Stop the Palinsanity.

Via Michelle Margaret Fajkus
on Jan 9, 2011
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“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.” ~Marshall Rosenberg

Wouldn’t our lives be easier if Sarah Palin was single-handedly responsible for the atrocities in Arizona yesterday?

She was not. Obviously. Today, however, I have zero compassion for Palin or her ilk.

An innate idealist, I want to believe that bigotry and verbal and physical acts of violence by people (wherever they may fall on the sane/insane spectrum) against  people of a different skin color or sexual orientation or political stance is ever so gradually dying out. That humans in my generation and younger are more open-minded and less likely to detest, shoot, and murder black people or Hispanics or gays or liberal politicians than, say, in past eras.

Upon hearing news of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of the innocent bystanders on Saturday, January 8 in Arizona, my idealism was invaded by pessimism. Hatefulness in thought, speech and, ultimately, action, is all too alive and well. Foreign Policy magazine warns of 16 potential war zones in 2011, including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Columbia, Mexico and right here in my adopted country, Guatemala. And with the firing of those bullets on Saturday morning at that Tuscon Safeway, even the United States is apparently a political terror zone.

A year ago, I was oddly compelled to research and write this opinion piece in which I defined “Palinsanity” as a psychological conundrum that debilitates victims by turning Americans (left, right and center) into frothing citizens who utter incoherent claims about our country’s demise.

After immersing myself in Palinisms and reviewing footage and articles until I was red in the face, I slaved over the essay with help from my friends and editor. Then, to avoid succumbing to full-blown Palinsanity myself, I turned away. Clearly, as a liberal-hippie-yogini-vegetarian, I typically opt not to watch Fox. I haven’t seen her reality TV show. I removed her from my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Ignorance was bliss. Still, anyone could see that she wasn’t retreating but reloading and gaining fame and power all the time. Her every inane tweet generates publicity. (By the by, her Twitter and Facebook fan count has more than doubled in the past year and is nearing 3 million.) I did take a gander at her new book, America by Heart, in a Boston bookstore last month and laughed lightheartedly as I read its inside flap, which says preposterous things like, “graced with intimate memories, this remarkable book gives us a close-up view of an extraordinary woman who is not afraid to speak out and defend the American values in which she so deeply believes.”

The most irritating thing about her persona is her Fundamentalism: the narrow minded way she sticks to her boilerplate position on any issue. It riles me up because she then becomes an unattractive mirror for my own tendency to stick to MY beliefs, MY boilerplate position on issues like nonviolence and enlightened living. (I am a yogavangelist, after all.) So right there, with the admission of something I have in common with Sarah Palin, there is a tiny spark of compassion beginning to ignite.

I do not hate Sarah. Former Governor Palin is not the root of the problem, but she and her popularity are a symptom. (True, an obnoxious symptom, but still a symptom.) There are a plethora of complex, overlapping issues here. Where does free speech end and inciting violence begin? Why are gun laws so lax and how can they be quickly and effectively improved? What is so horrible about the health care bill? When will we be able to begin a civilized debate on immigration? How can we fix our very broken mental health care system and offer real therapy and healing to the mentally ill or unstable?

But to me, the biggest and scariest issue at hand is the continuing polarization of our country, our world, ourselves. The separation, the never ending Us-Versus-Them mentality, and the building of higher and higher fences between factions is reflected in the ever absurd 24-hour cable news media and blogosphere. People in America haven’t changed, the marketing and packaging of “news” has. The right wing seems frozen in some fantastic long-gone generation when our country was more dignified. Yet people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck (and some pundits on the left like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, to a certain extent) have made it cool to be extremely right (or left) wing, histrionic, staunchly defensive, and proudly offensive. As self-described “vitriol-spewing” member of the political media, Matt Taibbi, poignantly points out:

There’s plenty of power and money to be won by skillfully stimulating public anger against some or all of the rest, and there are few rewards for restraint.

In the media, the situation is even worse. You can make vast fortunes riling up mobs. And because it’s a fiercely competitive market, there’s an obvious and immediate benefit to using superheated rhetoric — it’s more entertaining, gains more attention, and definitely gets more viewers and listeners and, er, readers.

