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.