Friday, December 28, 2012

The Roots of Suffering

You probably sorted out the kittens from the stuffed animals in this charming photo in a blink, without even trying, based on what you know.  Live animals are not blue.  Kittens have heads with a pattern, noses and ears and eyes shaped like that.  But a baby would not know how to sort this out if nothing moved. If you held her over this bed she would reach her hands out for whatever appealed to her, and be astonished if it moved.

This small example goes to something much larger, and that is that we also sort people out as "real" (like me) and "other" (not me, not my brother).  That is a distinction that allows us to kill other human beings.  All of us, including Adam Lanza.  I believe that to Adam those he killed were not real in the way we commonly understand reality.  His mother had become a monster in his eyes, a threat to his freedom.  It looks like he had come to see the children as his enemies; perhaps his mother gushed over them, but didn't seem to love him.  But let's take this more generally to the issue of gun violence, and to our own spiritual work

My example is a story going around this season.  Since you can pause and read it here on Snopes, I won't bother to retell it.  As you see, Snopes can find no evidence that this is a true story.  But that's not the point.  The point is, it's a myth some people love and are circulating, not just men, but women, too.

The woman who posted this on Facebook has an adult son who is an alcoholic with a long history of problems, a guy who might, in a drunken moment, snatch a purse like the guy in the story - who is gunned down by a woman with six shots in his back.  The woman's daughter added her comment that she would commit that execution in a flash.  Maybe the waitress needed every penny that purse was carrying, she said.

This young woman is married to a soldier, and the story had come from an unsavory web site I won't give any publicity to here, which mixes hatred and pornography and violence with the conviction that Americans should have the freedom to own weapons.  Unfortunately, those things do seem to mix well.  I can tell you that page has some 70,000 "likes" while the Dalai Grandma Facebook page, which advocates spiritual practice and compassion, is just struggling toward 100.  Well, okay, there is work to be done.

A number of rights are guaranteed by the American constitution and its amendments that are all essential to freedom, including freedom of the press, of speech, and of religion.  If any of these is most important, maybe it is the right to justice, that is, to be tried for any crime you are fairly accused of, as opposed to being murdered by someone defending her purse or home as you are running away.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck shows off one of two rocket-launchers turned in during the Dec. 26 gun buyback program. (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles Times / December 27, 2012)
The above photo and accompanying story were in the Los Angeles Times and many other news sources.  But it is instructive to go to the I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists page and read some of the comments.  There you can see the complexities of this issue, which I think actually is in part class warfare.  We have to keep asking as citizens of free countries what makes other citizens so distrustful of their government?  What makes them believe it won't protect them, that they need to be heavily armed?  Is it, in fact, the same paranoia and simmering rage that motivated Adam Lantz?  What is the rage about - having to work for a minimum wage too low to live on, and no health benefits?  This is not just their problem - it is ours. 

No comments:

Post a Comment