As Buddhists, we know that principles are a tricky thing. Buddhism, unlike other religions, doesn't have commandments; it has precepts. Precepts are guidelines, not concrete rules of moral longitude and latitude that one has to obey all of the time. The precepts are flexible. If there's one thing that Buddhism stresses, it's living wisely, avoiding doing something just because someone tells you to do it or because you've done it that way in the past. The Buddha encouraged us to think, examine, and question. This includes morality itself. Political views can often degenerate into a series of holier-than-thou arguments--"You're wrong because I'm right." Which is basically a way of saying that I'm right because my parents raised me a certain way and I grew up under such-and--such conditions, and you're wrong because you...didn't. Or because you don't agree with me.
Too often politics is reduced to a battle of egos.
I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, and the best advice I can come up with is to vote with compassion.
As corny as it may sound, whoever you vote for, whichever party you chose, I would hope that you vote for a candidate who is compassionate (as well as wise). Ask yourself, does _______ really have the People's best intentions in mind, or is s/he just trying to further his/her party's aims? Stir the pot? Exploit an opportunity?
Of late, I've noticed a lot of of angry politicians--do they have the best interests of humanity in mind, or are they just plain old angry?
I'm sorry to say, but I think there are a lot of candidates/politicians who couldn't pass this simple test.
So my suggestion is this: While you're in the voting booth, regardless of which party you belong to or which candidate you endorse, look deep inside and ask yourself why you're voting for this person instead of all the others. These are scary, turbulent times, and I think you would have to be a robot not to be emotionally draw into this political theater to some degree.
So close those curtains, peer deep inside yourself, past all the rhetoric and fear, and ask yourself, is this candidate the most compassionate? The most qualified?
Or do they just have my best interests in mind?
Let wisdom take it from there.
Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: laverrue.