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Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Buddhist monk’s antidote to the violence in American politics

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in AZ Saturday, photo courtesy of her website.

In July 2004, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh began his address to the US Congress, published online in the Shamabala Sun, with these words:
Distinguished members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to talk with you about how we can share our insight, our compassion and our understanding in order to better serve those we want to serve and help heal the wounds that have divided our nation and the world.
In the aftermath of the outbreak of violence in Arizona yesterday, it might be wise to keep Nhat Hanh’s words in mind while reading this NY Times article by Carl Hulse and Kate  Zernike on the increasing vitriol in our national discourse:
WASHINGTON — The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others at a neighborhood meeting in Arizona on Saturday set off what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger and violence in American politics.

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

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