Category Archives: Political

Buddhist Nun in New York refuses plea deal

Thanks to Arun for bringing this to attention.

Recently Ven. Hong Yuan (Baojing Li), a Buddhist Nun from Atlanta traveled to New York in hope of gathering enough donations to help support her home temple which had burned down. She stood on the street and handed out malas to people as they dropped donations in a tin can. She was arrested and detained without an interpreter, and could face a hefty fine and even jail time for being an unlicensed vendor. This is incredibly ridiculous and prejudice being displayed here is more than obvious. As Li’s lawyer has said “If this was a Catholic nun in a habit giving out rosary beads, I can’t imagine a police officer in the City of New York arresting her.”

Ven. Hong Yuan has refused a plea deal that would have her plead guilty to disorderly conduct and sentence her to 1 day of community service. So it is really up to the District Attorney at this point to realize how unjust this case really is. How can you help?

Well, the DA’s office has a Facebook account which I’m sure would welcome your comments…

And for those of you on Twitter, the DA’s office has an account: @manhattanDA

Hopefully this can be resolved soon and Ven. Hong Yuan can find her way back home to rebuild her temple once her work is complete in New York.

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Political

Justice?

Last night as I was working on homework, I saw my twitter stream go nuts. Within less than 30 second there were 45 new tweets (this is a lot for my stream, I’m only following like 380 people). Reports were coming in that Osama Bin Laden had been caught or killed. No, definitely killed. US has his body. Obama to give conference soon…Then Obama gave his speech, confirming that yes, we had finally caught the man behind the USS Cole and 9/11 (and many other attacks).

During his speech, Obama made the statement “Justice has been done”.

“Justice”? Revenge? Yes. Justice? Hardly. I don’t see how this is justice. First, how is there any justice found in death? For a few reasons I am against the death penalty, but mainly because I don’t see how it is a punishment. What punishment is found in death? I can find none. Remember when we found Saddam? And he looked like this:

 

He basically became a laughing-stock. Look at him! We showed the world that this despot had no power left, and had been reduced to hiding out *literally* in a hole in the ground. He was then tried and sentenced to death in front of the whole world. This is what we do with even the most vile and lowly among us here in America. We give them a trial. But with Bin Laden, that ending never had a chance to happen. Instead, he went down in a blaze of glory, fighting his enemies to the bitter end. A martyr. Rather than demonstrate our own ideals of democratic justice, we ended up just killing the man. The SEALS obviously did their jobs, and returned fire like they should have, I’m not questioning their decisions, nor Obama’s. But I think somehow an opportunity was missed. We fed into the shoot-first-ask-later stereotype we’re associated with globally. Coupled with Bin Laden’s heroic death, our actions may just end up giving our enemies something new to fight for, one more thing to hate America over.

Back to the point of justice, how does this one death provide justice for all the lives he helped to destroy? How does it right the wrongs that led up to the attacks on the USS Cole and 9/11?  How does it right all of the wrongs carried out since? I don’t think it does. I think Osama Bin Laden was a real piece of shit. And there isn’t any doubt that the world is a bit better off today now that he isn’t in it. But I can’t find a shred of justice in his death. Maybe peace and comfort to some, and vengeance for others. But justice is sorely lacking in this situation.

I believe that rather than celebrating this death, we should attempt to examine the situation at hand on a little more of a global scale, checking our nationalism at the door. Let’s acknowledge that the world is just a little less evil than it was the day before Bin Laden was taken from it. But let’s also acknowledge the fact that the systems in place that created Bin Laden are still present today, and that our country still faces threats to our liberty both foreign and domestic. Maybe we can use this opportunity to examine how it is that Bin Laden came out as the winner in this situation.

Before I end, let me be clear. It’s not that I’m upset about this happening. I’m not. Like I said, the guy was a colossal piece of shit, a total waste of existence. I’m just not up for celebrating death, especially when it is being used as some kind of national rallying cry. I think I’ll save my celebrations for when we end the Patriot Act and bring our troops home. Then you might see me waving a flag in the streets.

Cheers.

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Filed under Political

Time to make progress

 

via Treehugger

This is a picture of a dead bird. This bird died because it ate all of that plastic you see there. Plastic that you and I threw away, and ended up in the ocean, or washed up on the shore. This bird doesn’t know any better, because evolution in our feathered friends hasn’t had time to adjust to the industrial revolution. Evolution has also failed to equip this bird with the ability to digest any of this plastic, so it just sits inside the bird, and the bird will either starve or hemorrhage or choke to death.

 

These are the stomach contents from a dead sea turtle. Again, a ton of fucking plastic. Chances are, the turtle found the plastic here:

This is a small part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of floating plastic and other garbage that is twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is where my trash ends up. This is where your trash ends up. We’ve made this garbage patch.

This is another dead fucking bird. It died due to the oil that spilled in the Gulf of Mexico last year from the BP spill. That oil was being pumped for you and for me. We were going to use it to get to work, heat our homes, make our blue jeans, and to create a bunch of plastic, the same type of plastic the bird and the turtle died from.

This is one of the ways in which we source the oil that killed the bird and produced the plastic that created the trash that killed the other bird and that fucking turtle whose stomach contents are pictured above. We just fucking take it from other people. We make up all kinds of excuses for war and our international relationships and dealings, but it so much of it comes down to securing our unlimited access to oil and the profis that oil will afford a select few.

 

This is natural gas, and it is what some people are proposing we use to help get us off of oil. This is a picture of someone lighting their god damned drinking water on fire, because of the practice of hydraulic fracking for natural gas. Fracking allows natural gas to leak into the wells and aquifers that people use for drinking water, agriculture, and farming. Then the water is pretty much ruined forever. Though this is a pretty kick ass party trick. If you’re throwing a ” I can’t drink my fucking water any more” party, that is.

Meanwhile, while we’re burning all these fossil fuels, we’re making the Earth warmer. “Isn’t that a good thing?’ a total idiot might ask? No, it isn’t. One of the effects it is having is on the forests in British Colombia. “Who cares, because it’s only Canada?” you might ask? Well, that’s also something a complete idiot would ask. All those trees in the picture above aren’t supposed to be that color. They are brown and red because they are infested with bark beetles. Those bark beetles are experiencing warmer, shorter winters thanks to global warming, and that means that their offspring aren’t dying off during due to frigid temperatures, and their population is exploding. These trees are part of a system that forms an enormous carbon sink. But because they are dying, that carbon can’t be stored there. Which creates more warming. And more warming will cause more severe weather. So you’ll probably want to turn up the heater a bit more in the winter depending on where you live. And you’ll want to turn up the A/C a bit more in the summer. And that’ll require a bit more energy, which will end up using more oil.

Please, please do at least one thing today to change this. And then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that…

One thing you might even do is write to your representative. Let them know that the EPA needs to be able to regulate greenhouse gases, including CO2. While you’re at it, let them know that you don’t want mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other particulates in the air you breathe.

Just do something, stick with it, and make progress. We need it.

“…progress,
man’s distinctive mark alone,
Not God’s, and not the beast’s;
God is, they are,
Man partly is,
and wholly hopes to be”                     ~ Robert Browning Hamilton
 
 
Cheers.

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Filed under Environment, Political

The steeper bill to pay

The bill that House Republicans are proposing that will set the budget through the end of the fiscal year (Sept ’11) “loads up every piece of the far-right social agenda in one bill, from restricting a woman’s right to choose to preventing government from protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.” – quote from as Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. in Huff Post today. While I find many of the proposals distasteful, it is the ones concerning the environment that I would like to draw your attention to. As some of you reading this know, I’m currently in school, pursuing a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning. These issues are important to me, and often I’m shocked that there is so little regard paid to them.

