While the official response to the controversial Dalai Lama viral video from his office left people still scratching their heads, some of the world’s 6.7 million Tibetans are trying to offer a little more context to the proceedings.
After the controversial video, in which the Dalai Lama kisses a boy on the lips and tells him to “suck my tongue,” started going viral and led to worldwide outrage toward the spiritual leader, many Tibetans across the globe reacted in stunned anguish at what they saw as an extremely unfortunate case of a cultural gesture being lost in translation.
Some are using social media, the very medium that started the controversy, to now defend the Dalai Lama. Jigme Ugen, a second-generation refugee from Tibet now living in the U.S., explained in his own viral Youtube video that this interaction is an innocent game of affection played between kids and the elderly in Tibetan culture. Ugen suggests it is common practice for Tibetan grandfathers to ask their grandkids to kiss their forehead, touch their noses and kiss them. “Then [the grandfather] says that I’ve given you everything so the only thing left is for you to eat my tongue,” Ugen explains. “The child probably never gets the candy or money but gets a beautiful lesson about life, love and family.”
Another heavily viewed tweet, from the Tibet Rights Collective, further explains that the Tibetan phrase “Che Le Sa” roughly translates in English to “eat my tongue,” but the Dalai Lama’s imperfect English led to him mistakenly say “suck my tongue” instead. The tweet goes on to add that when public opinion is quick to form about an incident “without considering many aspects of context in any given situation, we are choosing to keep a significant degree of ignorance in our reasoning.”
Whether the incident was a case of cultural misinterpretation, inappropriate behavior, or something in between, as much context as possible is always best in the eyes of public opinion.
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