I've been watching this political circus unfold for the past several months, first in good-natured amusement and now in trepidation and revulsion. During this time, I've heard a theme passed from nominee camps that certain candidates, "Tell it like it is."
For the past six years, I've heard this praise heaped upon Chris Christie, the governor of my home state, New Jersey. "Say what you want about him," a Christie supporter will quip, "but he says it like it is."
No, I want to argue, he doesn't. Neither do any other presidential frontrunners receiving those same accolades. These demagogues don't say it like it is; they say it the way that angry people want to hear it. They target a subsection of the population and blame them for all of our societal woes--teachers, unions, immigrants, Muslims, feminists. Essentially, anyone they can get away with blaming.
It's only natural to praise someone for echoing our own deeply held beliefs, and then confuse those views as being correct, "the way things are."
Buddhism cautions us about holding views too closely. All views are just that--views, and by definition, limited. The moment we try to express reality in words, package it inside of concepts, is when we enter the realm of views. Now there's nothing wrong with views; we all have them.
The trick is not to get stuck in them by believing that they are real. That's where the praise of these jingoistic provocateurs intersects with Buddhism. These men are not saying it like it is because there is no way to say it like it is.
Words can only express views, and all views--being inevitably conceptual--are limited. The goal isn't to transcend all views, for I don't think that's possible; but rather, to see that views are never ultimate.
Be cautious of aggrandizing any view, especially those we happen to believe in. Be equally cautious of anyone who claims to be "telling it like it is," for more than likely they're selling something. And in this presidential race, the common product being pitched is anger and someone to blame.