Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Compassion for those we don't like....

It's a hard one. Really.

For the past week or so, I've gotten lost in my own "dislike Sarah Palin very strongly" club. (I won't say hate because I don't hate her. I just disagree with her on the most fundamental things.) I've allowed her to become a focal point for everything I dislike in US culture. To listen to her speak sets my teeth off - particularly since she has a voice that could shatter glass. Like a cat being dragged through a knothole in the fence comes to mind. I mean - truly - I don't like the woman. I don't like what she stands for and I don't like who she chooses to be.

On the other hand, I struggle with that tendencu because she is a product of her environment, just like I am. Just like most of us are. It's unlikely that she stood before the mirror one day and made a conscious decision to be who she is. She didn't sculpt herself from raw clay. She is a product of her environment, her culture, her upbringing and her spiritual conditioning. So far in her life, it's worked for her so I doubt she's done a lot of serious self-examination or made a deliberate choice to be the way she is.

So.. where I'm going with this is that I am trying (really trying) to find a place of compassion for her, to ferret out the good in her so that I can stop feeling the way I do. It's toxic for me, toxic for my environment, toxic for all of us - when one of us chooses to so strongly dislike someone that it overrides our compassion and commitment to our own values.

I'm sure she loves her kids. I'm sure she, no matter how much I disagree with her, cares about her country. She's not Mugabe. She's not Milosevic. She's not Hitler. She's a (in my mind) misguided person with some really screwy values. I'm sure she cares about something I care about - although it would probably take hours and hours of conversation between us to find that one kernel of likemindedness. We'd both have to dig and we'd both have to make a strong effort. Looking at it objectively though, even if we were trapped on an elevator together with no other options for company, I don't think she'd like me all that much, either - so that conversation would probably not take place.

Not so deep within me, I know that my non-acceptance of her as a person is just the flipside of what I perceive she does herself. I'm so rooted in my own sense of righteousness that I can't make room for her or her thinking. I "other" her because it's safer and easier than trying to find any commonality.

I know that's not good. This isn't really about Sarah Palin, although she's an expedient example. It's about me. It's about everyone who finds themselves trapped in "othering" behavior.

So.. what do we do when we find someone who so perfectly exemplifies everything that we find distasteful?

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this.


As an aside, I found this link in someone's comments. It is one of the best articles I've seen yet on the topic of Sarah Palin. The comments attached to the article are good, too.



Osumashi Kinyobe said...

Sarah Palin is pro-life and that is why a very vocal handful hate her- full stop. If she had pro-abortion views, no one would be debating her fitness as a person, mother or politician. If one wishes to disagree with her, fine. It is their right to do so. However, I don't think the slurs coming out against her now are remotely constructive, let alone justified.
As for her hunting, ect., so what? As you said, people are products of their environment. I'm sure the premiers of Nunavut and Yukon hunt and fish. That is the way they live their lives, just as someone from California may surf or whatever. It is the knowledge and values they bring that matter.

thailandchani said...

Osumashi, thanks for coming by. :)
With all respect, I disagree with you though. I am pro-life and I still find her cultural values distasteful. It's not even a matter of hunting or fishing. It's just her root values as she has stated them.


Olivia said...


I congratulate you on how you put this. This is truly such a challenge for all of us. How do we have compassion, honor, and respect for those we disagree with, don't like, and maybe even despise what they value (while, as you pointed out, not despising them)? GOOD FOR YOU for approaching the hard issues, again.

Boy I wish I knew the answer. I find it very easy in the political arena, but terribly hard in the personal one. I mean, when I KNOW someone and KNOW how nasty their heart is...but it is exactly the same. And it is ME, too. I am them, they am I. If I cannot love them, I cannot love me. I think some of this may come with increased compassion and self-awareness in general. Along with a basic value of oneness with all humankind. But the rest? Gosh I don't know!!

I just know that I want to grow that way too, so I'll be watching this discussion with an eye for wiser words than mine...

This is good, Chani!

Love, love, love,


we_be_toys said...

