The Brit Hume fallout: Victory for The Extremists

I was going to respond to some really stupid comments and posts I saw being made by Christians/Conservatives on some of the links that Kyle provided, along with some others I found.  I had an agenda, and I was going to set them straight and put them in their places. I started to type in some comments, and then just closed down my browser. I realized what the problem was. It wasn’t them. It was the system that we’ve all been caught up in (myself included).

At first I admit I had to agree with some of my fellow bloggers and Buddhists about how this whole Brit Hume thing actually was a great opportunity for us Buddhists to speak about our faith/tradition/religion. If nothing else, there would be tons of people who would at the very least wiki Buddhism and find out just a little bit about it. So overall, this was a good thing, right? No. You see, in Buddhism, we assess situations and take action based on how skillful (less suffering) or unskillful (more suffering) we deem those actions to be (in a nut shell). Overall, I’d have to say that this entire situation has been quite unskillful.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I like people of all faiths (except Scientology. “Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones”) because I try not to see people as what faith they belong to. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Pagans, I’ve known many people of many faiths in my life, and gotten along with them all splendidly. However, there is one group of people who I really can’t stand: Extremists. Extreme atheists, Christians, Buddhists, liberals, whatever. They always speak the loudest, they get in people’s faces, they cause violence and instill fear. Rather than use reason, compassion and logic, they just shout long enough and loud enough to drown out their opposition. And the internet is the best thing that has happened to extremism since Vietnam. It gives it fuel, life, recruitment, new means of manipulation, and limitless open forums with which to spew it’s filth.

Now, I do stand by what I said before. I think one of the biggest problems with what Brit Hume said is that millions of people are now going to have a skewed perception of what Buddhism is. Unfortunately, a larger problem has arisen. While in an ideal world, we would have had an open discussion between Buddhists and Christians (and maybe even Brit Hume), what we instead found was that The Extremists™ took up the cause instead. It was the crazy Christians, Atheists, Anti-Theists and everyone in between that took up this issue. It was blown out of proportion and skewed into a political, racial, 1st amendment, and religious argument rather than any kind of discovery or debate. Now all that is left are angry words, inflated egos, and the now (possibly) more negative vision of Buddhists and Buddhism.

So now we have to deal with the fallout. This really turned into a much bigger mess than it ever needed to. I still agree that something needed to be said in rebuttal, and I think Mr. Hume’s comment was reckless. But I think how the rebuttal and discourse that followed were handled was even more reckless. What we’ve done now is only further polarize the country over yet another insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) event. Much like Janet Jackson’s boob, Bill Clinton’s…. cigar,  or Mark Sanford’s indiscretion, we’ve blown things way out of proportion. I don’t want to get into the “why” of that now, I just want to acknowledge it. We simply love to sensationalize the mistakes of anyone of any type of celebrity status. A little off topic, but something someone said in my sangha the other day kind of relates here. It was regarding the way we treat our Presidents and elected officials. He said “Every four years we elect a messiah, and at the end of those four years, when we find out he’s human, we crucify him.”

This could have been a moment for pause and reflection. It could have been a moment of great understanding and compassion. But we let it turn into the monster that it became because we allow the extremists to control public “discussion” and represent their respective “sides”. We always hear and see the Christians protesting over this and that, going crazy when evolution is taught in our schools, but that isn’t representative of Christianity. Those crazies just happen to have the microphone. Not everyone that is against animal cruelty throws fake blood on people who buy fur coats. They just happen to make the 5 o’clock news. And so we allow those extremists (who are in the minority) to control not only the debate, but also our view of the entirety of whatever side/religion/organization/movement they belong to.

And not only do we allow this to happen, we actually feed it sometimes! We respond to the crazies on those message boards! This is the fuel that they need to burn their fires of hate.  We try to argue with them, to make them see our point. But they won’t. They’re completely stuck in a state of “I’m fucking right and you’re fucking wrong” and no amount of replies in an internet forum or shouting through a megaphone at a Tea Party is going to change their minds. If their minds are to change, it will have to be of their own doing. So now we’re left with all of those extremists shouting, yelling, posting which only further deepens the divisions that we’ve created for ourselves.