I found a list of the environmental riders on the budget bill at the Sietch Blog. You can read them here, and there is a pdf version here. My thanks to the writers there for posting this. I’ll list just a couple of the ones that I found particularly appalling:

Section 1746: Taking Away EPA’s Authority to Enforce the Clean Air Act – states that zero funds may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce or promulgate any regulation related to the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding climate change. This far reaching legislation prevents EPA from regulating carbon pollution and protecting Americans from the impacts of climate change. This section stops EPA from requiring new power plants, oil refineries, and other major new sources of carbon pollution to begin reducing their carbon emissions. It also prevents EPA from setting minimum federal standards for power plants and oil refineries, and severely interferes with EPA’s permitting process for new or expanded facilities. In addition, this section prevents the public from learning how much carbon pollution is actually being emitted by the largest polluters. This legislation ties EPA’s hands and allows carbon pollution to continue or even increase unabated – endangering public health, food and water supplies, wildlife habitat, species, forests and coastlines throughout our nation.

Section 1747: Blocking EPA Efforts to Clarify the Scope of the Clean Water Act – halts the EPA’s ongoing effort to make clear which waters remain protected by the Clean Water Act in the wake of confusing court decisions and subsequent Bush administration policy. This provision leaves millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams without clear Clean Water Act protection. These streams provide at least part of the drinking water for 117 million Americans. It jeopardizes EPA’s ability to enforce the law against oil spills and waste dumping in these waters.

 Section 4008: Limiting Enforcement of the Cement Kiln Air Toxics Standard – EPA is prohibited from using any funds to implement or enforce a health standard to control mercury and other pollutants from cement plants. Cement plants are the third leading source of man-made mercury emissions and have evaded controls prescribed under the Clean Air Act for over 13 years. EPA finalized these life-saving standards in September 2010 with a compliance deadline of September 2014. These overdue standards will save 2,500 lives, prevent 1,000 heart attacks, and reduce 130,000 missed days of school and work each year, according to EPA estimates. EPA also projects that this rule would save $18 billion in health costs just from reductions of fine particulate matter. Defunding implementation of this critical reduction of mercury, lead, particulate matter and other hazardous pollutants will not remove any regulatory obligations. In fact, this amendment deprives states and cement manufacturers from getting technical assistance and support in developing compliance plans. Barring EPA from providing critical guidance for this protective health standard puts the public at risk and leaves industry without critical compliance input.

 Section 4015: Blocking EPA from Regulating Emissions from Stationary Sources – issues a “stop-work” order to the EPA for any regulation of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, or perfluorocarbons from stationary sources for any reason, including their impacts on ozone, climate change, or any other public health threat. The broad impacts of this amendment, therefore, include blocking work underway to address dangerous carbon dioxide pollution; a de facto construction ban on power plants and factories; interference with the

Renewable Fuel Standard; preventing EPA from implementing a three-year study of biomass greenhouse gas emissions; interference with the EPA’s acid rain program; preventing enforcement of rules covering emissions of HFCs and perfluorocarbons from refrigeration and other equipment.

This stop-work order would accomplish nothing other than to ensure that more dangerous pollution is dumped into the air and that U.S. companies fall behind in the global competition for clean energy markets.

The rest of the list is just as disgusting. Everything from defunding NOAA to gutting funding for important studies and our involvement in the IPCC. Many of these measures will not only create conditions of unparalleled environmental destruction, but cost thousands of jobs, and directly (and indirectly) impact the health of tens of thousands (or more), and the potential to contaminate the drinking water of hundreds of millions.

 

This is all being done in the name of controlling the deficit. But I doubt that the motivation behind such actions is really just fiscal responsibility. For whatever reason, it has become the party line of the Republicans that any government proposals that are aimed at benefiting the environment are somehow inherently evil. While I don’t doubt that this meme was started in the interests of businesses not wanting to spend a few extra bucks complying with environmental standards that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, I believe this new round of cuts is born out of something else entirely. It’s almost as if the new partly line is simply “fuck the liberals, let’s pass reactionary legislation that will drum up hysteria and unite our base”. They’re even bringing back styrofoam into the congressional lunchroom. Yeah, styrofoam, that substance that has been banned in several cities and is toxic throughout its entire millennial life span. Oh, and there is that state rep in Montana that is introducing legislation that would declare global warming beneficial to the welfare and and business climate of his state. The Republicans are basically taking their ideological positions to the extreme, in an effort to gut government of any type of power to protect its citizens from the dangers that industry can impose upon us.

Unfortunately, Republicans are living in the delusion of “now”. All of their proposed cuts to environmental spending are looking at the short-term deficit impact. None of these cuts address the long-term economic impact (hint: it isn’t good) nor do they address the long-term health-effects, or the long-term environmental impacts (which will impact the other two). Republicans love talking about how we can’t pass the deficit bill on to our children and grandchildren, but when we craft policies that demonstrate a total disregard for the environment, we leave them with a much steeper bill to pay.

Some like to claim that the green/lib crowd is trying to scare people with doomsday-type scenarios about climate change and other environmental issues. But the facts remain:

We are running out of fresh water

We are affecting global climate change, and the Earth is getting hotter

We are running out of arable land

We are dumping hazardous chemicals into the land, air and water that are screwing with our health and depleting the amazing amount of biodiversity found on this wonderful planet of ours.

These facts should be of grave concern to everyone, regardless of political persuasion. But they aren’t. Because in the culture of capitalism we currently find ourselves in, there are those that value the future balance sheets of our children’s bank accounts more than we do their health and livelihoods.

That’s all for now. Cheers.

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Filed under Environment, Political

Thay in Vancouver, floods in Sri Lanka and other updates

I was very much considering shutting down this blog, but thanks to some encouraging words, I’ve decided to keep it up for now. With school, work, and family, I have very, very little time to post, or even think about posting here anymore, so posting will just be more infrequent than usual. I’ve found I have less and less time to spend on the internets as well. I’ve moved all the blogs I used to “follow” on Google’s Blogger into just an RSS reader to simplify things. I also deleted about 2/3 of my blog subscriptions. I simply don’t have the time to keep up with many of them anymore.

From time to time, I’ll do a search on Buddhist news, and I came up with some rather random things today, and thought I’d share:

Apparently, there are Maoist spies pretending to be monks in Bodhgaya, supposedly to try to destroy the temple from within or something. An interesting tidbit in how politics, religion, and power grabs.

Thich Nhat Hanh will be just a couple of hours North of me in Vancouver, leading a 5-day retreat. I rarely here of prominent teachers coming to Seattle (which I find odd, or maybe I’m just waaay out of the loop) and this made me wonder if someone like Thay or even Ponlop would ever come to my school, Everett Community College. Probably not!

There was a story in the Canadian Press about all those animals having to be put down in South Korea. Apparently there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and 1.9 million animals are being put down. What an enormous amount of devastation. And we can almost certainly conclude that the root cause of this all was our treatment of these animals, and the living conditions we forced them into. Anyway, the Buddhist link was that there were hundreds of monks and lay people there offering prayers and flowers for the departed. I wonder if anyone here in the US would show up and demonstrate that type of compassion if the same thing were to happen in Oklahoma?

Apparently, there ARE Buddhists in Mississippi

(’nuff said)

And finally,

Recently there were some absolutely terrible floods in Sri Lanka. From the UN News Center:

In eastern and central Sri Lanka, the flooding – which reached an almost 100 year high – has driven more than 360,000 people from their homes, killed 43 people, totally destroyed some 6,000 homes and 23,000 others partially. People are now returning to their homes, but 10,000 people still remain displaced in temporary relocation centres.

Agricultural production is the main source of livelihood in the affected regions and this season’s rice harvest is now severely damaged, leading to increased food insecurity.

 

From the news I’ve gathered, the already stressed country (they were hit hard by the 2004 tsunami and only recently were able to end a decades long civil war) is now just about completely broke. No doubt they will seek aid from foreign governments, and no doubt the World Bank will be there to loan them money, and if you think that’s a good thing, take a look at Haiti. I wonder if we will ever as a people place more worth in the quality of life for our fellow humans than we do the markets that keep them in poverty.

Okay, back to work.

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Political

There were 19 victims in Arizona

 

I really don’t have much time to post lately, and I have thoughts of closing the blog down for good as I really don’t see myself being able to make time to commit to posting. More on that some other time perhaps.

I wanted to post today just a thought or two on the Arizona shooting that took place on Saturday. I’m sure by now you’ve heard the whole story, so I’ll spare going into any details here.

My only thoughts are this: 19 people’s lives were directly and permanently altered on Saturday. The shooter brought lots of ammo with him. While his main target certainly seemed to be Congresswoman Giffords, there were 19 others that were shot, 6 of which died.