My dislike of Sarah Palin is based on my perception of her as a right-wing puppet. That she was chosen to "sway" the vote for McCain. Are there really women in this country who can identify with her? Does her presence on the Republican ticket really signify change for the party that has gotten us into this socio-economic mess? This is the woman who said the Iraqi war was "God's Mission". She supports drilling in national wildernesses as well. Are you kidding me, America? Are you even awake and paying attention?

we_be_toys said...

I didn't answer you Chani, I'm sorry. I guess I'm having a hard time finding love for someone who would throw me to the wolves in a heartbeat, if it meant more power for her.
But kudos to you for trying!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Chani, this is a wonderfully thought provoking post.

Trying to find some commonality, something to like, is a process I usually go through with people I actually know face to face but rarely engage in for public figures. In those cases, I'm content to see them as symbols. I'm not sure if this is something I need to work on or not. Thanks for causing me to ask that question.

The article you linked to is brilliant. Thank you gor that as well.

Kathryn Knoll said...

When I am at a loss, like this, the only thing I can do, simplistic as it may sound, I draw a heart around her. In fact, I have found myself standing back and asking that both sides be protected, loved and blessed, equally and without reservation.

Olivia said...


I just thought of something else. Think of the radicalness of a Christianity that says to bless our enemies and to do good to those who hate US. WOW! When I can feel this in my heart for someone I view as my enemy, then I know I am speaking from the right place. That's why I think that real Christianity (not American cultural version) is so right on.

I love what the previous commenter, Kathryn Knoll wrote about drawing a heart around someone. It is in this spirit that we learn love, I think.

I almost hate to leave to go on my retreat for the comments I'll have to wait to read on this :)



Osumashi Kinyobe said...

I am not seeing a problem with Sarah Palin. Her hunting is a non-issue for me (I'm not a hunter myself), and it's not like she does this perpetually. Though her experience is brief, she has proven she can perform her tasks. She apparently does appeal to voters- women identify with her, mothers and parents with special needs children (these facts are verified in various media sources). If you don't care for her, fine. I just can't see how she is "bad".
As to the post which claimed Christianity is "radical", you are correct. I lived in Asia for four years and the bulk of social programs were initiated by Christians. That's pretty "radical" for Confucian/Buddhist-based societies (this is not to attack believers of these religions but to point out the difference in social approaches).

SUEB0B said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post.

My spiritual advisor told me before she died that I would have to forgive GW Bush. I still have not done that. I am struggling with Palin, too, and with anyone that supports her and McCain. I hate to admit this but it is true.

I will have to work on this some more!

thailandchani said...

Osumashi, thanks for coming back. :) It's interesting to exchange ideas with people - especially if we don't hold the same views. It's easy to keep reinforcing each other - but far more interesting to present alternative views.

I don't care if Sarah Palin hunts, fishes, or blows her nose sideways. That's not really the point for me. The point is that I disagree strongly with her cultural values. I don't like the world she envisions creating and believe it is damaging to the world as a whole.

As for Christianity - I do believe it's radical when examined in its basic form and substance. It has become something else since it was coopted by western cultural values - but I hear a lot of Christians (and read their books) and they want their religion back.

I hope they take it back.

As for Confucian or Buddhist values, they are very different. A communal view (rather than the radical individualism of western cultures) and practice of those values is very common in traditional Thai culture in which those values are built into the fabric of the society. (My use of the word 'traditional' is deliberate.)

I don't know enough about all the Asian cultures to comment on the rest of them.

"Help" can be a double-edged sword. Most of the help offered by sincere Christians is a gift to all cultures. When it is used as a means of coercion and colonialism, it is not quite so welcome.


Christy said...

This made me think.

I struggle with this ALL the time--trying not to hate the haters.

I'd love to say I found some answer, but the best I've got is trying to be totally objective--Sarah Palin as a set of behaviors and trying to see if those behaviors had positive or negative or both, consequences.

And instead of judging, going from there.

I agree with Ruth, though, about sometimes needing to just make public figures symbols, not judging as a person AT ALL. Because even Hitler was probably a good guy some of the time, and I wouldn't want to be swayed by a person's humanity while ignoring the danger to the masses....

