This was a comment left on the blog in response to my post yesterday, titled “Trouble in Texas.” The original question that I responded to yesterday was, “Due to the ignorance of others here in Texas, I get no leverage and I try to remain peaceful, but its very hard, I get frustrated. What should I do to ignore these conservatives and reach Enlightenment?”
And as my response, I pointed to a previous article about Dealing with Hatred.
I am a little disappointed in your answer for two reasons; 1: the author did not ask about how to deal with hatred, he asked how to deal with the ignorance of others. 2; I really wanted your opinion on the subject because I have wanted to ask the very same question MANY times as I have struggled with the same subject many times.
Other than that keep up the good work, I find that your writing stimulates the thoughts of others, and that cannot be a bad thing.
First, let me point out that if you wanted to ask the question many times, then you should have asked sooner! I love to answer questions, they give me something to write about. So by asking questions, you’re doing me a favor as much as you are helping yourself by asking. Don’t hesitate or fear to email me! I’m always eager to tackle any topic.
Now, on to your real comment. I feel that ignorance and hatred are heavily intertwined. Generally, we fear or hate things we don’t fully understand, and we don’t try to understand things that we instinctively hate. It’s a major catch-22, and we have to try to handle those subjects carefully.
In theory, if you are simply running into plain ignorance, then all you have to do is explain yourself to the person in question and they won’t be ignorant any more. It’s rarely that simple, since there is either fear or hate involved. Fear and hate are powerful barriers to an open mind. Still, simple explanations are probably the best place to get started if you really want to beat ignorance and teach others.
One way to co-exist with those who are judgmental is to simply not give them anything to judge you with; become a model of good Buddhist behavior, live the life and be a real role-model. Personally, I don’t walk around town advertising the fact that I’m a Buddhist; there are only a handful of non-Internet friends and family that even know I am one. I see no need to tell everyone what I believe, as there are always some people who are going to judge me in a negative way. Yes, that’s due to ignorance on their part, but I know that I cannot educate everyone, especially those who have already made up their minds. I’m perfectly happy being the best Buddhist I can be in my actions and words, and every once in a while when the topic comes up with a friend or colleague, it’s the perfect opportunity to explain things to them. By demonstrating in my day-to-day actions that Buddhists aren’t “Heathen Idolators” (or whatever some people want to call us out of ignorance) people are much more open to my opinions when it does eventually come up.
I’m talking about Buddhism, but the same goes for the original questioner’s opinions on gay marriage, abortions, philosophy, and Communism. Both sides of each of the topics he mentions have strong arguments that make perfect sense to the people who advocate them; neither side is clearly wrong or blatantly stupid, although at times the opposition probably feels otherwise.
People in California are generally speaking more liberal-minded than those in Texas; that doesn’t make either group right or wrong. Still, if the writer is walking around Texas in a Che Guevera t-shirt carrying his Marx book and holding his boyfriend’s hand at the Pro-Choice rally, he’s going to find a lot of people unwilling to accept, or even listen to, his ideas. The writer didn’t say he was doing those things, but he definitely seems to have an issue with Conservatives, so I get the impression that the hostility may be mutual. I don’t intend to attack anyone, but sometimes the people who yell the loudest about others ignorance are the ones trying hardest to shove their own ideas down someone else’s throat. If this is the case, then he needs to examine why it is so important to him to change the minds of others and let that go.
I’ve always found that a little diplomacy goes a long way, and simply keeping my mouth shut in some situations goes even farther. If you go out looking for a fight, it’s usually pretty easy to find one.