here's what the ol' webster's says about compassion:
what i find interesting is there's nothing in that definition about religion, or god, or jesus, or faith. as far as i know, an atheist or agnostic can be just as compassionate as a catholic or a jew. but the word compassion seems to have been co-opted by the religious community. george w. bush ran for president (and nearly won) as a compassionate conservative, a philosophy based in part on the christian doctrine of original sin. i'm not sure how compassionate you could say the president has been toward the folks we've tortured.
compassion: sympathetic consciousness of other's distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
last night, CNN broadcast the compassion forum, hosted by messiah college in grantham, pa. the forum was a chance for the presidential candidates to "discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on...important (campaign) issues." i didn't watch, but i wonder if any of them actually talked about compassion.
then there's bitter. here's what the good book (webster's, that is) says about bitter:
bitter: 1 a: having or being a peculiarly acrid, astringent, or disagreeable taste suggestive of an infusion of hops that is one of the four basic taste sensations -- compare salt, sour, sweet b: distasteful or distressing to the mind 2: marked by intensity or severity: a: accompanied by sever pain or suffering b: being relentlessly determined c: exhibiting intense animosity d: (1) harshly reproachful (2) marked by cynicism and rancor e: intensely unpleasant esp. in coldness or rawness 3: expressive of severe pain, grief, or regret.
all the hubub (bub) this week is about barack obama's recent statement that people in small towns are bitter about losing jobs and the economy going sour, and in their bitterness they cling to guns, religion, and antipathy towards immigrants and people who are different from them.
which makes sense to me. when you're struggling in some way, you turn to things that are meaningful to you. touchstones, constants: sunday school. the pump-action remington 870 on the closet shelf. disdain for the happy guy clipping the hedges. hatred of the gay couple at last week's pta meeting.
but i wondered, "are people living in small towns really bitter?"
let's ask my dad! he's 77 and he lives in waterford, wisconsin: population 4,828. that's a small town, right? i called tonight, and told him i had a few questions. "shoot," he said, "hit me tone!"
T: okay dad, are you bitter?
D: (little pause) no.
T: do you cling to guns, or religion?
D: do i what? do i cling to what? i didn't understand that. cling to? no, i'd have to say no. i don't understand what cling to means, so...but go ahead son. what's next? lay it on me.
T: how do you feel about immigrants?
D: (beat) how long a statement do you want?
i want immigrants to go through everything my grandparents went through. if they pass the test, great.
T: do you know anyone who's different from you?
should i elaborate? no...i don't have to elaborate on that.
T: can you define compassion?
D: caring. caring for someone.
T: thanks dad. thanks for answering those questions.
D: well, i hope i enhanced your survey.
T: i think your answers were simple and straightforward.
D: i meant them to be.