Your Obedient Servant, or, The Sham of Civility

One of the songs in Hamilton that always gets a chuckle out of me is “Your Obedient Servant,” which happens late in Act Two. Hamilton and Burr, once friends and now simmering enemies, exchange a series of increasingly heated letters back and forth that culminate in the two agreeing to a duel. Based on real letters, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song has the two men getting more and more aggressive with each missive but closing out every letter with a return to civility – they sign as “your obedient servant,” and the music switches from a driving beat to chipper and polite strings. The disparity between the anger and the sign-offs gets me every time.

This is civility, and it’s bullshit. The two men, despite all their well-learned politesse, end up in a fatal shoot-out. They adhere to the rules of good taste, and yet one man still bleeds to death when it’s all said and done.

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Rose Tico’s Beautiful Wisdom

Rose Tico has the wisdom of the Buddha.

“That’s how we’ll win,” she tells Finn in The Last Jedi. “Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”

Those words echo the Buddha’s in The Dhammapada:

“Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.”

Eternal as in, it’s also true in a galaxy far, far away.

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Humanize Your Enemy

What is your problem with Nazis: their beliefs or their tactics? It seems to me that the answer should be “both,” that they use reprehensible tactics in service of horrifying ideologies. As decent people we should reject not just their beliefs but also their behavior.

I look at the response to the New York Times article about “the Nazi next door” and I’m troubled. Not that the article is criticized – all things are open to critique – but that it’s being criticized from the point of view that it’s wrong to humanize Nazis.

See, dehumanization is a Nazi tactic.
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The Impossible Beauty of Human Kindness

These have been bad, hard days so I want to share with you a story I listened to while taking a walk that is so full of the beauty of human kindness that it made me cry in the middle of a crowded street. This story is taken from Jack Kornfield, who tells it in his lecture series “Awakening Is Real.” He was told this story by a man who works with juvenile offenders – especially killers – in Baltimore.

A young man in Baltimore joined his local gang when he turned 15, and as part of his initiation he had to kill someone. He did it, he went out and killed another young man that he didn’t even know, a total stranger to him.

The cops caught the killer and he was brought to trial. Every day of the trial the dead boy’s mother sat in the gallery, watching. When the jury returned the guilty verdict the mother stood up and loudly said to her son’s murderer: “I am going to kill you.”

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