“Man, Jarvis. Are you watching the news?” my new neighbor asked from the next cell one evening. I was relaxing, reading a book about meditation.
“I have it on, Omar, but I’m not really watching it,” I answered, glancing up at my television. “Why, what’s up?”
“Ah, man! Check out Channel Seven. They showing a Ku Klux Klan rally in Louisiana. Man, just look at all those Klansmen screaming and shouting all that white supremacy garbage. Get this: all these idiots is talking about how all the Jews and Blacks are destroying this country. Did you hear what they were saying?”
“Nah, man. I missed it. I have the volume turned down. I’m just using the light to read by. I did see a bunch of angry faces and racist posters, though.”
“Oh, OK,” said Omar. “Man, I apologize. I didn’t mean to take you away from your reading.”
“Hey, that’s OK. I don’t min’ you calling over to me about something big in the news. If you see something interesting, let me know.”
“Right, right on! I can do that,” said Omar, ending our conversation.
About ten minutes later, Omar hollered, “Hey, Jarvis! Man, check out all those people. It must be a thousand folks marching in San Francisco. Do you see them?”
“Wow!” I said, looking up at the huge demonstration on my screen. “What’s up with them?”
“Man, it’s an environmentalist demonstration. They demanding an end to the cutting of trees in some places, and all the senseless slaughter of wildlife animals. They saying the planet is being destroyed and more and more kinds of animals is near extinction.”
“Is that right? I can tell just by looking at them that they’re upset. You see that one woman raging into the microphone and those demonstrators holding up posters and shouting and getting arrested? Hey, they all must be pretty pissed to be screaming like that and risking going to jail.”
A little later, Omar yelled, “Hey, check that out. Are you still watching? Look at the President and all those congressmen, right there on national TV, fighting and arguing, each trying to convince the public that the other is at fault for this terrible economy.”
“Yeah, I see them. Is that what they’re fussing about? I can tell they’re in an uproar about something. That one senator, man, he’s almost spitting. But you know what’s really interesting, Omar?”
“No, what’s that?”
“Well, for the first time, I’m starting to see something—that the anger and bitterness on the faces of these congressmen and the President of the United States is the same as on the faces of all those environmentalists and the Klansmen. The only difference is that the Klansmen wore khaki and hoods, the demonstrators were dressed for going to jail, while the congressmen and the President wore really expensive suits.”
“I never seen it like that,” said Omar. “I get mad when I see the Klan on TV or when I see all what’s goin’ down. But I never thought until now, Jarvis, that we all wear the same hateful expression.”
“Yeah, isn’t it a trip?” I said. “But it’s something to think about—learning to see everyone’s suffering, not just the frustration of those we agree with. Otherwise, let’s be honest, all we really want to do is kick a few Klansmen’s asses.”
“Ah, man . . . man . . . man!” Omar groaned. “I don’t think I’ll be able to do that. That there is a little too much chili on my hot dog for me.”
Start your day with a fresh perspective
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.