(But as a person, Palin is an equal soul to me. As is McCain, as is Hitler, as is Obama.)

And I DO flinch as I write that.

Border Explorer said...

Chani, I love this post. I find myself drawn into a vortex of negativity around McCain/Palin, and I'm resisting that somewhat ineffectively. Worse, I'm generalizing that negativity onto their followers. I want to choose to remain positive, and I find that choice a difficult one to make & maintain.

The link to Chopra was quite worthwhile. The shadow. Yes.

Thank you for--once again--a wonderful, worthwhile visit to your heart.

blooming desertpea said...

Chani, hi. It's been a while, yes. Too busy doing other stuff to find the time to really read posts and not just rush over them ...

Yes, it is a tough one indeed and I have no straight answer for you as I struggle with that myself. Thanks for getting me thinking about it.

As for Sarah Palin. She is a dangerous woman for all the reasons you mentioned in your other posts and I hope, I truly hope that the Obama will be elected because if not, I am scared of what will happen to the world in the hands of people like her ...

thailandchani said...

Olivia, it's always been hard for me to separate the personal from the public - in terms of how I feel. If someone presents themselves in a certain light, I just respond to it.

In some ways, I would think that would have helped with this process but.. ugh!


Toys, that is how I'm feeling. To a degree. It's hard for me to feel real compassion for someone who I believe has values that are so destructive and hurtful to others. Somehow I have to manage it though... or I'm only perpetuating the very thing I speak out against.

I'm not stupid though... and in NO way do I believe I have to *like* her.


Ruth, yes... it is the symbol I dislike so strongly. I don't know Sarah Palin personally - obviously - but she is putting herself on the front lines as a symbol for values I don't like - and that leads me to believe she is that way personally. That's what she says she is - and I'm kind of with Maya Angelou that way - "Believe what people say about themselves."

I can see your point though... and I am not taking her personally. "Symbol" is probably a good word.


Sister Kathryn, I've been trying to do that, too. Ever since you mentioned it in another comment one time - I try to practice that.

I'm drawing a big heart around her right now. :)


Olivia, there's very little difference between radical Christianity (exactly.. not the American cultural version) and Buddhism. At least that is what I am discovering. It very well may end up being a viable link between east and west. You know.. as long as the US culture types leave it alone! :)


Suebob, I forgive him.. but that doesn't mean I like him, the person he chooses to be or the policies he has promoted. I would not want to be at his life review.

Ya know?


Christy, ultimately it's true. Sarah Palin is me, you and everyone else commenting here. It's the mask that causes the separation. We are all here, trying to do the best we can - but of course I have trouble connecting her way as being "the best we can." Surely, my mind tells me, she must be smart enough to see that she's creating division and harm.


BE, for some reason, I am more sympathetic to her followers than I am to her. I need to think about why that is. Practically speaking, we are our alliances.


Desertpea, it will be a global "lord of the flies". I can't help but think that as she represents US culture and will continue pushing it on every other country in the world so she and her type can get richer.

It's really scary. If I believed for a minute that one day God would strike us all dead, I'd say he'd be justified.


Brandi said...

"So far in her life, it's worked for her so I doubt she's done a lot of serious self-examination or made a deliberate choice to be the way she is."

what I've come to understand (whether I like it or not) is that actually, she may have done much self reflection and still come to stances that she does. I don't like them. I don't agree with them. Frankly, I find many of her positions downright scary. But my right isn't the only right.

now I am just trying to figure out how to know that and still live it and still find the likemindedness that you speak so eloquently of. Because until then, it's just both 'sides' flinging mud (or bombs) and that doesn't work.

TZT said...

This is tough. When I started going to a local Tibetan Buddhist temple in 2004, I think I kept going because so many people asked the question "how do I stop feeling so angry at/how can I find compassion for the president (& co.)" The answer was often that we have to trust that we can't know the magnitude of another's suffering, and that power can be quite a burden. Somehow, it's okay to damn the actions without damning the person.

She is being used as a complete tool in this election - as a divider, as a bear-trap for language that can trip up and scapegoat the press, her opposition, etc. I think maybe that rather than try and find something to like, maybe there's a way to find something to pray/hope/wish for her. Maybe pray for her to find the strength to fully recognize the immense responsibility of position she has been put into and the impact it has on millions of lives.

