Giving/letting go 3

Some of you won’t know that I write from Brisbane, Queensland in Australia. This has been a week of public crisis here due to never-before-experienced flooding all over the state. Whole towns have been swept away, somewhere between 20-60 people have died, and thousands of peoples homes and businesses are damaged or destroyed. The Brisbane River’s flood peaked sometime last night. It’s been breathtaking and humbling.

Situations like these bring out the best in most people. Neighbors spontaneously helped others shift themselves and their goods to higher ground, moved elderly or frail people to safe harbors, offered their homes as refuges, and checked on anyone they thought might be in need. Maybe it’s just an Australian thing, but there has been no audible whining (or whinging, as they say here).

Other states of Australia, and even New Zealand, have sent trained rescue workers and equipment to assist in gathering up the many people stranded by unexpected surges, walls of water that sweep all before them.

It’s particularly painful for me as a dual American/Australian citizen that while this crisis and response are happening locally, back in the motherland the conversation is vitriolic, sparked by a senseless act of murder and mayhem, and even worse by the defense of a public discourse rife with verbal images of violence. “Lock and load”? Crosshairs? How did it come about that this is the current tenor of info-tainment? How can anyone continue to defend everyone’s right to own guns, even automatic weapons? My own generosity doesn’t yet extend to understanding these positions.

These two worlds are occurring simultaneously. They both seem quite real to me, and somehow the flood alarms me less than the future of America. Brisbane and Queensland will recover. Farms will replant, mines will redesign, tourism will revive, and people will rebuild.

More on right speech and generosity next time.

2 Comments

Filed under Generosity

2 responses to “Giving/letting go 3

  1. Yes, Toni. I’ve been struggling with this question, as I have trouble generating metta for gun lovers.

    However, the main problem for all of us is ignorance – not seeing things as they are. Pretty much all problems, yours, mine, and theirs, come from not seeing the impermanence and unsatisfactory nature of existence. Also ignorance of the consequences of harmful speech plays a big role.

    But back to the issue at hand. Two recent articles have helped me start to see the gun control issue in a wider cultural context. In the NY Times one:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/14/us/14guns.html?scp=2&sq=%22gun%20control%22&st=cse

    I learned that while people in the NE of the US (plus San Francisco and environs) are historically and strongly in favor of gun control laws, the majority of Americans, who live further apart from each other, are already gun owners and see guns as a means of independence and recreation (think the cowboy myth). Gun laws feel to them like a government encroachment on something that’s been unregulated for hundreds of years.

    In a similar article, the results of a poll are shown:
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/01/patchwork-nation-another-look-at-the-divide-over-gun-control-laws.html

    These results point out a similar demographic divide between those more concerned with gun control than protecting the right to own a gun. I also noticed that we’re talking about 60-40 one way in those who prefer gun laws(urbanites), and 60-40 in the other direction for the others. So we’re not talking about a 90%-10% split. As with abortion in America, there really is a strong, emotional divide on the issue.

    This describes a particular form of dukkha, and accepting it is a first step in working with it. How can we really accept people with whom we disagree on visceral issues? How does one get past simply dismissing them? It must, somehow, be done.

  2. Tony told me there was water in your backyard. I’m glad to hear that everyone is helping those in need. Yes, events here in the States are very troubling. Some people are angry at the person who did the shooting because he’s threatening their so-called right to have their guns. Such is the twisted logic. President Obama spoke eloquently although not to the gun issue directly. I, too, am not optimistic that there will be any curbing of the use of guns in this country. I’m also convinced (from my years of law study) that it is a mis-interpretation of the second amendment to think that it gives people the right to own guns. In fact, the amendment appears to do just the opposite — only give that right to official militias.

    Take care of yourselves and others, there on the other side of the world from us while I work on practicing metta for the tea baggers et al.

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