- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

The Dalai Lama told thousands gathered at the MCI Center on Sunday that compassion, a virtue stressed by every religion, was the key to world peace.

“We must make every effort on a grass-roots level. Then there’s hope for change,” the Dalai Lama said at the event, which was part of his 10-day trip to Washington.

Amen. Nice try.

Perhaps the 70-year-old exiled Buddhist leader ought to travel south along Interstate 95 and carry his compassionate conversation to the Northern Neck of Virginia, where handshakes after football games have been banned to prevent student fighting.

Or, he might aim his “turn the other cheek” message north on the same interstate, where Maryland politicians already are hurling black-and-white cookies in a smelly food fight for the open U.S. Senate seat.

Obviously, we can’t all get along. Check out the crusty D.C. Council as its members practice to play musical chairs for each other’s seat.

Besides tolerance for religious freedom, the Dalai Lama spoke on the need to practice religion in daily life and to combat internal hatred and anger.

At the Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for Technical Arts last week, he donated $10,000 and also encouraged students to get involved in education, be self-confident and be kind.

Kind? Polite? Civil? Manners? Yield the right of way on any street or highway in the Washington region and you’ll not only get run over on the left side, someone on the right is bound to take a swipe at you, too.

Forget the ideals of sportsmanship — honesty, decency, excellence and support, if not tolerance. Even the misnomer of “fighting fair” rings foul today. Does a simple handshake have to lead to combat? Does throwing your hat in the campaign ring have to lead to bloodthirsty, duel-to-the-death warfare?

At least the Dalai Lama refuses to acquiesce to the descending social disorder. Here the adults, who are supposed to be role models for children, should pay closer attention and heed his altruistic words.

If the men and women in Maryland expect the children of the Free State to behave with some decorum, especially in social settings such as school, they must act with some modicum of decorum. How do you teach children to be tolerant of the differences of others, when you are being intolerant?

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who seeks to become the Republican senator from Maryland, may not be the favored son of state Democrats, black or white, primarily for his conservative stance on most social issues.

However, there is a kinder, gentler and more mature way to express any legitimate disagreements with a man’s political ideology, without attacking the man for his racial and religious makeup. And what mixed message do we send our children when we ban them from extending good will to one another? At Essex, Lancaster, Northumberland, Rappahannock and Washington & Lee high schools, principals decided to continue the ban on the traditional after-game good sportsmanship handshake, obstensibly to prevent game fights between district rivals.

In every instance, in every life, there are winners and losers. The mark of a good man or woman is how they handle their losses as well as their wins.

To gloat about good fortune is just as bad as fighting about failure.

Children don’t come into the world knowing right from wrong. They must be taught.

The school administrators in rural Virginia do a serious disservice to their students by implementing a ban on the traditional handshake after Friday night football games. Their misguided attitude of the “if we can’t beat them, join them” school is a sure abdication of their most important role — to teach children to interact well with one another.

Isn’t so-called “socialization” one of the premier benefits of schooling? Where else can children learn teamwork or the virtue of recognizing when everyone has given their best and played a “good game,” win or lose?

Larry Schumaker, principal of Northumberland High School in Heathsville, Va., is wrong when he said, “We’re trying to prevent situations from occurring before they occur.”

If students are going to fight, they’re going to fight regardless of whether they shake each other’s hands or not. And, If fighting has gotten so out of hand after games that they need to ban a handshake, then maybe they need to cancel the games.

Parents should not sit idly by on the sidelines and allow this handshake ban to continue. The need for schools to make such an embarrassing decision is also a poor reflection on their parenting abilities.

Students also should put peer pressure on the athletes and offenders, who reflect poorly on their student body. Such a silly measure of last resort should not have to be established where cooler heads should prevail.

If children aren’t taught compassion and kindness at the grass-roots level of a high school football field, then I guess we can’t expect better behavior if they live long enough to be adults on the campaign trial.

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