Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bodhisattva Voting

I have been watching the anger that emanates from the McCain campaign and some conservatives. In turn, I am feeling angry, myself, over the turn the election has taken. The epitaphs that have issued from Palin and McCain supporters are very disturbing. There have been ugly racial words used. Someone shouted “Kill Him!” at a Palin rally while Senator Obama – a sitting United States Senator – has been labeled a “terrorist” and a “traitor” at these rallies.

In an online discussion of the escalating poverty in Douglas County, Colorado, where I live, there were some posts that both blamed the victims of the economy, and advocated that we simply not help them. As a society, these folks argued, we should simply allow these people to become homeless and starve.

In the meantime, the global financial system continues to spin out of control and the United States is ensnared in two wars. The killing will continue, though I expect one candidate will bring it to a close faster then the other. The economic pain will continue, and the resulting layoffs and unemployment will be with us well into the next administration.

This is a spiritual blog, so I want to approach the election from just that perspective. Every religion has a core value of compassion. In Christianity it is the value of caritas that is one of the three great theological virtues. In Islam, Zakat is obligatory for all believers. The Talmud commands that all Jews are to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanim” (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors). In Buddhism, the ideal of generosity or of loving kindness is one of the virtues practiced by any aspiring bodhisattva. So, if we are to be true to our faith, we must approach our votes with the universal values of compassion, wisdom and equanimity; values shared by all faiths.

Our votes, therefore, should be an exercise in compassion and generosity, not exercises in fear, pettiness or covetousness. We should not be voting based on “everyone’s favorite radio station WII FM” or “What’s In It For Me” as a salesperson I once knew would say. I may get a slightly lower tax bill under one candidate or another, but that should not be my primary consideration.

For my vote, I consider first how my vote will exercise compassion and ease suffering in the world. Which candidate do I expect to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan faster? Which candidate espouses policies that will reduce the suffering of the poor and the sick? Which candidate, in short, will lead us to a more compassionate society?

By that standard, beyond question, the candidates who will get my votes are Barack Obama for president and Mark Udall for United States Senate. While space here is too short for a complete analysis, some points do stand out.

First, the health care proposals of Mr. Obama will certainly provide for superior coverage for the poor and the sick. This will allow people to seek care before they are seriously ill or forced to go to an emergency room, easing their pain. Care will be less expensive for us all, easing some of our economic anxiety, another form of suffering.
The proposals for care for the environment from both Mr. Udall and Mr. Obama will ease pollution and global warming, while opening new, ecologically friendly industries such as solar and wind power and the manufacturing plants needed to support that infrastructure. This will ease global warming as well as preserve space we need to ease our minds and be a peace – places like the Rockies and the seashore.

Most important, the plans proposed by Mr. Obama for ending the Iraq war have already been received favorably. We must end that suffering.

I encourage you all to contemplate carefully your vote and use it as a way to help all beings find peace.


Jim said...

1. The Secret Service has stated in congress that none of the agents at the Palin rally where someone supposedly yelled "Kill him" heard it. The people tasked with protecting the candidates say that it is not true, so lets not spread untruths.

2. You tell me that you going to vote for the compassionate ticket. hmmh if they are so compassionate why did Mr Obama and Biden give < 1% of their respecitve income to charity while on the other hand that uncompassionate jerk Bush gave 18% of his income to charity.

I was always taught that money talks and BS walks. Mike Put your money where your mouth is, I know for a fact that you and your wife make more than I as a single income earner do. Im pretty sure that you gave a much smaller % to charity than I did last year, since you wont tell me im wrong on that point. Just so you can catch up I gaved 14% of my gross to charity. Dont lecture on compassion until your money talks, where I come from doing that is call hypocrisy.

Mike said...

So as to establish my bona fides...

I spent 5 years working at Covenant House, a shelter for homeless children in Times Square, New York. My next series of jobs was working as a public defender, representing poor people in courts in New York state. I made less then I would in private industry, to say the least. Currently I work on projects for Habitat for Hummanity and I give to "political" causes, like the Sierra Club and the ACLU, which are not technically charities.

I can not say how you know how much I make, as I have no idea who I am responding to, however, how much any one person gives to charity is not the point here. The point is how our vote willease the suffering in the world. Bush's charitable giving may be admirable, but his lying to start a war was certainly not, and certainly did increase suffering in the world.

Jim said...

I know the range of what you make because I work for the same company as you.

My bona fides

I have worked in homeless shelters in St. Louis and LA.
My wife ( who doesnt work because she doenst need to ) works as an unpaid fundraiser for a local hospital.
We support orphanages and adoption programs in third world coutries.

My point is that compassion in All of the religions you cited is a PERSONAL thing not a corporate thing. So you have shown some compassion, good for you.

I see that anonymously you will debate. ;) just not face to face.

Voting for a person will not ease the suffering in the world. Personally doing something about it will, giving to charities that feed the hungry will. Socialism (the form of compassion you speak of) will not. Any time the government starts saying "we are here to help" run, they are going to screw it up.

Compassion is you (personal not government) doing something about it, Government will always make the situation worse.

BTW - I can show you quotes from so called compassionate side saying exactly the same thing as Bush about the Iraq war before he said them. Hmm is it a lie when your pollitical affilation says it? or just when the people you dont like say it.