Those of us fortunate enough to live in the beautiful island paradise of Sri Lanka are living in interesting times!
With apologies to Charles Dickens (for mangling his famous paragraph in the classic, A Tale of Two Cities), the following can be said about this period in Sri Lanka:
"It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, is is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of light, it is the season of darkness, it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair, we have everything before us, we are all going direct to heaven, we are all going direct the other way..."
Yes, we who are so blessed to live in paradise are currently experiencing a strange kind of bliss - the bliss of moving from a state of dodging mud being flung around in the name of "unbelievable change" and a "suba anagathayak" (loosely translated as "super future"), to a state of daily "unbelievable excitement" coupled with "super disbelief"!!!
On one end, we have a human being and current president who is being caricatured as a Raja (king) and on the other end of the current political spectrum, we have another human being and war hero who is being caricatured as a potential (unsuccessful) savior.
So what - you may ask?
Well, everyone seems to have forgotten that they are both mere mortals susceptible to all the foibles that mere mortals tend to display. When they do something good, they are praised to high heaven. When they do something stupid, they are hellishly ridiculed. To top it all, their so-called loyalists strut around assuming that they can brand other citizens of Sri Lanka as patriots or racists or whatever, much akin to the tendencies that junior George Bush and his loyalists displayed in categorizing other countries as rogue nations.
All this prolific labeling is entirely based on mere perceptions - a sad situation - especially in a country purported to be the cradle of Buddhism. Similar to pretty much all other religions, Buddhism profoundly extols upon us to remember that what we see, hear etc., is not reality. No indeed, reality is deep within, and all these religions urge us to first look within ourselves and find ourselves before evaluating (and trying to brand & label) others...
Politicians - hark! Or maybe, we should say 'hark back'.
Example: Whenever any non-Sri Lankan says something that could be perceived to be prejudicial or accusatory, instead of evaluating what is said with an open mind, most of our leaders are very quick to label them as international conspirators.
What is going on? Have we completely lost our ability to judge right from wrong? What has happened to our Sri Lankan values and principles? Where is our integrity?
Therefore: What if some other country or some non-Sri Lankan says we are violating human rights?
Shouldn't our reaction be to honestly assess whether we have indeed committed violations instead of getting all hot under the collar, turning defensive and then accusing that particular country of committing worse violations thereby devaluing their right to remind us of our human rights!
What really matters? Isn't it in truly looking within and trying to find out if something went wrong - regardless of whatever actions that may have precipitated our so-called errors? Yes, Sri Lankans suffered immensely due to terrorism. But does that give us a special badge of righteousness to inflict pain on others or react with rudeness - however misguided they may have been? Sometimes, in the height of war, crimes are committed. Should we not accept this and vow to correct ourselves instead of flailing out wildly at anyone or any country that happens to allude to this possibility?
Will I be branded as a traitor for just documenting these thoughts that run through my mind? Will you have thoughts similar to, "what does she know?" or "she is out of touch with real Sri Lanka" or "she is a 'Colombian' (a local euphemism for people who live in the capital city of Colombo and its suburbs)" or "she has not suffered in a terrorist bomb" or "she did not fight in the war" as you read through this? Thus, are you consciously or unconsciously invalidating my viewpoint without actually considering it carefully? Thereby, are you judging the messenger instead of the message?
Maybe or maybe not...Your personal answer and its implication is actually the entire point!
Back to a Dickension quote as further food for thought:
"Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind."
Is this the situation in Sri Lanka with a vociferous and powerful few (both in the government and in the opposition) completely drowning out the beautiful reasonableness that permeates the souls of most Sri Lankans?
Yet there is hope, because Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka have proven to be so charmingly resilient and determined against all odds. I would like to imagine as follows - once again in the words of Dickens:
"I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out."
So, there is hope! I hope!