This terrible tragedy, like all terrible tragedies, brings to light (again) the irrefutable fact that We The People are ignorant. And just what is it that we are ignoring? As Pema Chödrön writes in The Places That Scare You, “Entrenched in the tunnel vision of our personal concerns, what we ignore is our kinship with others. One reason we train as warrior-bodhisattvas is to recognize our interconnectedness—to grow in understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves.”

We know this in theory and from personal experience. No matter our spiritual or religious beliefs or practices, in the face of a disturbing tragedy, it’s natural to experience reactions of disgust, despair and/or disdain directed toward some scapegoat. It gives us something we can point to and blame and then feel that we’ve accomplished something. But lashing out and hurting others hurts both us and them. When are we going to integrate this truth into practice? How will the events of history and of yesterday lead us to cure this ignorance, this apathy, this inaction? I, for one, am not ready to send metta (unconditional lovingkindness) to Ms. Palin, or Mr. Beck, or the shooter, Jared Loughner. (You can’t fake metta; it doesn’t work that way.) But one day I will be able to connect with the fact that they and all beings want what I want: happiness, health, safety and freedom. As long as I keep practicing vigilantly, maybe compassion will come sooner than later.


p.s. If you have the time and soul, take this pith advice on honoring the shooting victims through service. And, if you haven’t already, please sign the petition to Congress and TV networks to end the violent rhetoric, because “we must debate, not hate.”


About Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a Gemini yogini, writer, teacher and retreat leader who founded Yoga Freedom in 2002 in Austin, Texas. Her home since 2012 is Lake Atitlán, Guatemala where she lives in a tiny eco cabin with her Colombiano partner and their adorable daughter, dog and two gatos. Michelle has been writing this column for elephant journal since 2010 and has written some inspiring books, with more on the way. She leads yoga and mindfulness retreats and serves as the retreat managers for the stunningly beautiful Villa Sumaya on majestic Lago Atitlan. Her lineage is the very esoteric Yoga Schmoga, which incorporates hatha yoga asana, dharma (Buddhist) teachings, pranayama (breath work), yin yoga, mindfulness practices and meditation. Join Michelle on retreat in Guatemala!


15 Responses to “Stop the Palinsanity.”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by michelle, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Stop the Palinsanity. […]

  2. Ngakpa Jigme says:

    Dear Ms. Fajkus – The liberal left has likely failed to notice (perhaps in its idealism?) that the extreme right does not play fair. In fact, I've read numerous interviews with their strategists where they bulge with pride… and snicker at the "honesty" and "balanced tactics" of the liberal politicians and their managers. "What's the matter with them?" they sneer, "Don't they want to WIN."
    More importantly (since lying to get ahead is admittedly par for their course) one should not so much look at their words, which are bad enough, but yes… as you say… look at the outcome. There are those who REJOICE at these outcomes – who have seethed at a "nigger in the White House" and growl that "pinkos take away everything we've earned, and give it away to welfare bums, illegals, drug addicts and unwed mothers." The demographic at Obama's election was sharply 50-50… leaving 50% who one way or another felt betrayed, over-whelmed and "WHAT is the world coming to?"
    I wrote in 2008 "This is NOT the Night Before Krystallnacht!" – – and after Palin's performance in Henderson, NV there was no question she'd have been secretly pleased if a gang of local skinheads had lynched a few "different" folks that very evening. She and McCain both let hecklers in their audiences say the unspeakable hatreds, without contradiction. Aljazeera's white reporter interviewed crowds coming out of one of Palin's in-person rallies in Ohio, and without much variation they were spouting about "if she doesn't win we're going to have that negra in Washington with all his terrorist friends, and NObody in this country is going to be safe!"
    So you hit it on the head. But perhaps we should also be very much in your model – Active Community Service across all lines (especially in times of hardship) is the best way to combat fear and the myth of separation.
    In dharma…

  3. yogafreedomfoundation says:

    Dear Ngakpa, Thank you for these thoughtful comments. I remember the height of the 2008 election when Palin stood silent and failed to denounce the hateful comments being spewed by supporters at her rallies. People in the media tried to call her out on it then, but clearly she ignored them. Now her messages almost invariably contain metaphors related to war, fighting, and hunting. I'm sure lots of people's initial reaction is to fight back, to seek vengeance. But if we can just take a breath and some time to process things, compassion and action through intelligent debate and community service is the only sane answer. Namaste, Michelle

  4. […] Read the rest on Elephant Journal. […]

  5. tamingauthor says:

    Wow. How refreshing to find ignorant hate speech on Elephant. Michelle, you knock it out of the park with thinly disguised hatred and stunningly obvious ignorance.