Village Farang said...

This all seems to relate to my post on "Anyone, can scratch an itch." Instead of personalizing and trying to get all close and warm and fuzzy. Just step back and look at the big picture. If this person is really what the majority want, then they deserve what they get. The attachment to things we dislike, is like a poison and taking more of it doesn't make us better.

You don't need to learn how to love this person or compete with or defeat her. You need to love yourself enough, to let go. Love others enough to let them make mistakes and screwup their lives, if they so choose.

Somehow it doesn't look you are ready for that, quite yet. You still identify too much with all this conflict and discord. As long as it is such a major part of your life, it will be difficult to find that love, peace and joy you seek. This poison will not magically leave you if you move to a new location either.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

"Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But I'm not there yet. I don't hate Sarah Palin but I do hate her views on practically everything. She scares me witless.

But if the majority elects her and McCain, then they are our destiny and we will live or die as we are meant to.

I would much prefer to link my fate and my future to Barack Obama, but I have only one voice, one heart, and one vote. What happens in November will be the will of my countrymen and women, if not God's will. And I will try to live within it as gracefully as possible so that I may learn the lessons of which Dr. King spoke so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between someone we live down the street from who has screwy values and someone who could be running the country.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I do:

Get mad. Rant and rave. Get depressed. Examine my own beliefs. Separate the person from their ideas. Turn my hate on their ideas. Figure out what I can do to stop the germination of the ideas with which I disagree. (Usually not a lot. Get depresssed, or not.) Renew my faith in what I believe.

Get up and do it again.

Sienna said...

I struggle at times Chani, I have had to learn to go the full circle and that the person is entitled to live and breath and think as they wish...and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

For the first time ever I have left a place where I could not come to terms with what was being said, and also "not said".

I am better off for leaving, my view is not their view and it isn't worth the release of cortisol through the body thinking anything otherwise.

I try to then think to myself how much I appreciate my life and values and ....I can come away okay.

I'm getting a grip on my stuff good I think.

But crikey it's been a thorny old path to walk down mate.



Z said...

I think that, whilst you or I might completely disagree with some or most of her viewpoints, we would respect her freedom to hold them. I don't think she would extend the same courtesy to us.

It worries me considerably that, with the world in turmoil as it is, she seems to have no inkling of diplomacy, the rights of other countries or that we can disagree and still live together in peace. With the prospect of a man who has had cancer and is in his 70s as President, it frightens me that she would be a heartbeat from being in charge of a huge country, most of which she knows little about, let alone the world-wide responsibility it would entail. It seems to me that she is so over-confident that she does not even know the extent of her ignorance and inexperience.

As to your final question, well, I let it wash over me. If I met someone who gave their strident views and I couldn't agree with them, I'd say as little as possible, because there's no arguing with people like that - though I'd tell them I didn't share their opinions if I felt I had to. If I have to work or spend time with someone I found distasteful, I try behaving professionally (be polite, don't let it get to me), try to see their point of view, try to find a point of contact (some people are nicer than they appear at first), try discussing our differences and agreeing a way forward, and if none of that worked, plan an exit strategy.

thailandchani said...

Brandi, you're right. I don't want to keep flinging mud at her and have tried to stick with my own reactions. (yeah... the cat through the knothole was a bit pissy :) Still, your point is taken.


TZT, your point is an excellent one and puts it into perspective. Yes, we do need to pray for her, to understand her suffering - because no one could believe as she does without having suffered a lot.

It may not show to us... the suffering.. but no one becomes that callous without having been brutalized by an unstable society.


VF, I understand what you are saying. Some of us are very political by nature - very involved in the outside world and I don't think that's wrong. I like your equanimity and your posts are really good as a result of that. But you're right. I'm not entirely there yet. It's not that I believe I can have any real impact... but it's so hard to see this stuff over here, knowing too that it will ultimately affect Thailand, and not say anything.

How does one let go when it seems the culture from hell is getting ready to send itself further into the depths and export itself all over the world?

