Sunday, October 21, 2012

Misplaced Compassion

I took a little break from blogging mainly because I was lazy about it.  Also I have a lot on my mind, but I am back now.  

I was just reading a book by African writer Bessie Head entitled A Woman Alone which is a collection of her musings about her life, life in general, life in Africa, life as an African, racism, colonialism; she packed a lot into a little book.  But Bessie Head wrote in that manner and she admits so in this book.  

There are a number of things she wrote in this book that have stayed with me.  I even dog-eared the pages where passages that touched me are located.  One passage says 'It seems to me that it is only the Afro-American, because of what they have suffered, who is capable of this deep compassion.'  She wrote this in her essay, "God and the Underdog: Thoughts on the Rise of Africa."  

I would say once as late as the beginnings and middle of my parent's generation we African-Americans had immense compassion for those who suffered, but as the doors real or imaginary opened for us, as we because more middle class or aspired to become so or move even higher to millionaire status, we lost our compassion and ability to identify with those who are less fortunate. This is common among all oppressed or unappreciated groups. Once they get a little more, they start looking down on those left behind. 

It has become even more critical for African-Americans with the election of the "first black president."  We have a president who bombs and is just as deceptive as all the rest before him, but since we have rather lost our souls and conscience as a people, we support him out of black pride or just intense silent hatred of whites.  We don't seem to realize anymore that loyalty and evil don't mix.  There is no need to feel compelled to support him if he is wrong.  But that is one of many minefields we as a people have allowed ourselves to walk unawares into, and because Obama is picked on so much by conservative whites we believe we must have compassion for him because we see our own plight in him.  Does he really deserve our compassion though since he is weak and refuses to bring up the issue of race in America?  He has skirted it for close to four years now.  I finally threw up my hands in disgust and horror last year with his endorsement of the bloodbath in Libya.  I had already lost most of my respect for him when he said we needed to turn over a new leaf in US history and forget about the war criminals from the previous administration. He knew the job requirements of his post is to be a war criminal and that eventually he would commit many outrageous acts.  Really there was nothing he could do since he was a member of that system, of that club.

So what is my point?  My point is African-Americans and many others today misplace their compassion. We will defend Obama or some millionaire or celebrity tooth and nail if they are berated.  We will defend some man or woman who brought hardship on themselves because of their reckless or immoral actions because we can "identify" with their actions and how badly they were treated.  We take the morally low road every single time and then complain about how life seems to get crazier and more uncertain by the day.  The more glamorous the moral and intellectual weaklings are the more we have compassion for their failings, because we have such a low standard now and despise anyone who tries to lift us out of our pig pens.  

Now where should our misplaced compassion really be directed?  For a start some of us have people right around us who are silently suffering, feeling inadequate, devalued, and lonely. But we often time feel they are too lowly for our concerns.  How come so and so won't extricate  his or herself out of their pity party?  I am just sick and tired of so and so and his or her depression. I am just too busy.  Hey!  We all have our problems. Get over it!  Aren't you supposed as a friend be entertaining me and keeping me on a high all the time?  I don't have time for your sadness and pent up anger. 

So in this time it's about being too busy or some empty gesture or expression.  Then we wonder when there is the surprising suicide.  Always I hear the same excuses, "I just wish I could have been there for so and so. He/she was there for me."   If only. If only.  If only.  Note the selfishness.  

I've also witnessed a new phenomenon.  I'm a person who loves to help others for unselfish reasons.  I had several examples when growing up that showed me that it's better to give than to receive: my mother's parents, my mom, my mom's sister, and reading children's Bible stories about Jesus.  I also had some really hardworking and selfless teachers in school. Curriculum wise they didn't have much to work with, but they (white and black) supported me since I was a hardworking student.  What I saw in the realm of unselfishness and loyalty remained with me and silently shaped me. 

But times began to creep along to the existence we're living in now, and I saw a big change.  Now I see a lot of people who are afraid if you reach out to them, so I discover myself drawing back, and I don't like that.  I've offered my ear to so-called friends whom I could detect had problems, and they rejected it.  I've gotten little in life that are normal rewards, but I'm still out there fighting and thinking about others who are having a hard time.  I need to think about me more, I admit, and strike a balance between concern for myself and others, but it will be hard to change how I was molded.  This is who I am.  I just happen to live in a place and time where it's arid intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally with many people.  But I feel I am the way God intended because I refuse to think that selfishness is the better route.  

Instead of our imaginary celebrity and famous friends, we need to think about the people around us who are hurting.  The country I live in is a warrior country that has been attacking places it can easily disrupt for a very long time.  This didn't start 12 years ago.  I as a person who believes in morality think everyday of the justification that is made to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people to the east of here.  I put myself in those people's shoes and wonder how I would feel, so I include those people I don't know in my concern and compassion too.  They are human. My compassion was extended a long time back outside my little world.  As a person who believes in and fears God (I commit sins too, but I know when I am wrong and regret it) I believe I am feeling the right way.  

Stop offering compassion to those who are contributing to the calamities of our times, and start offering it to the ones who deserve it whether near or far. 

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