Federal judge John Roll, 63, left behind 3 sons, a wife, and 5 grandchildren.

30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, a Gifford’s staffer who was engaged and had a wedding date set for 2012.

Phyllis Schneck, 79 leaves behind 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild.

Dorwan Stoddard 76 – this is from Huff Post: “When the shooting started Saturday, he dove to the ground, covering his wife Mavy, who was shot in the leg three times. The couple had been grade school sweethearts growing up in Tucson. After their respective spouses died, they independently moved back to retire, became reacquainted and fell in love all over again. Mavy Stoddard talked to her husband, who was shot in the head, for 10 minutes while he breathed heavily. Then he stopped breathing. He had two sons from his first marriage, and Mavy has three daughters.

Dorothy Morris, 76 whose husband was shot in the rampage, but is in the hospital also left behind a few daughters (I’ve seen 2 and 3, so don’t know for sure).

And then, what to me is the most tragic result of this mad man’s terror, Christina Taylor Green, only 9 years old. Apparently she had just been elected to Student Council and had an interest in politics, which is why she was at that Safeway to meet Congresswoman Giffords. She apparently wanted to have a career where she would be of service to others (I think I wanted to be a pilot at that age….). She enjoyed athletics. She leaves behind an 11-year-old brother. She leaves behind parents, and grandparents.

It isn’t too hard to read about the people the elderly victims leave behind. It’s generally expected that parents and grandparents outlive their offspring. It is tragic and sad, yes. And I certainly don’t want to value one life above another here.

But she was only 9 years old.

She was only 9 years old.

I understand the outrage pouring out over this incident. I just don’t understand how the conversation was so quickly turned into a left vs. right ideological battle. Within hours of the massacre people were trying to figure out who was to blame. We heard from pundits about other pundits and about that half-term quitter governor from Alaska, but we didn’t hear about Christina, and her story (other than the little I’ve shared here). We didn’t hear about her aunts and uncles and friends from school and 9 year old team mates that now have to deal with the fact that their loved one isn’t coming back.

It isn’t that I don’t agree with some of the political statements being made out there. Some of them, I do. And I do so adamantly. But their bodies weren’t even cold and all we could hear about was some redneck’s map and what Rush Limbaugh had to say and what books were on the shooter’s MySpace book list.

I remember when Kayla Rolland was shot. It was in my community. My mother worked with a close friend of the family (or Aunt of Kayla’s or something….) and I remember it vividly. Shock. Terror. Unimaginable sadness. A 6-year-old shot another 6-year-old. And I remember that very day, people carrying signs in favor of the 2nd amendment on some busy cross streets in my hometown of Saginaw, MI. Yes, we have freedom of speech in this country. I respect that. But just because you have the right to do/say something, doesn’t always mean it’s the right thing to do.

I also remember my teachers waiting a week or so before we started talking about the greater themes that revolved around the shooting like gun rights, poverty, drugs, homelessness and other broader social issues that contributed to the tragedy.

Already the 6 victims that were killed and the others that were wounded are being forgot. They’re being pushed down in the headlines in favor of partisan rhetoric, blame games, conversations on society’s role in all this and yadda yadda yadda. It’s not that I don’t think some of those points are important or valid. I do. My fear is that this intense personal tragedy will just get churned into fodder for the left vs. right meme machine. In 5 years most of us will probably remember that Congresswoman Giffords was shot, and that there were others shot that day too (I bet we’ll forget how many). Some of us will remember Christina, but I bet it will be the minority. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you knew who Kayla Rolland was reading that first sentence, without having to click on the link. It was one of the most tragic killings this country has ever seen, and I don’t know that anyone outside of Flint (and Mid-Michigan) still thinks about it.

Can we try holding off on the politicizing for just a few days? Maybe direct our efforts toward compassion for the victims and their families, even for just a few days? Is the “noble discussion” about whose fault it is and what role everyone plays in it that urgent that it can’t wait a few days? Maybe if we shine the spotlight on the victims for a bit longer, we won’t forget quite so soon this time.

I’ll leave it to others to cry outrage!

Right now, all I can come up with is tragedy!

  

Cheers.

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Filed under Parenting, Political

A man of many words

Yesterday, something quite amazing happened. At around noon I was taking a quick break from my spreadsheets and checking out the day’s headlines when I saw somewhere that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was filibustering in the Senate. I went to CSPAN’s website and listened live for the next 4 hours. It’s actually with some sadness that I call this “amazing”. Because what happened shouldn’t be considered amazing in the least bit.

Rather than espouse a party agenda, or fill the Senate Floor with hot air while dolling out as many talking points as possible (which is the norm), Senator Sanders stood up and delivered a passionate speech denouncing the proposed extension of the Bush tax cuts for all individuals. The speech was about more than just tax cuts however. He conveyed the frustrations of working class Americans not being able to heat their homes in the winter and having to shop for food at the “dented can” food warehouse. He probed the deeper problems of the growing wealth gap in this country, as well as our totally screwed up priorities when it comes to spending. I won’t go into more detail here, you can find the entire text of his speech here if you want.

It was nice to see someone standing up and fighting for my interests for once. Especially when I see some of the other news today. Since Republicans gained control of the House, they get to head all of the committees and subcommittees and the proposed heads of those committees have been announced. Let’s have a look shall we?

  • First up is Fred Upton from my home state of Michigan. He’ll now be chairing the Energy and Commerce Committee. His biggest campaign donor? EnergySolutions – a nuclear waste company. He’s also a 9/11 “truther” and climate change denier.
  • Next we have Spencer Bachus from Alabama who will be chairing the Financial Services Committee. He received substantial donations to his campaign by firms that benefited from the bailout. He also has plans to de-regulate the financial industry. Yup, that’s right. The guy that’s going to run the financial committee wants to put us in the same position we were in right before the recession hit.
  • Buck McKeon from California will be heading up the Armed Services committee. He supports allocating more resources to both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supports Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  • Representative Steve King from Iowa will be heading up the judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration issues. He’s also in favor of repealing the 14th amendment – you know, the one that guarantees you’re a citizen for being born here (among many other rights)?
  • My favorite and winner of the “hypocrisy in action” award has to be Hal Rogers from Kentucky. He’ll be chairing the House Appropriations Committee. In a time when Republicans are running on a platform of lower taxes and less government, it’s a good thing to have the “King of Pork” heading up the committee that dolls out the greenbacks. From the article I linked to: “Roger’s has brought so much federal money to his hometown (Somerset, Kentucky; population 11,000) that it is known as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

So while it moved me deeply to hear Senator Sander’s speech yesterday, the reality is that his voice, one that represents my views, my situation, my convictions, that voice will be but a whisper among the din of corruption and financial elite that will be crafting policy for the next two years.

 

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Political

The Lesser of Two Evils

It’s election day. Well, kind of. Here in Washington State, we receive our ballots in the mail a few weeks before the election. I love this as it gives me the ability to look at an initiative or candidate on the ballot, read through the voter’s pamphlet, and do some research online all at the same time, and all in my underwear with a bottle of home brew in my hand if I so choose.

I’ve really been struggling this election. Usually I refuse to succumb to the “lesser of two evils” approach to voting. Thankfully in my state there were 8-10 candidates running for President that made it onto our ballot in ’08, so I didn’t have to choose between 2 candidates I felt would have been bad for the job. However now that the primaries are over, I don’t really have that choice in the current election. It’s either red/blue democrat/republican (and all establishment) on pretty much all of the races. In the past I’ve voted as a way to endorse a candidate I felt would represent my and my districts/states interests well, and if neither candidate was worthy, I would abstain in that particular category.

The lesser of two evils? Not according to this interesting bar graph...

But I don’t have that luxury this time around. To not consider the ramifications of my actions is irresponsible and naïve. The Senate race between Senator Murray and challenger Dino Rossi is a close one, and could sway the majority in the Senate one way or the other. The race in my Congressional district is also a fairly close one. My choices in these two races are actually pretty easy as I like both Rick Larsen and Patty Murray, and feel like they do a good job most of the time. Some of the state races I’ve yet to decide about though. It’s an important decision as it is a census year. The congress that we elect will have the power to draw up new district maps, which will influence politics, elections, and federal money destinations for the next 10 years.

