Democrats & Liberals Archives

Fear or Compassion

The whole country is absorbed with the Katrina Fiasco of 8/29, just as the country was absorbed with the terrorist assault of 9/11. The 9/11 calamity stifled the nation under a blanket of fear, which the administration deftly colored yellow or red to suit its purpose. Fear focused us on our own vulnerabilities, our own needs, our own desires. It made us self-centered and it made us quarrel with fellow citizens. This August, in the midst of a polarized society, we were invaded again, this time by a hurricane called Katrina. I hope this horrendous tragedy will knock us off the destructive path we have been on and lead us in the direction of compassion.

Immediately after 9/11, all of us were so scared, we were unified with the president.

We were so afraid of the future, we developed a huge inspection system for our airlines, passed a Patriot Act that took away some of our rights, declared war against Iraq because it possibly possessed WMD, completely disregarded the advice of allies because we did not want to "ask permission" to defend ourselves, called those who were against the Iraq war treasonous, spent extra billions on huge armaments, tried to tear apart the International Court because it might in the future bring Americans to the dock, reduced university attendance of foreign students, spoiled our relationship with Mexico.....

The fear shows up in a multitude of ways in each of our lives. It determines where we live, where we play, where we travel, what we tell our kids, how we protect them. Fear makes us argue with our friends, find fault with those we disagree with, become aggressive in our daily affairs and especially so in political affairs. We live in a conflict-ridden society. We are so much in the grip of fear that we cannot pursue happiness, which puts us in a decidedly un-American condition.

Now we are faced with a new tragedy that will bring more fatalities than 9/11 did. The public reaction to the Katrina tragedy tells us that Americans are compassionate. All sorts of people are donating money. People are discomfiting themselves in order to supply shelter to the victims. Some are offering clothing, food and other necessities. Volunteers of Habitat for Humanity are building homes. Congress is modifying its agenda to approve legislation to help Katrina victims. Talk about the victims and the help they need is constant in all news media.

Wow! It feels as though Americans were so sick and tired living in a state of fear, that they enthusiastically grabbed this event to becoming their true compassionate selves again.

Compassion, unlike fear, takes the focus away from you and shines it onto other people. Compassion takes you out of yourself and your worries because you must think of people who are in dire straits. Compassion lifts you up to a higher level and makes you feel good about yourself.

The wise Dalai Lama thinks compassion is THE most important emotion. He says:

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

Compassion is at the heart of the liberal philosophy. I hope that now that the American public has replaced fear with compassion, it will see that compassion is superior to fear and it will persist in this mode. The American response to the Katrina fiasco is inaugurating a new flowering of liberalism.

Posted by Paul Siegel at September 9, 2005 6:44 PM