Trump is the outcome of an unexamined life in an unexamined culture.
“Man is the cruelest animal.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Sitting crossed-legged on a meditation cushion, I conjure up three distinctly different people. The point of the practice is to extend compassion to others, and the challenge, quite frankly, is to see how I resist such efforts to certain others. It’s a three-part process where you first focus on a loved one that you care about, then a neutral other, and wraps up with a difficult person.
For each of these folks that enter my mind, the practice instructed me to connect with their wish to be happy and contemplate their capacity to experience suffering. It is usually easier to offer someone you care about compassion than offer it so freely to someone you find difficult. …
Humanizing metal and stone while dehumanizing flesh and bone
A giant crane looms over a towering medal figure — a man riding horseback mounted onto a stone pedestal. It’s the middle of the summer on the first of July and city workers of Richmond, Virginia work to remove the statue of Stonewall Jackson from Monument Avenue.
The removal of the statue is one among many Confederate statues that have come down either by the government or the people in recent years. Hundreds of these types of statues are still standing through the United States.
Watching how some white people have responded to these statues coming down, either by a government authority or the result of protesters, would give the impression that there is an all-out-war on the history of this nation. From their perspective, the issue of history and ‘heritage’ is the issue, not racial injustice, that deserves attention. …
There seems to be a racial awakening afoot in America. Black Lives Matter is thought to be the largest movement in U.S. history. Books on the topics of social justice and diversity are sold at increasing numbers.
It appears that white Americans, in particular, are increasingly becoming aware of the racial realities of the United States.
As more white Americans become increasingly aware of racial history and the realities of racial inequity in this country, they have to contend with the psychological consequences of such an awareness. One of these emotional consequences is White Guilt.
It goes something like this. Rachel, a white undergraduate sophomore majoring in English Literature, starts to read about the many ways slavery has impacted art throughout the European colonization of North American until now. She starts to think about how people who look like her did horrible things in the past. Rachel starts to feel guilty for the ‘sins of her forefathers.’ Then she attends her Race, Class, and Society course and learns that her white privilege operates in the present times. She reads how the prison industrial complex became a surrogate for Jim Crow, which was a surrogate for slavery. …
The year 2020 has had a pronounced tie to suffering: fires consuming Australia, a global pandemic, global economic hardships, and a crescendo of awareness surrounding racial injustice.
In the space of so much suffering and uncertainty, we can lose the motivation to stay engaged in the real work of making the world a better place. How do we hold so much pain without becoming overwhelmed or burning out?
We have to find some semblance of hope to move forward individually, as a society, and as a global community. But how?
The truth is I’ve never been a big fan of the concept of hope. I know that sounds particularly troublesome since I’m a psychologist, therapist, and counselor educator. As I will clarify here, it is not that I do not think that hope is unimportant. Instead, I believe that hope is unhelpful when it is framed outside the space of real suffering. In particular, I see many conceptions of hope to be troublesome when applied to problems that are multi-lateral and systemic. When tackling concerns such as racial justice, we must be very clear on how to constitute and sustain a sense of hope. …
Protests are emerging all across the country in response to the chronic injustice that has impacted black members of our society that has largely gone by without any meaningful acknowledgement and change. The American rebellion that is emerging is an ongoing effort to awaken American society to the continued injustice faced within the black community by systemic racism.
And so the response by some white citizens usually starts with something like: “I agree that the death is sad but why do they (black Americans) got to be so angry?”
Commonly in these contexts, white people will make no mention to the reason why there is a rebellion to begin with but instead clench their jaws at the sight of groups of people protesting in the street. …
Compassion is both the sensitivity of the suffering of others and the motivation to attend to and prevent it.
What happens if we do not give compassion to others?
George Floyd was killed by a police officer. His death is tragic no matter how you see the situation. His death was unnecessary and preventable. George Floyd is not a rare exception but is part of a harrowing tapestry that reflects larger issues of racism within our society. …