We also have several ballot initiatives here. 2 concerning the state liquor laws, one that proposes a state income tax on those making over 200,000/year (or 400,000 combined family) and one that deals with taxes on junk food and bottled water.

The reason I’m posting about this here is because in Buddhism we can’t leave our ethics and morality on the proverbial cushion. If we are to truly engage the precepts and teachings, then we must strive to apply them in all aspects of our lives. And at the core of those teachings is the process of examination. There isn’t a blanket list of “do’s” and “don’ts” (except for some directed at the monastics) in Buddhism. Instead we’re asked to examine each moment and situation as it is, fully and use the precepts and teachings to help guide our actions. We must contemplate the possible effects of our actions, as well as our intentions and the motivations behind those intentions. I don’t think there is a Buddhist Way to vote, nor do I advocate any such premise. But I do believe that we should bring our process of examination into those political actions that we undertake. Buddhist practice isn’t something to turn on and off like a light switch (though it is a stubborn switch to leave on, isn’t it?) when we please. It is something that we bring into the marketplace, into the dust and dirt of life.

The moral and ethical teachings are relative for a reason. There are no one-size-fits all answers to the questions and situations that arise in this vast world. Instead what we have are guideposts, and tiny bodhisattvas that sit on our shoulders and ask us “why?” “where does this volition come from?” And so it should be when it comes time to make a decision that will effect not only my life, but my children’s, my neighbors, and this whole world.

Take for instance the liquor law initiative. Right now in this state, if you want liquor, you have to go to a state-run liquor store to buy it. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, and the prices are pretty high. When I first moved here I was blown away at this draconian system. However if this initiative rolls through, the liquor stores will be gone and grocery stores can begin selling liquor on their shelves. With this comes the end of a government monopoly (something I usually oppose depending on the issue) increased access, and lower prices on booze. But this also comes with increased access for teens to obtain alcohol, a loss of revenue for the state (which we currently CANNOT afford) and a loss of jobs for all of those employees. Here, sticking to an ideal (government = bad, private sector = always better) would have potentially fatal consequences, and have ramifications that will stretch out far and wide. If this doesn’t pass, we still have booze, albeit an ineffectual system for distributing it. Personally I’d like to see some modifications of the current laws (more stores, open more hours, lower prices) that kept revenue flowing to the state and liquor out of the hands of kids as much as possible.

I hate broad brushes. I’ve never once voted straight-party. Liberal or Conservative, neither has all the right answers. The lines between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are blurry at times. Life is relative. And I think this is why the Democratic party consistently fails. They embrace the relative while the Republicans stick to their ideals and policy of absolutes. They always have 1 message. 1 platform. The Democrats have more messages and more platforms than The Flying Spaghetti Monster has noodly appendages. It’s a tough sell when your party slogan makes for a better .PDF than a placard. But this is a more accurate description of America, isn’t it? Do we have one voice about anything? I digress…

I have no interest in thinking about how The Buddha would vote, or voting in a “Buddhist” way. The Christian Right has been doing this for years in our country. Groupthink and religious politics largely disgusts me.  However I am interested applying the dharma to my decision-making process in and of itself. Not in choosing who to vote for, but in examining the process I’ll use in making my decisions.

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Political

Take it down a notch

Finally.

While I tend to lead to the liberal side on most issues (I could make Marx blush if I wanted), I simply have very little tolerance for the Democrats in office now. And I can’t seem to find much of anything that most current Republicans are pushing that I want to buy. But I also don’t think Obama is a secret Muslim, nor do I believe that comparing anyone to Hitler (really, why always Hitler?) is getting us anywhere in this country. The 24 hour news networks fail to actually report any news and instead stick to commentary (yes, I believe they all suck) and flashiness. I’m so glad I don’t have TV service (especially now that the political ads are starting).

Of course, when I check out the internet, it’s the same thing. There are very few (if any?) balanced news sources that actually promote journalistic integrity and serve up hard journalism. It’s either liberal or conservative. What happened to just getting the fucking news? The death of the print newspaper is something that we must watch more closely. For when the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune fall, so to will the funding for the real journalists of the world. The ones that are embedded with the troops. The ones that spend a month in the Rwanda snapping photos that open the world’s eyes to the atrocities there. Then we’ll be left with hot-dog eating contests and sound bites from the red carpet. Idiocracy anyone?

We have abandoned the notion that a well-informed public is a right and a necessity to democracy. Instead we’d rather get our news from people who would tell us how to feel about it. We’d rather be entertained than take the time to learn and be informed. I love NPR, but let’s be honest. It’s fucking boring. “…and in 8 minutes we’ll have Elenor Wigsby from Muncie, Indiana with some tips on how to get the dust off your ceiling fan…” They can’t compare to Fox News or MSNBC’s sound bites, flashy images, and 17 tickers running across the screen. So they win. Olberman and Maddow and Beck and O’Reilly. Have any one of them broken a story lately? Yet they continue to get the most viewers. And we’re led to believe that most Americans feel the same way. We’re led to believe that Americans are either marching with Tea-Partiers or they’re chaining themselves to trees in the Redwoods. No middle ground.

 In the land of the dulled masses, the man with the loudest megaphone is king.

Enter Jon Stewart.

If I lived within reasonable driving distance, I’d be heading to the rally. Despite what people might say, this rally is important. It’s important to show the world that we aren’t all on the fringe of either side of the political spectrum. It’s important that we show those on the fringe that they don’t speak for us, and shouldn’t pretend to. It’s important to show the world that “real” Americans aren’t always as bat-shit insane as E! and Fox News make us out to be. And it’s important to show the world that we’re sick of the dickwads on both sides of the crazy isle taking over the conversation.

 

Cheers.

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Filed under Political

Blogging about race

*Warning: this post does contain some hateful language, but it is presented in a fact-finding way, and it should be clear that there is no intention of hate on my part when using these words. I felt that using the words in this context was important to deliver the overall message.

 

Recently, a fellow blogger Kyle wrote a bit about race and privilege and then there was quite a discussion in the comments. Check it out if you want, though you won’t see any comments by me.

That’s because I don’t want to talk about race. I know that it is an important issue. I know that issues about race are bound to come up when dealing with Buddhism, bloggers, and inflated egos on the internet. Some of these discussions are very important. But I don’t want any part of them. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m white. I’ve simply had it with issues of race. (and yes, I understand the irony of this post)

I grew up in Saginaw, MI. My whole life, Saginaw has been in the top 10 most segregated cities/areas in the country. For a long time it has been Black on the East side of the river, and White on the West side (and Latinos close to the water on the West side). Saginaw is a town much like Flint, Detroit, or Gary, Indiana. Back after WW2, African-Americans were actually able to find work in these Northern industrial towns, and they were paid well. Well, this scared the shit out of the white folks in Saginaw, so they all started moving farther West of the river, where the land had been previously used for farm or was vacant forest. Many of the homes that the white folks abandoned were left vacant and property values dropped as houses sat unsold and began to deteriorate. If you’ve ever seen a Micheal Moore film, he’ll usually show a bunch of abandoned houses somewhere in Flint. It’s not the same street that he shows over and over. It’s common place to find such conditions in many areas there, and in recent years that’s become the norm in areas in Saginaw as well.

On top of white flight, GM once employed over 30,000 people at a factory once called simply “GM Steering Gear”. That’s where my Father (luckily) continues to work today. Of course now he does the job that 3 salaried plant managers and a secretary once did. Oh, and he only has about 4,500 co-workers now. There were other manufacturing business that depended on sales to Steering Gear that now sit empty as well. Ask many today, and they’ll blame the lazy Black man. Never mind that it was GM’s poor management, shitty cars, and the UAW asking for unreasonable demands that were the real culprit (there are plenty of other reasons as well, but those are the most direct). It was just easy to blame it on low production due to lazy black people.

So that’s a short history of the city I grew up in. And obviously only a tiny fraction of it. But I felt it important to include. It might help you understand why I grew up hearing African-Americans called niggers and negroes and colored people (“hey, if the NAACP can use it, so can I!” – something I heard on more than one occasion) instead of African-American or Black (I’m not a fan of either of these terms either).

