I need to say it: I find it hard to understand "Republicans."
I'm sad to hear myself generalize in this way--indeed, I have long resisted saying it--but it's the plain, honest truth: I find it impossible to understand them. I'm sure that the vast majority of them individually are good-hearted, hard-working, decent people. It's when they become "Republicans" that the trouble starts. Since Lyndon Johnson, for example, there have been only three Democratic presidents, and "Republicans" have done their utmost not only to obstruct their every initiative, but to personally destroy each one: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama. The venom with which these leaders have been treated and with which their very legitimacy has been challenged is simply beyond my understanding. For sure, I myself have been guilty of lampooning their Republican counterparts; but I like to think that I have done so without hatred and without questioning their legitimacy. (Here I must confess to an exception in the case of George W. Bush, whose original (s)election over Al Gore by the US Supreme Court I did consider a sham.)
But it's not just about the presidency. There's a meanness of spirit that I find hard to understand. The recent snide comments about Hillary Clinton's illness are but one example. The eagerness to pile on in the attacks on Susan Rice another. It manifests in the "Republican" attitude to the poor, the destitute, the unemployed, the hungry--all fellow Americans less fortunate than themselves. That they were so willing, in the recent "fiscal cliff" fiasco, to deprive these people of their basic livelihood speaks, to my mind, to an incomprehensible lack of simple human compassion. That their congressional leader, Eric Cantor, was so willing to scuttle the eventual, hard-won agreement on a compromise does not speak well of his concern for the country he was elected to serve. That their Speaker, John Boehner, acted with such contempt to refuse either discussion or vote on the hurricane Sandy bill is emblematic, in my view, of the small minds and mean spirits of his colleagues.
Consider the spectacle of this past election. The "Republican" candidates were vicious in the rhetoric they directed not only at Democrats but at each other. They struggled to outdo each other in sheer vitriol and smug self-certitude. They castigated whole segments of the American public and felt free to insult women with misogynistic glee. Without embarrassment, they embraced the ignorance of those who deny overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of religious fervor, in order to appease a "base" of right-wing extremists. They continue to heap contempt and scorn on the United Nations, and act as though no other country in the world is worthy of American consideration--let alone aid.
And don't tell me that it's the same on both sides, that it's politics as usual. It's not. Consider, for example, the clear evidence of our current President's generosity of spirit and readiness to compromise, to the point that he is willing to risk the wrath of his own party and expose himself to Republican attacks for his lack of leadership.
I'm sorry, it's not nice to generalize in this way; and the Buddhist principle of "right speech" requires us to moderate the way in which we speak of others. It does not, however, forbid us from speaking the truth, and the truth is that these people have simply been behaving badly as human beings. They value their rigid principles more than their humanity. They are unkind in word and action, both. As I say, I find it impossible to understand them. I send them metta in the hope that a significant number of them will return to the spirit of reasonable compromise and the path of moderation and compassion.