Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ignorance

a way in the wilderness

I'm not a big fan of the Miss America Pageant, and I never pay attention to it - never,  that is,  until this past Miss America Pageant. It really got my attention. 

Twenty four year-old Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America on Sunday evening. Ms Davuruli grew up in Syracuse, New York. ( I lived and worked in Syracuse for many years before coming to Los Angeles.)  Nina graduated with honors and holds a degree in cognitive sciences.  She plans on studying to become a physician like her Dad, and she will use her pageant earnings to achieve that goal.  Nina Davuluri is an "icon" of what it means to be a "wholesome" American, and that's precisely why she was chosen to be "Miss America, 2014." 

The thing is that Mis Davuluri happens to be an Indian-American.  Her skin is not "white" and she has a "foreign-sounding" last name, and because of this, the instant she was given the title of "Miss America" the internet was flooded with vitriol against her. 

"Twitter" lit up with hateful attacks viciously spewed out against the dark-skinned young woman with a foreign-sounding name. Many tweets expressed dismay that a Muslim was chosen to be Miss America (by the way Ms. Davuluri is not a Muslim). In tweet after tweet she was called an Arab, an Egyptian and a terrorist. Some of the "tweeters" expressed outrage that a woman like her (a Muslim terrorist) could be crowned as "Miss America" so soon after the anniversary of 9/11.

I must say I'm usually not all that surprised when I see the sinister side of humanity rear its ugly head. I've had plenty of experience with people who are outrageously judgmental. But somehow, this particular dish of ugliness served up on the internet really got to me. 

For one thing, most of those vile and nasty tweets were posted by younger people, and in my naiveté I thought most younger people in this country had moved beyond such racist, biased thinking. The other thing that got to me was that, on social media sites like "Twitter," people are free to say what they really believe - no conventional "filters" are applied. So is this what so many people really believe? 

An editorial in the LA Times pretty much articulates what I think and it helps me to "get at" why I have been so bothered by Sunday night's "Twitter" orgy.

This retro ritual (Miss America Pageant) has provided us with a window into the present-day United States, where ignorant and/or uneducated Americans lurk, spewing hate and nonsense with reckless abandon.

It really frightens me to think that those Sunday-night tweets were a window into the present-day United States.  

Buddhists teach that "ignorance" is a lack of understanding of the ultimate truth about our human nature. An "ignorant" person is not yet aware that we are all "inter-being"- all interdependent and interconnected. An ignorant person is unaware of the realty that there are no different "others" - no foreigners - there is no separated "I" - there is only "us."

Buddhists also teach that ignorance is the cause of our suffering. 

There are lots of people who suffer today - lost in the wilderness along the path of life. 

My response to all the suffering  will not be despair but "compassion." I feel compassion for those who suffer because of ignorance, and I recommit my life to carving out a path to the truth- a way in the wilderness.   


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