The author, a self described Choctaw Indian Buddhist Republican, notes that if John McCain didn’t want to see another Asian person again for the rest of his life, no one could blame him. But he did (he’s been back to Vietnam more than once), and not just any Asian:
The visit wouldn’t get a lot of press coverage, really, and the number of new Buddhist votes he was going to get from the visit — literally dozens, no doubt — weren’t going to make a really big difference.
What it was, what it appeared to be, was an actual sincere visit to the leader of a people who, if they aren’t suffering genocide, are certainly enduring the next best thing. Offering support to people who just wanted to live their own lives.
Contrast that with Barack Obama, who discovered that the Department of Defense didn’t want him to include campaign aides and a campaign photo-op in a visit to wounded American soldiers and Marines at Landstuhl. (Think of it: what could be lonelier than being severely wounded and in a hospital in a foreign country?) When there wasn’t anything in it for him, what did Obama do? He canceled out, so he could work out at the Ritz-Carlton and do a little Berlin site seeing.
We Buddhists talk about karuna, the compassion felt by the Buddhas toward all living things: a compassion that grows from understanding, and feeling empathy for them. Who was showing karuna here: Obama? Or McCain?
That’s why I’m mad. Given the chance to support American soldiers, and no photo op, Obama said, “not worth the trouble.” McCain, given the chance to meet with the leader of millions of oppressed people, goes out of his way, even though the visit is unlikely to win him much goodwill, much less any votes.
And that’s not news. But it should be.
When I first read of McCain’s visit to the Dalai Lama, I admit I sighed. It seemed such a small gesture compared to Obama’s grand symbolic tour of the continent. But that’s kind of McCain in a nutshell. As the author points out, the visit won’t net him many votes, if any, but so what.
We in the West call this seeming and being. Obama is great at seeming empathic; being so is a different story. I like my people real, thank you.