I’ve been thinking these last couple of days about how I personally have reacted to Tuesday’s elections. While many will argue that it was a Republican loss versus a Democratic win, one thing is certain: our president, who has done more than anyone in modern history to create an atmosphere of divisiveness – not just in America but here in the Federal City – has made a 180° turn.
And yet, I watched with a sense of inner glee as Rick Santorum kid’s broke down in tears during his concession speech. “Take that!” I thought about his children. “This is what happens when your dad is a right wing hate monger!”
In retrospect, it was a reprehensible response on my part to another person’s suffering, to say the least. But why? How can I feel compassion for the homeless woman who lives in Farragut Square and spends her morning panhandling in front of the Starbuck’s next to my office, yet have such an ugly reaction to the live television image of a little girl crying because her father, no doubt her personal hero, lost an election?
I have to say I’m ashamed of myself.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the tidal wave of reaction, especially when the “other side” has done things that they knew would stoke people’s most visceral emotions. Putting the gay marriage issue on the ballot across the nation in 2004 certainly delivered the White House and Congress for the Republicans, but it also planted deep, lasting seeds of hate across the entire country. And I know the Democrats would have employed a similar tactic if it would have been possible.
In another example, MSNBC reports today on a Houston landscaping company that refused to submit a bid for a job at the home of a gay couple. Arguably, as private business people working in a city that doesn’t include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination statues, the owners of the Garden Guy have a right to turn down the business. But why on earth did people react by threatening to sodomize the owners’ children?
Because we’re conditioned that way, I guess. We, meaning all of society, frequently use words that cut to the core of a person’s being, simply to hurt them. Whether it’s the “N” word, or saying “God hates fags,” we know how to inflict pain on each other. And my action of laughing at a little girl whose father lost an election isn’t any better than someone threatening a business owner’s child in an Internet posting.
Where’s the compassion and loving-kindness in either action?