A lot of times growing up I would hear racial slurs, but always with the addendum that “well, I don’t hate Black people, just niggers.” (don’t worry, I also heard about stupid Polloks, wetbacks, camel jockeys, towel heads and “Indian givers”) Oh, well, that makes sense! There are good “x” people, and then there are the “other x” people. It isn’t a surprise that I ended up parroting those sentiments later in life (much to my present dismay). My grandfather, uncles, father all repeated this message for most of my life, never believing themselves to be racist, of course.

Understandably I was confused as a youth when my mother (my parents divorced when I was 7) began dating one of “those people”. When we headed to the other side of town for that first time, I was terrified. The image of the scary black man had been firmly implanted in my head. But I never met him. What I did meet was a bunch of really nice people who ate some really good food (and some really weird food) and liked to invite us over for cookouts in the summer time. It turned out that they were people too.

Of course even more confusion set in when I wasn’t allowed to talk to my grandparents about mom’s new boyfriend. (On a side note, my mother did date an African-American cop for a month or so and I remember him referring to his baton as a “nigger beater”. Yet another mixed signal to send to a 9-year-old). I didn’t want to tell anyone about my new friends on the other side of the river for fear that I would be punished or ostracized in some way. I was yelled at for championing Malcolm X, and told that I should have looked up to Dr. King, because he was one of “the good ones”. Hip-hop or, “nigger music” wasn’t allowed in my house either.

Clearly, confusion about race was an ever-present factor in my childhood.

Flash-forward a few years to when I was 16-17. I went to visit my friends Del and Steve to play some basketball quite a bit in the summer. They were on an AAU team with my friend Troy that I lived near and became close friends with. Twice I was pulled over for “driving while white”. Never heard of it? I know, mostly you’ve heard of “driving while black” and people getting harassed in that way. Getting pulled over for DWW is when a white person gets pulled over in a black neighborhood because they suspect you of being there to purchase drugs. After all, what other possible reason could a white person have for making his way over to the black part of town?

It was at this point too, that I started to notice that being white came with baggage I never knew about. While I did make a few friends over on “that” side of the river, I made just as many enemies. Steve’s sister was especially critical, asking why he needed to have a “fucking white boy” in the house. “Fuck you white boy” was something I heard quite a bit just walking down the god damned street on my way to the corner party store. Of course Del frequently told me I was “at least a 1/4 black” furthering the blurry line in my head regarding race/culture. How the hell was I supposed to feel and react to all of this?

Now let’s head over to history class. American History apparently starts in 1492 with Columbus “discovering” the West Indies (isn’t that kind of like discovering my neighbor’s back yard?). Then nothing happens for over a hundred years until Jamestown, and then the pilgrims and a big happy feast at Thanksgiving! Then the French and Indian war, American revolution, early American politics, if you’re lucky you might get a chapter about the wars with the Native tribes and a mention of Sitting Bull, then it’s the civil war, depression, the 2 world wars, civil rights, yadda yadda yadda you know the story.

Hmmm…. something is missing here. Weren’t there already people here, before Columbus? Didn’t they have any history? Culture? Art? Well, not if you read the history books they don’t. To find out about my ancestors, I had to search out some college girl’s thesis paper. If you do happen to take the time to browse through it, you’ll see there is an extremely rich history there. And one of my ancestors was a Native woman (one of many), who was Michigan’s first real business woman, a widow in her 20’s that was successful enough to send her children away to a Canadian private school. She was hugely influential in her time and place and never once did I hear her name during my Michigan History class. All that was ever mentioned were the wars between the Michigan settlers and the native savages. Never mind the fact that the French fur trappers and Natives were extremely cooperative and came to rely on one another and marry each other and take up each other’s religions up there on Mackinaw Island. Nah. Let’s just skip over that and learn about the rich timber barons and Henry Ford. I only happened upon her when doing some research into my family’s history. A couple of generations of a family and an important part of Michigan’s history reduced to an obscure PDF.

So by now you might be wondering, why is he talking about all this? To score racial sympathy points? Why does this white guy have a bug up his ass? I included this bit of personal history because I felt that it was relevant. Relevant to show that issues of race affect all people, including myself. I revealed all of this to show that I’ve had it up to my ears when dealing with issues of race. Racism abounds in this world, this is true. And it comes from people of all colors, and it reaches out to people of all colors. I find it disgusting that we use skin color as the basis for dividing a people. I find it equally disgusting that we use race to keep communities insular and homogenous. “If everyone looks like me, I’m safe! If someone looks different, lock your doors and grab your gun!”

I’ve seen my family literally torn apart because of it (my mom finally decided to bring her boyfriend to meet my grandfather – on his deathbed). I’ve seen the city I loved growing up in destroyed in part because of it. There is no way to escape issues of race, and I have no desire to ignore it (nor could I if I wanted to); instead I’m just not going to confront it, especially not here on this blog. Call me a coward, blame it on my “white privilege”, I don’t give a shit. But don’t tell me that I don’t have to deal with those issues simply because I’m ‘white’. We all deal with issues of race whether we choose to acknowledge them or not, and we all deal with them differently.

Furthermore, I don’t feel that confronting issues of race tend to do anything to change anyone’s mind (there are some obvious exceptions), especially on a blog that no one reads anyway. Instead I feel that hitting at some of the underlying issues of racism (ignorance, culture, hate/fear) are way more worth my time if I ever felt like “combatting” racism. But I don’t. Let someone else do it. Because I’m sick of it. So sick of it all.

Cheers.

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Filed under Personal, Political

Building the Mosque “at” ground zero, and crafted responses

Let me start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the Muslim faith. There, I said it! I don’t hate Muslims, Arabs, or people from any geographic or religious background. But I’m not a huge fan of Islam. I don’t feel like it’s a very tolerant religion, nor does it treat women as equals, (or sometimes even as human beings) and I don’t feel that pride is man’s great fault or that submission is the answer to our salvation. I think Islam is due for a serious reformation, the details of which I have no interest in discussing here.

That aside, I say build the damn mosque. The organization that is proposing to build it is a peaceful one. They are moderates. They are just people who want to practice their faith together, and belong to an increasing Muslim community in lower Manhattan that has growing needs.

I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t have ANY religious institution built at ground zero. Well, first of all, they aren’t building the damn thing on the remains of the twin towers. They are building it 2 blocks away. That might not seem like much, but as a former major city dweller, I can tell you that 2 blocks can make a world of difference. Second, if you look at the map, you’ll see that there are already THREE churches there; The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, and Saint Paul’s chapel, all of which actually border Ground Zero. So that point is kind of moot, isn’t it? It’s already surrounded by religious institutions. I’ve also heard that there is a strip joint and a porn store near there as well. Sounds like a great way to “remember the fallen” to me…

I’ve also heard that it is insensitive to build it there. Again, why? They aren’t building the Mosque on top of the remains of the towers. It’s being built in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory building. It’s going to have a pool and rec area open to the public. It’s going to be an inclusive community center. It is a place of worship, not a terrorist training camp. Islam did not attack our country. It may have been used as one of many tools that day in 2001, but the religion didn’t attack us.

We have to remember that it was terrorists that took down those buildings. And their purpose wasn’t just to destroy the buildings, it was to terrorize. It was to instill fear into the hearts of Americans. If we oppose this Mosque out of a fear of Islam, then haven’t they succeeded? We are a country that is supposed to champion religious freedom, not hinder it. Muslim Americans are every bit a part of this country as every one else, regardless of how they choose to worship.

Bodhisattva of compassion

I wondered a bit about what the “Buddhist” response to this would be. Then I slapped myself. I don’t want to give the “Buddhist” response. That seems silly. I didn’t automatically adopt a new set of ideals and beliefs the moment I decided to walk this path. The Buddha was not a divine law giver. I didn’t all of a sudden become a compassionate bodhisattva the moment I declared myself a Buddhist. The dharma and sutras are not written in stone. I don’t ever want to say, “well, since I’m a Buddhist, x.” Rather, I want the dharma to help and guide me. What I want is for my practice to move me in the direction of compassion and insight and wisdom.

