The Compassion Wars?

Robert V. Taylor

The Compassion Wars are here and they’re ugly. The loud cheering about health insurance and booing of gay soldiers is chilling. This is not the generous hearted spirit of America at its best. Where is the compassion that leads to hearts cracked open to discovering our common humanity and oneness with one another?

Self-compassion is a journey that leads to compassions for others. I’ve come to believe that we are each hard wired for compassion. So how does that square with what I witnessed in recent Republican presidential debates from the candidates and the audiences?  How does it affect your practices of compassion?

In early September at a GOP debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party in Florida one of the candidates, Ron Paul, was asked if an uninsured man with cancer should be allowed to die. The crowd whooped it up cheering the question.  Ron Paul suggested that it was a choice of personal responsibility on the part of the man and that charity could always step in to help him.

I’m all for personal responsibility and the debate on whether there should be universal health care coverage are still unsettled.  But the cheering on of the death of another person because of their lack of insurance reflects hardened hearts.  Would the cheerleaders cheer on their own death or that of a loved one if they were in that situation?

Compassion invites you to be at one with another person by knowing that you could be in their shoes. Our lives are all bundled together, intertwined. Compassion leads to asking if life is just a game of Russian roulette or whether we want the best for another person.

When Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq asked the GOP field if they would circumvent the repeal of Don’t’ Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) if elected as President the audience at the FOX News-Google debate booed him.

In both cases none of the candidates offered leadership by suggesting it is inappropriate to cheer the death of a person or to boo someone serving his country.  Their silence was breathtakingly disturbing.

To boo another human being for whom they are or their circumstance is to say, “You don’t count as a person. You have no value as a human being.” Is this an expression of a new mob rule in which those we do not approve of are discarded to a human trash pile?

It feels like a declaration of war on compassion. To respond with equal fire power is not the compassionate response.  So how do you respond?

In your personal life one expression of compassion is to detach from negative or life-draining energy while whole-heartedly hoping for the best for the person from whom you detach.  When the death of others is cheered or a group of people are booed you might detach from the negative energy as you deal with your anger and amazement.  But detachment is very different from disengaging.

Disengagement is not the answer! When I disengage I cede the ground of compassionate oneness, of wanting the best for all people to those who would consign others to the trash basket of life. To mindfully engage is vital because your life and that of others is stake.

Every intention of yours is important. Every time you give voice to the questions and hopes of compassion your voice joins that of others. Your voice, your imagination and your compassionate life matter just as those who have been cheered and booed matter.

Detach but do not disengage! How will you be part of the human circle expressing compassion for all? How will you compassionately speak to the cheering and booing ones engaging in the oneness of the human family that includes those gay and lesbian soldiers and the dying uninsured?

So how will you engage with compassion?

Join the conversation –  post your responses below

Check out the Charter for Compassion!

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