I can't imagine being silent in light of that.


(next template, please. I didn't realize my replies would get so long.)

thailandchani said...

Susan, I get what you're saying. Sometimes the fire in my belly gets going and I keep believing that if enough people talk about all of this, maybe some minds will be changed.

It's hard to think in terms of destiny. I'm not sure of my beliefs on that exactly. I'll have to think about it.


Emily, yes. Exactly. It's one thing with a neighbor we can choose to "release with a blessing" and yet another when it is someone who will be imposing their will on every vulnerable country in the world. That scares the sh** out of me!


De, yes.. we do need to separate the ideas from the person. What that leads me to wonder though... aren't we a sum total of the things we live for and believe? In that case, it's really difficult to separate a person from what she stands for. While I understand the metaphysics of it - that her soul is the same as all of our souls, she has chosen a really dangerous identity.


Pam, I agree that we all have the right to our beliefs. It is only when we are given the power to legislate those beliefs and impose them on the world that my back goes up.


Z, see my comment above. Yes, she is definitely free to believe whatever she chooses - as long as she doesn't impose it by coercion on the rest of us. I share your concerns about that.


Maithri said...

This is so beautiful and true.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here... So very wise.

I'm going to Link to Deepaks thoughts on this topic as well... more people need to read this...

Love and light to you my friend,


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I'm just really struggling with all of this.

I'm also not convinced that she's not a Stalin or Mugabe waiting to happen. Her views are extreme and her hunger for power has been continuous.

Having said that, I believe your attitude is the right one. But as I said, I'm just struggling right now.

Anonymous said...

In a strange perverted way Sarah Palin has come to represent in one person the culture war, something John has raised in a sick attempt to win what he believes is owed him. She represents everything I hate about fundamentalists, pro-lifers, anti-environmentalists, etc, while on the other side, she performs the same service for all the reactionary right hates about us on the left. You are right of course, that she elicits the worse in all of us. I am struggling mightily but am near frantic that this sick ploy will work.

Anonymous said...

Both sides of this election have supremely upset me along the way. For the record, I'm voting for Obama, because I agree with his positions on some very key issues.

I like what I've seen of him. I really like about him is the fact that he doesn't play the politics as usual game. Until very recently, I haven't seen a lot of negativity coming from him. People talk about him, his wife, his opponent and until the convention, he would simply re-direct them to his policies and plans.

And that's where the emphasis should be. On the issues. I'm not voting for Obama because I LIKE HIM; I'm voting for him because I agree with him.

I don't like Sarah Palin/John McCain's stance on many issues. So, I won't for them.

And it's as simple as that.

As to who these people are, I have no idea. I've never even been in the same room with them. All I really know about them -- any of them -- is that they are ambitious and hard working, neither of which is necessarily a bad thing.

I have compassion for them the same as I have compassion for the stranger I see in the car next to me in traffic. Just because they are in the public eye espousing certain principles does not mean I know them. It just means I know what they've said.

Clinton proved to me that politician can espouse one belief during the campaign and be and entirely different person. Bush was the same -- after the election, a reporter asked Cheney about the campaign promises that were made and he said, "Oh that was just for the campaign."

So, I can't vote based on personality. I have to vote with policy, with the issues I believe in and hope that the person elected truly believes in them, too, and didn't just say he did to get elected.

thailandchani said...

Maithri, that Chopra article was one of the best I've read on the topic. This really is a clear view of both the shadow side and the more evolved side. What amazes me is that so many have chosen the shadow for so long.

I have a ways to go on this. I'm still trying to see Sarah Palin as another wounded soul. Her wounds are just hard to take.


Jen, me, too. I know the principles. I know what my spirituality and my culture demand of me. That doesn't necessarily stop all the negative thoughts. Believe me... truthfully - I'm not there yet. :)


Feather, I do understand... exactly what you mean! It would be so much better to have faith that the shadow side will be revealed for all to see. Whether it will happen this time? Questionable.


Savannah, your approach is a good one.. and a sensible one. My arguments with Sarah Palin are definitely policy-based.