So I would say that since my practice is moving me toward compassion, I would seek a compassionate resolution to the matter, one that involves the least amount of suffering (dukkah). Clearly for the Muslim community the wisest choice would be to build the Mosque. But what about the families of the victims that do are suffering because of this proposal? Shouldn’t we take their suffering into consideration as well? Certainly we should, and that’s again why I say build the Mosque. These people seem are projecting their hate onto an entire belief system, rather than those that perpetrated the crime. I wonder if it’s because they’ll never really receive the justice they’re looking for, since the terrorists died in the crash. They’ll never be held accountable for their actions, so the ones left here to grieve seek vengeance with the next best thing they can find: Islam, Muslims, Arabs. The axis of evil. Ghosts living in caves halfway around the globe.

And this is why I say build the Mosque. Once faced with the reality of peaceful, community-building Muslims, those left with their anger might be forced to really examine it, because they won’t be able to project it on to those at 51 park place. They might actually be able to let go of some of that hate they’ve built up, and begin to heal when faced with the reality that not all Muslims are evil, and that these people are their neighbors, not their enemies. That to me is the most compassionate response because it is one that deals directly with their suffering, even if it might be a difficult process.

“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

~ The Dhammapada

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Political

Welcome!

Thank you for checking out my new blog, Fly Like a Crow.

First, what’s up with the name?

Check out the ‘About’ page at the top for more info on that. And take a moment to explore the other pages as well. They’re short and sweet, I promise.

So what is this blog about?

Beyond what you read on the about page, it will be a place to write and blog on a myriad of topics. Primarily, I’ll be focusing on Buddhism, and my family/being a father. I actually see these two things as being parallel lines on the same track of “me”. They are both an evolving practice where I work towards perfection. Every day brings a new challenge, struggle, and usually some success.

I might just try my hand at some more poetry here. It’s something I’ve only dabbled in before, and has been a long time since I’ve really written any.

I’m going to toss in some politics from time to time. Nothing hateful, no right vs. left narratives. There are plenty of those to go around.

I’ll continue to review books here, whether they get sent to me by authors or publishers, or ones that I just happen to purchase myself.

And there’s a slight possibility that I might get philosophical from time to time. I also might throw in some sutra study that I’ve been working on.

And sometimes, I’ll just throw up a picture or two. I’m also going to try to include a picture with more of my posts in general, and I’m going to try to only use ones that I’ve taken.

Whatever happens, it will flow naturally. Like my previous blogging endeavours, I have no ambitions to blog daily. Once, twice a week is about all I can muster given work and family responsibilities (and enjoying time with my family).

So, take a look around. You’ll notice all of my old posts from the past, minus a few I wasn’t proud of at all. Feel free to subscribe via RSS or email (head to the footer) and feel free to add this blog to your blog roll if you feel so inclined. Thank you for stopping by.

Cheers.

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Filed under Book Review, Buddhism, Home Brewing, Other, Parenting, Personal, Political

My Team

I was born and raised in Michigan in the 1980’s. Therefore, names like Barry Sanders, Alan Trammell, Bill Lambeer, and Loyd Carr are embedded in my DNA.  Before I could crawl it was decided that I would cheer for the UofM, rather than those damn dirty Spartans from Moo U. Growing up, I cheered for my native teams with the blind admiration that only a child can muster. Football was the sport that I embraced above others as a youth, and we had the Lions to cheer for. Growing up, Rodney Peete could do no wrong. And Barry Sanders was like Achilles come down from Mount Olympus to make a mockery of the opposing teams defenses.

But it turns out that Rodney Peete was a terrible QB, and spent more time on his back than throwing TDs. And Barry Sanders left the Lions early to “retire” dashing all hopes of ever seeing a post-season run by the Lions. I also grew up with the abysmal 90’s Tigers, and the Pistons post-Bad-Boy era which was like rooting for whatever team the Globetrotters were playing against. And yet, I held on to the hope that maybe, just maybe this would be the year that ‘my team’ went all the way.

But then I grew up. And I realized that yes, the Lions suck. The Tigers suck. The Pistons suck (though we I did have the Red Wings growing up, who have always been either excellent or good enough to watch and be proud of). Being a sports fan in the mid-’90s in Michigan was a constant struggle. The teams were mis-managed, the stars were gone, and to say the wins were coming in slow was to imply the wins were coming in at all. So as I got into my teen years, I started to learn enough about the sports world to be critical of the teams I had previously rooted for. And since by this time we still weren’t winning in any sport that didn’t’ involve ice, there was plenty to be critical of. We were going after the wrong athletes, making the wrong plays, and were devoid of talent in general. At this point I was so critical, it was hard to see that I supported these teams at all. Watching the Lions get decimated game after game, usually by the end of the 4th quarter I’d ripped my team so much you’d hardly be able to tell that I was a fan at all.

But all this criticism stemmed from the love of my team, and how I wanted to see them succeed, and was upset that I didn’t. What I wanted more than anything was for them to win, and I believed that they could (some of the time). I was critical of team management and coaches that were making my team the mockery of the NFL. Everyone saw us as a failure. Our teams weren’t spending money where it was most critical. The Tigers left historic Tigers stadium, and the Lions left the Pontiac Silverdome both to brand new stadiums, even with their terrible records. A brand new, shiny stage for the world to see our failure. Eventually the teams and their respective management began to listen to the criticism and turned things around. The Pistons won the championship. The Tigers actually made the playoffs and in 2006 actually went to the World Series (they lost, but it was a huge win for the fans). The Lions still suck, but that’s another story altogether….

I will always love my teams, win, loose or otherwise. But I’ve abandoned the silly “my team is the greatest no matter what” mentality that I had as a child, because as a serious sports fan, hero-worship only blinds one to the reality of the situation. That kind of fanaticism is fine for a child, but the greater reality of the situation is much more complex, and since we care deeply, it deserves our criticism as much as our love.

Cheers, and happy 4th of July.

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Filed under Political

Just ignorant!

I received this email yesterday, and it just plain blew me away. I couldn’t believe the level of ignorance and hate displayed. But then, I could. Because this is what happens when lies are allowed to prosper, and are fueled by hatred (which of course stems from ignorance). You can read a copy of the email here (yes, this is the same email that I received).

The other day I posted on how extremists are polarizing this country and destroying it from inside. I have no problem when people pick a “side” (Christian, liberal, atheist, Conan or whatever), but when you then identify your side by your hate of the “other” side, we have a problem. There’s no reason to be against the “other” side just because you’ve identified with yours! That’s right! You can actually hold liberal ideals, and NOT hate conservatives! Crazy, I know.

Unfortunately, we’ve been ingrained since youth to always “win” and come out on top, and be #1.  We’ve carried this into every aspect in our lives, including public (and private) dialogue. Maybe it’s part of our wanting to fit in and be correct, a little bit of ego stroking. I don’t know. Unfortunately, this desire to be right and to be on the winning side leads to all kinds of unskillful conduct.

I would like to preface this by saying I’m not a huge fan of President Obama. I voted for Nader, but would have voted for Ron Paul if he had made it on the ticket. Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but I have my reasons.  However, I am able to disagree with someone’s leadership/politics or whatever without making shit up, degrading the faith of millions, and spreading blatant hate speech. Let’s get to that email now.


PLEASE, DON’T USE THESE STAMPS!  NOT FOR VALENTINE’S,

NOT FOR ANY MAIL!!

USPS 44-Cent Stamp Celebrates Muslim holidays Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha .

If there is only ONE thing you forward today… let it be this!
REMEMBER to adamantly & vocally BOYCOTT this stamp, when you are purchasing your stamps at the post office.

All you have to say is “No thank you, I do not want that Muslim Stamp on my letters!”
To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of Pan Am Flight 103!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon !

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Military Barracks in Saudi Arabia !

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa !

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on 9/11/2001 !

REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!

Pass this along to every Patriotic American that you know and get the word out!  Honor the United States of America !

So where to start? If you clicked on the link above, you’ve already read how factually inaccurate the part about the stamp is, so no need to bother with that as Snopes already did the work. Let’s take a look at the “Muslim” part of this. “To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.” Really?

