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THOUGHTS ABOUT COMPASSION
I very much appreciate your comments on the Left’s need for compassion, and I believe that compassion is always in order. However, it also seems to me that compassion does not rule out honest talk when people are engaging in deep delusions. I come from a Christian background, so, if you will forgive me, I will refer to one of the greatest rabbis, Yeshua bar Yosef of Nazareth. He had some hard words for the scribes and Pharisees of his time, calling them hypocrites and a brood of vipers, but I think this was not because he lacked compassion, but because he needed to shake them out of complacency so that they could grow.
I completely agree that probably the vast majority of people who voted for Trump are not racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. in an overt form. They voted because of their pain. However, whether they meant to do so or not, their vote has given a kind of permission to open haters. Most of the people who voted for Hitler in 1933 were not overtly anti- Semitic, but that was certainly little comfort to the millions of Jewish people who were slaughtered; they were just as dead, even if those voters were saying something like, “I don’t like Hitler’s comments about Jews, but he is a patriot, so I am voting for him.” I think you are right that judging and blaming others is not appropriate, but we cannot just keep giving ourselves a collective pass because we didn’t know, we didn’t mean it, or we’re angry with our lives.
Yes, people here in the U.S. are suffering unjustly and should have their pain addressed; but what about the humility to see that other human beings in other places, equally deserving of a good life, are even more disempowered and in pain than ourselves? Can white men and women who still do have the necessities of life come to see that there are others in their own country and around the world who struggle not to have what they think they deserve to have, but just to have a dignified human existence? Should we not be commiserating with people’s pain, but then asking them to use their own pain as a window through which they can see the bitter pain of others and extend empathy and solidarity? I think that would be honest, and not an uncompassionate stance.
Finally, I wonder when our leaders are going to tell the truth about the “American dream” and that to define it in the materialistic terms we have used can only lead to the pain of which you speak. The planet will not support the attempt to have every generation “do better” materially than the last, as you know all too well. I will use an analogy from my own studies. As much as I loathed apartheid and tried in my own small way to work against it, I did sympathize in a certain way with the Afrikaners. When you have been told for your whole life that you have the right to four- fifths of everything, having to take a fair share is a real reduction and a real comedown. Coming down was painful for them, but those with moral courage came to realize that their system was fundamentally out of step with the truth. At some point, I think people deserve and need to be told with as much tact as possible, but still factually, that they are chasing a chimera which will only bring themselves and others unimaginable suffering in the end. If we do not practice compassion, but still tell ourselves the hard truths about our history and the choices we face, I don’t know how we will ever rectify ourselves and our country. Thank you for all you do, and I pray that God will bless you always.
With love and respect,
Jackie Vieceli, Mankato, Minnesota
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2: 3-4