Do you care more about cheap goods from China or the lives of monks?
I very often am given a hard time by people who come into my office to tell me about some tragedy in the world and expect me to react more than I do. The conclusion they typically draw from this is that I’m not an empathetic person, they’re wrong. The fact is I grew up in a poor town, I’ve lived in Appalachia, I’ve traveled in the Mississippi Delta, in Brazil, China, Tibet and Nepal. I’ve seen some of the earth shattering poverty that exists in this world. I understand how many people die each day in our world, even how many children, from ridiculously curable diseases, from lack of food and clean water or medications that would cost pennies. The number of people who die daily from dysentery, basically people dying from severe diarrhea is horrifying. So the fact is the disaster of the day that makes it into the news headlines is only the tip of the iceberg and were I to allow myself to openly grieve for what I know happens every single day, I’d be a useless basket case.
Occasionally though there is something that breaks through the wall I have to keep those emotions behind, particularly when it is generally ignored by the rest of reality. While we are daily subjected to 20 plus hours a day of Newt Gingrich being a whiny bitch because Romney is beating him, or who Sarah Palin might endorse for president, we ignore much more serious matters.
Would it surprise you to hear that today, a third Tibetan Buddhist monk has burned himself alive in the last three days! He’s the fifteenth monk to do that over the last year, how much news coverage of this have you seen? These monks are undertaking this sacrifice in protest of the ongoing occupation of Tibet and the suppression of their religion. I have traveled in China and Tibet, I know many Chinese, they are not bad people but the country buys into the government propaganda concerning China’s “rights” to Tibet. I have seen with my own eyes the ruins of temples, hospitals and schools that were destroyed when China “liberated” Tibet in the 1949 invasion and cultural revolution. The Chinese have even tried to co-opt the Tibetan Buddhist religion by abducting the duly selected Panchen Lama and replacing him with a fraud, as well as the well-known exile of the Dalai Lama. I cringed with disgust when I toured the holiest sites in Lhasa, Tibet and saw little communist minders in their suits telling the monks what to do.
I wonder if the American media or Americans themselves would so easily ignore this being done to Christians in a Christian country, the hypocrisy in our society at times sickens me. One immolation in Tunisia set off the entire Arab Spring, we care about that, the Middle East is the area that makes it possible for us to buy cheap gas, unfortunately for Tibetans they can’t offer us the same and so we can’t afford to care apparently. Cheap gas and cheap Chinese products mean more to Americans than the occupation and oppression of a peaceful people and their religion. Shame on us, shame on all of us.