Well, first of all, those were radical, extremist terrorists that were also Muslim. And yes, they did perform these acts in the name of their religion, which is absolutely despicable and horrendous. People do stupid shit in the name of their faith all the time (which I am in no way excusing), and have since the dawn of organized religion. It’s something that won’t cease anytime in the near future as the violence and ignorance only continues to escalate exponentially. Secondly, this stamp does not honor terrorists, murderers, or violence in any way. All you need to do is look up Eid Al-Fitr to figure that out. But of course, in the eyes of crazy conservatives, Islam = murder and terrorist. Ugh.

This email and the sentiments behind it clearly indicate more than simple AMERICA! FUCK YEAH! type of jingoistic “patriotism”. The authors intent is clearly to demonize Islam, and further the fear/hate-mongering of all of those that practice it, regardless of the individual. We could just as easily follow this logic and use examples of when Christians have murdered, raped, and tortured all in the name of Christianity, and then call for the boycott of all Christmas/Easter stamps. And then try to justify hate for all Christians and their religion because of the actions of a radical, disturbed few.

I like the “Honor the United States of America !” as if this type of thing honors anything at all.

Then there is the last sentence of the email “REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!” Look at what they’ve done. They’ve capitalized American and Muslim. America vs. Islam. Us vs. Them. They’ve created a division between a country and a religion! Muslims are the evildooers! Kill ’em all! This of course neglects the fact that there are millions of Muslims that live right here in America, that are just as much a part of this country as Republicans, Trekkies, Buddhists, and Oakland Raiders fans are. And don’t give me that “but we’re a Christian nation!” BS. People have religions. Countries don’t have religions, especially when there is no state-endorsed religion here in the US.

I could go on and on about how the people who sent this around are just part of the right-wing Christian extremists that are ruining our country and bla bla bla, but that’s been said a million times before. No, the worst part about this is the willful ignorance and intolerance of those that created and spread these lies. In the email I received, there was a link to the Snopes article debunking the whole thing! But no one paid attention to that for some reason. It would have been too much work to actually figure out something for themselves (or click on the damn link I guess…). Instead, they’ll form their opinions based on a fucking chain email, and then vote accordingly. And this email had over 100 addresses on it. Just think about how many other people received this and forwarded it on to their friends and co-workers. But it’s just one of those stupid chain emails, right?

Wrong. This just reaffirms what a few of us bloggers have been discussing lately. A few disparaging, untrue words can cause havoc, and an untold amount of suffering. Minorities become further marginalized when things like this email keep piling up on the collective psyche of the ignorant masses. I must reiterate that people are going to vote based on emails like this. Opinions are formed when people like Anne Coulter and Brit Hume speak, especially when these talking heads bring up topics that their audience (and obviously themselves) know nothing about. They’ll just take their word for it, after all, they’re all on the same side! We put so much faith and trust in other people in this modern age of “MUST HAVE INFO NOW!” that we rarely take the time to discover the truth for ourselves (even though it’s right at our fingertips). Maybe it’s that looking at scientific journals with peer-reviewed studies filled with evidence is a boring waste of time, so why not just have Rush Limbaugh tell me what global warming is really all about. It’ll be fun! I’m sure he’ll tell me what I really need to hear, and we can make fun of the traitorous liberals while we’re at it! Why would I want to see what this Jihadist stamp is really all about when my uncle Rick can just shoot me an email?! Oh right, because then I’d find out it’s just a stamp that celebrates a couple of important Muslim festivals that don’t involve beheading infidels or anyone blowing anyone up, and I’d learn that the stamp is something I’d have to go out and look for and probably special order anyway.

This is why I think it’s important to speak up when any type of hate, ignorance, or misinformation is being spread, and we have the ability to do something about it (but we all have our own niche, right?). I’m a Buddhist blogger, so this is the type of thing I’m going to speak on from time to time. I’m certainly not going to turn into a “wrong speech watchdog” or anything like that, but I can’t help but point out some of these things in the hope that truth and understanding triumph over hate and ignorance. Wrong speech quite frequently leads to wrong action. And when it comes to religious intolerance, wrong action gets really ugly.

Further more, IT’S JUST A FUCKING STAMP!

Cheers.

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Goodbye China!

After the Brit Hume thing, Marcus from Marcus’ Journal wrote:

If you joined the letter-writing campaign to Fox News, if you condemned them on your blog or even just left a comment on a blog elsewhere, now consider doing at least double the amount of writing in the case of Buddhists who are being imprisoned and tortured on a near daily basis. Read the links below, find out what’s been going on, and write a letter condemning the use of torture and unfair trials in China against Buddhists. Post it up on your blog as a model for others to copy, and then sign it and send it. I’ll be doing the same.”

Well, I didn’t write Fox News. I didn’t write them because I knew it would only make Rupert Murdoch and the powers that be at Fox “News” smile. They would probably get a kick out of all the letters. I can imagine them printing each angry letter on rolls of toilet paper with which Bill O’liely would then wipe his ass with. I didn’t want any part of that. I felt like the biggest impact I could make was to do what I’ve always done with Fox News, not watch it. Not watch it on TV (which I don’t have) and not watch it on the web. I then blogged about my reaction to the mess, but didn’t link to any videos because I didn’t want to promote Fox anymore. I think that was about the biggest contribution that I as an individual with no real influence or power in the world could make.

I attempt to make similar choices when I buy food. I try to buy local and organic (but sometimes I’m broke so Kellog’s it is). It’s my way of “voting” about what products and practices I want to succeed. Well, I’m going to do the same with China. Their list of human rights violations is getting longer than Ron Jeremy at a Victoria’s Secret by the minute. Their record on the enviroment is just as glamorous. So, I’m not going to follow Marcus’ sample letter. Instead, I’ve created my own. It might be more abrasive, and it might be just as easily dismissed as any of the other letters that may or may not make their way to someone who may or may not care; but I’m going to follow through on the action. I’m boycotting products made in China as well as other countries with serious human rights issues (to the best of my financial ability).

On a side note, it appears that Google is also contemplating pulling out of China for similar reasons. Check it out here.

I find that this approach might have more of an effect than just a letter. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m doing a small thing that may lessen the suffering of others, and that’s the point. And I think this approach will “hit ’em where it hurts”. Here is a copy of my letter:

Dear Ambassador Mr Zhou Wenzhoung,

          It has come to my attention that your government has sentenced Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche and Dhondup Wangchen on trumped-up charges and without legal counsel. China’s continued violations of basic human rights has left me with one choice: a boycott. I will not buy any more products that were constructed, assembled, or otherwise “made” in your country. I will encourage my family, friends, and those that read my blog to do the same. I cannot in good conscious support a country that does not support even the most basic of human rights, and acts with such reckless regard to the enviroment. Until China decides to release Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche and Dhondup Wangchen as well as any other prisoners who’s rights have been clearly violated, until your country takes a progressive stance on worker’s rights, until you reverse your blatant disregard for the enviroment, I refuse to support your government financially. The opportunity is yours to lead the world, yet you do nothing but hinder peace, progress, and liberty for your people and the world. It’s time for a change China.

Sincerely,

               Adam L. Johnson

 

To:
President Hu Jintao
Guojia Zhuxi
Beijing
People’s Republic of China

Premier Wen Jiabao
Guowuyuan
No. 9 Xihuang-chenggen Beijie
Beijingshi 100032
People’s Republic of China

Wu Aiying
Minister of Justice
No. 10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Chaoyangqu
Beijingshi 100020
People’s Republic of China
TEL: (86) 10 6520 6706
TEL: (86) 10 8313 9065
Email: pfmaster@legalinfo.gov.ch
Email: minister@legalinfo.gov.cn

UK
Madame Fu-Ying
The Chinese Embassy
49-51 Portland Place
London, W1B 1JL
TEL: 020 72994049

US
Ambassador Mr Zhou Wenzhoung
The Chinese Embassy
3505 International Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel Operator: +1-202-4952000
E-mail: chinaembassy_us@fmprc.gov.cn

 

gān bēi (cheers).

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The Brit Hume fallout: Victory for The Extremists

I was going to respond to some really stupid comments and posts I saw being made by Christians/Conservatives on some of the links that Kyle provided, along with some others I found.  I had an agenda, and I was going to set them straight and put them in their places. I started to type in some comments, and then just closed down my browser. I realized what the problem was. It wasn’t them. It was the system that we’ve all been caught up in (myself included).

