I lost an old friend on Facebook this week. We had been friends for 20 years. She kept pulling me into political discussions, even though I told her that I didn't like to argue politics with friends. She hates Democrats and Obama. I happen to like Obama and I'm willing to give him a good chance at succeeding. I haven't agreed with everything he has done, but I've been giving him the benefit of the doubt early in his presidency, and I've been very impressed so far.
My old friend's messages and posts were extremely harsh -- one of those Republicans who can't see anything good about the other side and is very vocal about it. Ironically, some posts were very religious. She also wrote an online editorial accusing the press of being in love with Obama that used words like "slimy" and "national disgrace," then complained when people were critical. When I told her that she couldn't slap people with words like "slimy" without expecting them to respond in a negative way, she unfriended me.
What does this have to do with the Kung-Fu TV show?
My wife and I were devastated when we heard the news that David Carradine died this week. Nancy and I didn't know each other back when the Kung-Fu TV show as on the air. I was in college and living in Lexington, Kentucky. She was 5 years younger, living in the Quad Cities.
Last night, we watched a Kung-Fu episode that first aired on January 25, 1973--one day after I turned 20 years old, and 8 months before I was to take my first kung-fu lesson after being inspired by David Carradine and Bruce Lee. On January 25, Bruce Lee had not yet made his big splash in America. That was still a few months away. David Carradine was all we had.
The episode was about revenge. In one of the flashbacks, young Caine was talking to Master Po and asking if he should seek revenge against another student. Master Po said, "Seek justice and forgiveness. And kindness. Always kindness."
It struck me about how little justice or kindness there is in our political discussion these days. You're either on one side or another (usually) and nothing will change your opinion. No facts to the contrary will cause you to change your point of view. It's very dishonest, but that's the way Americans are these days. How much kindness do you hear on the Rush Limbaugh program? When it comes to the "other side," you hear precious little.
No one is all bad, and no one is all good. To be extreme one way or another violates my sense of balance. And to be so totally against conservatives or liberals so that you can't honestly listen and decide that the "other side" just might be right on a particular issue -- that just violates my sense of justice or fairness. Perhaps it violates my sense of intellectual honesty. And it also disrupts my quest for balance.
The truth is, we've become so intolerant of other political or religious views that we can't see when the other side is right and we're wrong. There is only justice if "our side" wins. There are no shades of gray in our black-and-white world, and we all suffer for it. Tolerance for other viewpoints is harder and harder to find.
So when Master Po spoke those words on the Kung-Fu episode we were watching, it represented not just a good philosophy about seeking revenge, it's also a good philosophy for politics.
"Seek justice and forgiveness. And kindness. Always kindness."
We just went through eight years, in which one party wouldn't tolerate any dissention against the president. Now, the same party won't tolerate any goodwill toward the president.
I grew up in the South in the Fifties and Sixties. I was raised to think that bigotry was okay. I changed my attitudes after going to college and as I got older, I began to realize that other views were okay. I was a Republican for a long time and then found that I had grown more tolerant and accepting of people who were different. When Pat Buchanan got up at the 1992 GOP Convention and blasted everyone who was different, and when folks like Pat Robertson (who talks to God, by the way) became more active in the party, I had to leave it. In the years since, the stranglehold of people like them (and Frist and Newt and Boehner) has only served to separate their party from people who prefer a bit more kindness and tolerance in their politics.
Unfortunately, I know people who were bigots as youngsters and are bigots now -- who were intolerant as kids and are intolerant now. They haven't learned. They haven't grown.
And they don't get it. Ironically, these same people claim to have a copyright on "Christian values."
Whether it's Christian values or Taoist values or Zen values, Master Po's words are true. When dealing with anyone--a criminal, a person with a different political view, or a person with a different lifestyle--I believe that the moral thing to do is to seek "justice, forgiveness, and kindness. Always kindness."
Look at the issue of water-boarding. There is evidence that torture doesn't work. There is evidence that kindness works instead, by letting the enemy see that we're not the devils he was led to believe we are. And yet, the party of Christian values wants to torture. What would Jesus say? In my opinion, Jesus would side with Master Po.
The closing of the American mind is a terrible thing to witness. It has happened before our very eyes. I would urge everyone--before you engage in another political debate with your friends--to heed Master Po's words. Everyone has a point of view. Sometimes they are right, and yes, sometimes they are very wrong. Unless you can step back and allow new information to--at times--change your opinion, you are probably part of the problem. And if your opinions are completely on one side or the other, you have violated one of the principles of the universe, and you should seek balance.