blood libel’.

Demonizing political opponents is certainly an unwelcome development, if not a recent one in American politics. Labeling the ideas, words, and actions of our opponents ‘evil’ perhaps does make it easier for those who are mentally unstable to seek ‘second amendment remedies’ for their grievances. Thus, it is understandable that many well-meaning persons would attempt to turn this tragedy into a new beginning for civility in America.

Civility is defined as formal or perfunctory politeness, and refraining from intentional discourtesy. While this may be a good start among persons who feel animosity toward each other, civility does not address the fundamental emotion of aversion which lies at the root of all violence. It merely masks and mollifies its expression.

Civility cannot take root in a society that grievously mistreats humans and animals, both here and abroad. It is not consonant with the law of cause and effect to expect a harvest of peace while sowing the seeds of violence. 

What we need in America and elsewhere is to cultivate compassion —the desire to eliminate or reduce the suffering of others. Until we can see that all sentient beings (not only humans) want happiness, but do not always know how best to attain it, we will ascribe evil intent to some of them, and virtue (however defined) to others. 

And although it is perhaps easier to feel compassion for the dead and wounded in Tucson than for the gunman and his putative inciters, until we can do so we will not have peace in our hearts, in our communities, or in this world.

Compassion does not require acquiescence with unskillful acts. We must do our best to heal the sick, nourish the young, protect the weak, love the beautiful, serve the good, and honor the wise, according to our highest wisdom. But we must also remove from our hearts the desire to visit retribution or inflict harm on others.

May those who died in Tucson attain the Pure Land.

May those who were wounded recover their health and cultivate forgiveness.

May those who committed or incited others to violence repent and mend their ways.

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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