The NaBloPoMo prompt for today is “If you were President of the United States, what would be your first act in office?” At first I wasn’t going to write about it, because I couldn’t even imagine it. Mostly because I don’t understand why anyone would want to be in politics or government, let alone President. It seems to me like the sort of thing you’d be interested in because you imagine it would put you in a position with the power to change things, but that the reality of it would be something else entirely–kind of like how I got into education because I imagined I could make people’s lives better, but instead I’ve encountered a system every bit as confused and resistant to change as anywhere else.
Then I thought a little more, and realized my answer. If I were President of the United States, my first act would be to pledge that my term in office would be guided by the principle of compassion. In order for people to clearly understand what that meant, I could present the Charter for Compassion, and make it clear that this would be the primary focus of the next four years, every decision that needed to be made, every interaction, and that I would expect everyone else to abide by the same ethic. I would insist that as a culture we make a shift from competition to compassion. Then I’d ask for a moment of silence, invite people to use it to pray or meditate or contemplate compassion or simply be quiet and still, and then we’d break for cookies.
This is why, kind and gentle reader, I will never be President.
The Charter for Compassion
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.