At first I admit I had to agree with some of my fellow bloggers and Buddhists about how this whole Brit Hume thing actually was a great opportunity for us Buddhists to speak about our faith/tradition/religion. If nothing else, there would be tons of people who would at the very least wiki Buddhism and find out just a little bit about it. So overall, this was a good thing, right? No. You see, in Buddhism, we assess situations and take action based on how skillful (less suffering) or unskillful (more suffering) we deem those actions to be (in a nut shell). Overall, I’d have to say that this entire situation has been quite unskillful.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I like people of all faiths (except Scientology. “Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones”) because I try not to see people as what faith they belong to. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Pagans, I’ve known many people of many faiths in my life, and gotten along with them all splendidly. However, there is one group of people who I really can’t stand: Extremists. Extreme atheists, Christians, Buddhists, liberals, whatever. They always speak the loudest, they get in people’s faces, they cause violence and instill fear. Rather than use reason, compassion and logic, they just shout long enough and loud enough to drown out their opposition. And the internet is the best thing that has happened to extremism since Vietnam. It gives it fuel, life, recruitment, new means of manipulation, and limitless open forums with which to spew it’s filth.

Now, I do stand by what I said before. I think one of the biggest problems with what Brit Hume said is that millions of people are now going to have a skewed perception of what Buddhism is. Unfortunately, a larger problem has arisen. While in an ideal world, we would have had an open discussion between Buddhists and Christians (and maybe even Brit Hume), what we instead found was that The Extremists™ took up the cause instead. It was the crazy Christians, Atheists, Anti-Theists and everyone in between that took up this issue. It was blown out of proportion and skewed into a political, racial, 1st amendment, and religious argument rather than any kind of discovery or debate. Now all that is left are angry words, inflated egos, and the now (possibly) more negative vision of Buddhists and Buddhism.

So now we have to deal with the fallout. This really turned into a much bigger mess than it ever needed to. I still agree that something needed to be said in rebuttal, and I think Mr. Hume’s comment was reckless. But I think how the rebuttal and discourse that followed were handled was even more reckless. What we’ve done now is only further polarize the country over yet another insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) event. Much like Janet Jackson’s boob, Bill Clinton’s…. cigar,  or Mark Sanford’s indiscretion, we’ve blown things way out of proportion. I don’t want to get into the “why” of that now, I just want to acknowledge it. We simply love to sensationalize the mistakes of anyone of any type of celebrity status. A little off topic, but something someone said in my sangha the other day kind of relates here. It was regarding the way we treat our Presidents and elected officials. He said “Every four years we elect a messiah, and at the end of those four years, when we find out he’s human, we crucify him.”

This could have been a moment for pause and reflection. It could have been a moment of great understanding and compassion. But we let it turn into the monster that it became because we allow the extremists to control public “discussion” and represent their respective “sides”. We always hear and see the Christians protesting over this and that, going crazy when evolution is taught in our schools, but that isn’t representative of Christianity. Those crazies just happen to have the microphone. Not everyone that is against animal cruelty throws fake blood on people who buy fur coats. They just happen to make the 5 o’clock news. And so we allow those extremists (who are in the minority) to control not only the debate, but also our view of the entirety of whatever side/religion/organization/movement they belong to.

And not only do we allow this to happen, we actually feed it sometimes! We respond to the crazies on those message boards! This is the fuel that they need to burn their fires of hate.  We try to argue with them, to make them see our point. But they won’t. They’re completely stuck in a state of “I’m fucking right and you’re fucking wrong” and no amount of replies in an internet forum or shouting through a megaphone at a Tea Party is going to change their minds. If their minds are to change, it will have to be of their own doing. So now we’re left with all of those extremists shouting, yelling, posting which only further deepens the divisions that we’ve created for ourselves.

Before I get to a solution, I just want to reiterate that I do believe something needed to be said about this. If I had a moment of face time with Brit Hume, I’d simply say “Brit, what you said offended quite a few people. Not because of you being a Christian or saying Jesus on the air, but because you put one religion down while trumpeting your own. We hear enough of this, and this us vs. them stuff has to stop. Wouldn’t it have been a wiser choice to say something like: ‘I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I think right now you need to use what tools your faith has to offer to help yourself and your family heal. I know that when I turned to Christianity, I found great comfort and forgiveness and it helped me through a very difficult time’. See the difference there?”

I think one of the best solutions for us Buddhists to cultivate is something the Dalai Llama has offered:

“The purpose of Buddhism is to serve and benefit all sentient beings, including human beings. And therefore it is more important to think of what contribution we Buddhists can make to human society according to our own ideas rather than trying to convert other people to Buddhism. The Buddha gave us an example of contentment and tolerance, through serving others unselfishly.”

It is in the example that we set for others when we live according to the dharma in which we can overcome the extremists. This is the best and most skillful course of action.

That’s all on this. Cheers.

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Fox News: now with 10% more proselytizing

For those that haven’t already heard, Brit Hume made some interesting remarks regarding Tiger Woods, Christianity, and Buddhism. I think some of my fellow bloggers have replied quite well enough already, and Kyle has a list going of the posts here. I only have a couple of things to add to the discussion, so here it goes.

I think that the only people Tiger needs to ask forgiveness from are his family and himself. But Hume needs to ask the Buddhist community for forgiveness for such remarks, and if he does so with sincerity, we will act compassionately and give it to him. A simple: “you know, I didn’t really know much about Buddhism when I made that comment, and since then I’ve done a little research. Aparently Buddhism does have quite a lot to offer Tiger in this difficult time in his life” should suffice.

My biggest concern is that he just completely misrepresented Buddhist ethics and morals to his viewers, further polarizing Buddhism here in the US. Now I’m sure there’s a whole new group of Fox News Viewers that have developed even more misconceptions regarding Buddhism, and that just fuels the fire for hate. Thanks.

Americans (and all people for that matter) don’t need Christianity shoved down our throats anymore than we need Buddhism, Judaism, Atheism or any other “ism” shoved down our throats. ESPECIALLY ON A NEWS NETWORK.

My problem lastly is this. If Brit Hume was acting out of compassion, trying to reach out to Tiger, he could have said something like “When my son committed suicide, Christianity really helped me to deal with the pain and loss and move on with my life” and so on. Because, I’m sure it did, and I am glad for him. Instead, he chose to say “He [Woods] is said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

“Tiger, turn to the Christian faith”.  It is not Brit Hume’s place to proselyte on the “news” network to which he is employed. Further more, he is implying that only a turn to the Christian faith will allow him to make a total recovery. Personally, I don’t agree with that statement on philosophical grounds, but that isn’t what grinds my gears. It’s the fact that Hume completely ignores the morality and ethics of Buddhism, claims Christianity to be superior, and also assumes to know what is best for Tiger Woods and his family (all in only 3 sentences).

There is no intention of compassion here on Hume’s part; it is simply a shot at a religion that is anything other than the Christian one, and the claiming of superiority of one over the other. His intention was clear. He wasn’t speaking out of any genuine feeling for him or his family, rather it was a plea for Tiger to come on over and join the Yacht club with the rest of Fox News. But, what more should we expect of Fox News? [check out Nathan’s post for more into this] They aren’t exactly the pinnacle of journalistic excellence here in America. I’d rather get my news from Highlights magazine than to watch their white-washed, completely slanted and sensationalized version of the day’s events. I’m not going to write Fox News a letter. I’m just going to continue not watching their crap. I don’t want them to change, I want them to disappear and be replaced by an organization that favors journalistic integrity. I’ll just stick to NPR I guess.

 I leave you with something to consider. In the movie “Ethics and the World Crisis: A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama”, one of the panelists (I forget who, and can’t find a transcript anywhere) asks, when referring to the use of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as a logo for the 24 hour news networks, “If we DID have a state-run media, how would it look any different from what we already have”? (paraphrased)

Now take Hume’s comments into consideration, and you can see why there has been such an uproar.

Cheers.

*Update:

Kyle from The Reformed Buddhist has been quoted on MSNBC regarding Brit Hume’s remarks. Nice job!

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