Before I get to a solution, I just want to reiterate that I do believe something needed to be said about this. If I had a moment of face time with Brit Hume, I’d simply say “Brit, what you said offended quite a few people. Not because of you being a Christian or saying Jesus on the air, but because you put one religion down while trumpeting your own. We hear enough of this, and this us vs. them stuff has to stop. Wouldn’t it have been a wiser choice to say something like: ‘I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I think right now you need to use what tools your faith has to offer to help yourself and your family heal. I know that when I turned to Christianity, I found great comfort and forgiveness and it helped me through a very difficult time’. See the difference there?”

I think one of the best solutions for us Buddhists to cultivate is something the Dalai Llama has offered:

“The purpose of Buddhism is to serve and benefit all sentient beings, including human beings. And therefore it is more important to think of what contribution we Buddhists can make to human society according to our own ideas rather than trying to convert other people to Buddhism. The Buddha gave us an example of contentment and tolerance, through serving others unselfishly.”

It is in the example that we set for others when we live according to the dharma in which we can overcome the extremists. This is the best and most skillful course of action.

That’s all on this. Cheers.

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7 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, Political

7 responses to “The Brit Hume fallout: Victory for The Extremists

  1. nathan

    I think the results of all this will be mixed – even “bad” press can lead to something positive. There’s no way to know the entry point people might use to discover their deeper lives.

    However, I came to similar conclusions to you about half way through the week. I never felt all that offended by Hume’s comments personally, but I started to find myself pushing too hard on the misuse of journalism angle, which some people just didn’t think was an issue.

    My political views are often off the scale, and more than a few people have called me an “extreme leftist” and more obnoxious terms, but my practice has done a good job of checking the impulse to demonize others. I still do it at times, but it doesn’t last nearly as long, nor is it intense enough for me to do “stupid, sensational things.”

    There’s a place for doing civil disobedience, and sometimes people lump legitimate acts, like crossing the line at the School of the Americas to bring attention to U.S. training of paramilitary groups in Latin America, with acts like fake blood throwing or marching down the streets with 12 foot bloody fetus signs, which simply provoke people, and make it easy for the actual issues to be forgotten.

    I think the moment you turn anyone into a demon, any group into demons, you’re in trouble. That’s my take.

  2. “There’s a place for doing civil disobedience”

    Yes! absolutely! Our country was founded upon it! Civil rights were achieved (partly) because of it!

  3. For every left, there will be a right, for every view there will be an opposite and equally strong held view. And for every side, there will be another side.

    Then people will choose sides, choose right and wrong and choose the view that they want to see. I’m afraid that won’t stop anytime soon. Shitty ain’t it? 🙂

    • I’m not so much concerned with those that choose sides. It’s how they choose to represent those sides, and how they choose to act on their convictions that concerns me.

      But you’re right. It won’t stop anytime soon.

  4. buddhasbrewing

    You’re right. However, in saying that I’ve chosen a side. It’s like Kyle said we naturally polarize and factionalize ourselves.

    Humans are still pack animals and we want o join pakcs that reenforce our our worldview.

    Great post, Adam.

    • I think the main issue is that when we have chosen a “side”, what we then do about it. We can take the high road and say “I’m a Christian, and you’re a Buddhist, but we both want the world to be a better place. So let’s agree on that, while at the same time acknowledge that we have our differences.”

      Or you could say something like “Heathens! Idol worshipers! You’ll burn in hell for your blasphemy!”.

      The first example is a compassionate one, and one that does exist in reality. (http://www.urbandharma.org/bcdialog/index.html)

      The second one is also (sadly) a reality, and that’s what I was targeting here.

      Being surrounded by people of like mind is just fine. It’s when people take the Anne Coulter approach that pisses me off.

      Thanks.

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