    Perhaps you need to spend some time away from standing on your head and hit the books and the pavement. You might want to start by visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to listen to the interviews with survivors that I conducted. They are in the archives.

    Then you can dig deeper into the history of National Socialism. And then move on to Marxism and the Stalin years and the Soviet Empire. Keep on trucking to learn about Mao. Then revisit Castro and the wonderful murderer Che, whose poster you so cutely crib. Ponder the wonderful life they gave so many.

    Then research George Soros and what he did during the war. And then follow the money trail … do not weary, but follow that money trail all the way out to the hundreds of organizations promoting hate and division in our nation.

    Then, with a new appreciation of history, and contemporary Marxist radicalism, rethink your news sources and go stand in different shoes for awhile. Visit the news sources that you now so "wisely" ignore. Who knows, maybe you have been hoodwinked and conned. It is really nasty to end up in a Gulag for which you donated moral and financial support.

    Let us drop the hatred and attack ignorance. Maybe try to understand Patanjali, and Ghandi, and King, and Jesus. and the Buddha Shakyamuni, and our Founding Fathers and those who toiled and shed blood for liberty and freedom and the opportunity for us to seek enlightenment and a better world for all.

    Maybe pull your head out of the media toilet of bought-and-paid-for MSNBC ($40 billion from Fed to GE) and MoveOn (millions from whack job Soros) and MediaMatters (more millions from Soros). Instead read Chogyam Trungpa and realize you got no beef with Sarah. Chill.

  6. tamingauthor says:

    Here's all the other people we can blame if we are feeling really ignorant…

  7. egoschild says:

    Wow, again. speaking of thinly disguised hatred and stunningly obvious ignorance, tamingtheauthor, there is no question where you stand on the freedom that has been afforded to us, as citizens of a few free nations, to have our own opinions… Wait – you appear to think that Michelle is not entitled to her beliefs at all.

    Perhaps it should be noted that delving deeper than the awesome socialist failures that you bring to light, there are other communal living situations that clearly do work – on a small scale, as it was intended to be. Referring back to the works Acquinas, Locke, Russeau, HOBBES (read your Leviathan!) and other authors of the beginnings of governance and political thought, not to mention the evolution of the very freedoms that allow Michelle to write these beautiful blogs, you to act as if you have some supreme right to undercut the message that is being spread – that there are very real dangers in playing the fear card as a politician.

    "We depend on our leaders to inspire our better angels, not encourage our basest fears." – Anonymous –

    Tamingtheauthor, while you are suggesting that others pull their heads out of the "media toilet", perhaps you should consider using your deft language skills to inspire other readers towards a brighter future where we uplift one another rather than demoralize.

    I commend Michelle on having the courage to continue to engage with readers, whether or not all who read her writings, her thoughts and beliefs, agree or choose to act in noble ways.

  8. egoschild says:

    Very nice revision. I liked the first one too. I think it's great that you took some of your feedback (ahem, tamingtheauthor, do you feel really really good about yourself now?) and used it constructively. You are kind of my hero these days, Michelle.

  9. I found your site website on the internet as well as examine a few of your early articles. Continue to keep up the excellent operate. I simply extra up your RSS feed to my MSN News Readers. Seeking toward reading much more of your stuff later on!…

  10. yoga freedom says:

    Liz, I just now read this. Thank you so much! I was just feeling down in the dumps and reading your comment really lifted my spirits. You are kind of MY hero, and I can't wait to see you in June! Love!

  11. yoga freedom says:

    Thank you for the kind comment! Namaste, Michelle

  12. dan says:

    Bigotries and even violence are I think dying out, or at least waining, but their systemic and systematic use over millennia will take a while to heal. And sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. Tea Party people are almost all old and white, and a natural reaction to the effect of three decades of "conservative" "leadership" (and of course that includes Clinton/Obama).

  13. Helga says:

    So what on earth did all these political figures presume would probably come to pass to the actual credit scores when they behave similar to poker players with our country’s economy? they’ve behaved the same as spoiled babies and really should be relieved they are not swinging from lampposts due to their disgraceful conduct.