As for ambition and hard work, I think it depends on the direction of the ambition and what the hard work is for. The two traits are morally neutral.


FranIAm said...

I am very late to this brilliant post.

Oh Chani. Despite some of my angry words and feelings, I do think of this, but have no clue how to find that place of compassion.

That is similar to what I was talking about today at my blog. How do we take care of one another?

This is not some inspipid command to be BFF's but how to genuinely live our humanity out of compassion, justice and peace?

I think about it a lot but frankly I suck at it.

Thank you for this.

Jan said...

Chani, what good thoughts. It reminds me of how a friend bowed to me today telling me how Buddhists bow to the Divine in each person. True or not, that reminds me of the greeting, "Namaste."

I find it so easy to feel anger at Palin, so much easier to talk badly about her, because then my conservative husband doesn't disagree! I don't think he likes her either, which is sad to consider.

You're right about culturally acclimated, but I still find it hard to NOT criticize her. She stands for so many things I am against, among them her leaving her young baby with Downs Syndrome!

Guess I need to go back to that old prayer for enemies:
"Bless _________, change me." I hadn't thought of that until now--in connection with her. Maybe I should thank you for that, too!

Brandi said...


I actually don't think you were flinging mud. But I think collectively both 'sides' do and that I was I trying to learn not to. thank you for hearing me and commenting!

womaninawindow said...

Sarah Palin perhaps didn't choose to be who she is but the Republican party is surely using her to personify what its core values are. These values are what I object to. They make me dizzy and ill. There they stand. There we stand. It does blow my mind that there are two distinct groups that represent the dichotomy in North American culture. Even though we have more than two groups in Canada representing politics, it boils down to the same thing. And never the two shall meet. It suggests that they way we run our countries is intrinsically flawed. There should be more cooperation between the two groups because neither group is going away, much to my shagrin. The balance just keeps shifting. Environment explains a great deal. I wonder about the biology of it, too. Perhaps as animals we are destined to have two distinct types based on something as elemental as our physical beings.

thailandchani said...

Fran, I really liked your post yesterday because the content was very real - and the question is an important one.

I'm fairly good at not jumping on competitive bandwagons now- but used to believe I had to take sides on everything - and it had to be a firm, loyal and steadfast position.

It was acculturation. Dualism. It permeates everything.

My new way of life has kind of helped me escape that.. although not entirely. I still have my moments. :)

The way we take care of each other is to realize that we're all one. There is no separation. The separation is an illusion. When I hurt you, I hurt me and everyone around both of us.


Jan, that is probably the answer. I don't like Sarah Palin.. but that gives me no right to try to harm her with my words or my actions. I've fallen short on that more than once... right here on this site.


Brandi, we all do it to one degree or another. It's good to stay mindful of it. I can't promise I will never mention SP again on this site.. but I'll try to be mindful of how I do it. Sticking to the issues mainly - and challenging those.

Ugh! It's hard though because she really does exemplify everything I can't stand!

I guess it's important to keep in mind that she wouldn't like me, either. That helps a little bit.


Erin, actually, no... we are not biologically designed to take sides that way. We are not by nature adversarial. That's culture. Plain and simple. Dualism is built into certain belief systems.

Ancient human beings, as far as I know, worked cooperatively in groups and with each other.

I could be wrong on that.. but the little bit I've studied leads me to believe it. Not having a recorded history from that time, it's hard to back it up though. :)


seventh sister said...

I don't like or dislike her but I am not too crazy about what she has done so far in public life. The Matt Damon youtube spot pretty much sums up my feelings. It is scary to think about her being president.


mrsb said...

As someone who has been going through her own obsession with Palin and how much I disagree with all of her views to my core -- I'm glad I stumbled upon this post.

You are so right. She is a product of her environment, and hating her is a futile thing. I will be out to vote my beliefs, and that is good enough. Hopefully there are a greater amount of Americans that will vote the same way :O)

KimB said...

Regarding Sarah.
I chose to disengage from all the petty politics after the democratic convention. Removing myself from the negative energy as it was effecting my being too much.
I suppose I also somewhere inside just let her go into the universe.
Don't know if that makes sense.