Masks and Trash Pickers

Nextdoor for those of you who may not know is a web service organized by neighborhoods where one can ask for recommendation about plumbers or painters or post questions and grievances. A few days ago a woman posted that she came home to find 2 men rummaging through her trash, and what upset her was that they wore no masks. Somehow the post took flight. A man with a Hispanic surname (thus debunking many stereotypes one may have about Hispanics) said that trash picking was illegal, they were stealing from the county who would otherwise benefit from the sale of the recyclables. Someone else agreed. Then someone said the trash pickers were like environmentalists recycling what we threw away.  Someone then posted it’s like the French revolution, Marie Antoinette wanted them hungry people to eat cake because they were hungry and had no bread; he explained, these are hard times, people are scrounging to survive. Someone then replied how she felt for those people. The person with the original post said I just wanted them to wear masks, so someone said, then maybe leave some masks out for them. Then a new person wrote they were criminals and another answered if it is illegal, do you want these people prosecuted? Is that how you want your tax dollars spent? It’s a very small fraction of the crimes occurring, that would be a misuse of scarce public resources, that person added. And many agreed.

Rare is the neighborhood who doesn’t have people rummage through the trash bins for recyclables, things they can reuse, or maybe resale somehow. I remember a documentary about a couple who rose at 4am to rummage through the trash, and that is how they made their living. What a hard job it is, what an unpleasant one, thus my respect for people who rummage through our trash. Yes, they usually don’t wear masks, they leave the bin’s lid open, they can have loud music, but they are to me a part of modern life, a benign one at that. What was striking to me about the Nextdoor postings, was how divided the exchanges were, how many people were willing to condemn the practice, and how many reacted with no compassion. But If I had to put a percentage to that portion, it would be 40%. The rest reacted and defended the original offenders. It all left me asking, does the incident represent the state of the nation these days, condemning people trying to survive and showing no compassion, versus those who strove to understand? And if it does, then compassion won! There’s hope. Let’s take heart!

Compassion, Harmlessness and Mary Trump

Compassion is not only a basis for Buddhism it is also one for Christianity since love without compassion would hardly be love. It thus unifies Eastern and Western traditions and is a trait without which our humanity would be in question. Like so many I endeavor to deepen my understanding of compassion and look for its manifestations as some sort of assurance that humanity is moving forward. It is with keen interest that I watched Mary Trump’s ’TV appearances and read the interviews she gave. She was poised and her manner did not fall prey to wanton criticisms, her view evolved from facts and the inward search those facts seem to me to have elicited within her. Her honesty underlined how articulate she was and her perception though unstinting was not without cause. While some may call it cold and unsparing, I would call it compassionate. Why? Because as best as I can see she wasn’t interested in criticizing but understanding, and her efforts led her to see her uncle, our president, in relation to the context that gave rise to his behavior. She came to the conclusion that that behavior and way of being and living was dangerous, and when asked if she had compassion for him, she said she used to but does not now. Should compassion extend to actions and behavior we deem dangerous, or in my own cosmology, harmful? I would say no.  In the Mary Trump instance a chief reason is that the danger her uncle poses represents a conclusion of her analysis and pondering. She did not decide he was dangerous and then tried to prove it. That conclusion does not undo the underlying compassion that got her there, the need to understand, to sort out, to make sense, to not judge without cause. When things or people are harmful, compassion has a totally different role, and Mary Trump indirectly perhaps helps us better see that role .I, for example, do not feel compassion for Nazis or slave owners because some actions go beyond the reach of compassion. Despite some exceptions, as adults slave owners and Nazis chose to be cruel refusing awareness of the harm they were causing, just as to the best of my understanding this president is choosing harmful policies without caring about the suffering they lead to.

The Side of The Prison Guards

Last week the post spoke of a prisoner’s reality. This week, also via The Marshall Project, which specializes on reporting about the criminal justice system, the perspective of prison guards. While a closed group, they attempt to bridge their isolation through social media like Facebook, and a reporter took a look at their unfiltered posts all the while cautioning readers this was representative of only a “subset” of guards, those who used Facebook. She categorized what was culled from those posts into four sections, each representing Continue reading “The Side of The Prison Guards”