Assholes

This is kind of rude, so if that puts you off, just click away.  It comes from a strange contemplative mood one day a couple years ago.  It’s not so strange to be contemplative; the observation is what’s odd:

The world is full of assholes.  If you let them, they will crap all over you.  If you fight them, you usually wind up with sh** flying all over the place.  It may be best just to ignore them and walk away, leaving them standing there constipated.

The redeeming Buddhist value is to go home and chant for their happiness, of course, allowing the mystic law to work as metaphorical milk of magnesia.

Waiting for Westmoreland

What, that again?  Yes.  OK readers, time to promote.  It’s been two months now since the book hit the internet and now it’s available online in Europe and Asia–at least in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Taiwan and elsewhere.  So if you have read it already, please let your overseas friends know about it.  Oh, and don’t forget your American friends too.  It’s only x shopping days until that Christian holiday when people give gifts.  It is supposed to be a major book selling time of year.  What more could you do for your friends or relatives than turning them on to Buddhism for the new year.

I will be at Dawn Williams shop, Whispering Bear in Occoquan, Virginia on Saturday, December 15th for a book signing (see panel at right).  I have my eye on Bus Boys and Poets in Arlington and Borders in Springfield too, but there is nothing lined up yet.  I am trying to get to Virginia Beach but it depends on what brick and mortar store I can connect with.  If you have a favorite or a contact there, please let me know.

FNCC

I am here at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, enjoying the sunny warm weather and the Active Duty Military and Veterans Conference.  What better way to ensure the future safety of American–and the entire world, than further expanding and developing the network of Buddhists among this group of people.  Many years ago, I recall hearing an Air Force missle officer describing a conversation he had with his commanding officer (CO).  He explained how he had asked the CO,  “You know I am a Buddhist and therefore a pacifist; are you sure you want me responsible for turning a key and launching a nuclear missle?”  The CO reportedly replied, “Would you rather have someone who is not a pacifist on the key?”  The reality of the situation is that these people constantly undergo training to ensure that they are not at risk of trying to launch when unauthorized (despite the fact that two key officers were required to launch).  Of course if authorized, they were supposed to launch–but which is more crazy:  launching an intercontinental missle capable of massive destruction of life and property or refusing?

As I alluded to in my previous post, there haven’t been any Buddhist initiated holy wars.  That is not to say that there is no such thing as a Buddhist warrior, just that the actively practicing Buddhist is unlikely to initiate combat.  In a message to participants at the FNCC conference, Daisaku Ikeda, (president of Buddhist lay organization Soka Gakkai International) said the following:

“Nichiren Daishonin wrote, ‘Regard your service to your lord as the practice of the Lotus Sutra’ (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 905). Please be convinced that all the painstaking efforts you have dedicated to your country and society are a great cause for kosen-rufu [the widespread propagation of Buddhism as an essential element of achieving world peace] and the prosperity of your family and loved ones, thanks to the great, beneficial power of the Mystic Law [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental law of the universe].

Veterans Day

On November 11, I will be at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, an SGI-USA facility for a conference focused on veterans and active duty military personnel.  SGI-USA has always had a large number of active duty military members because so many of the early members accompanied spouses from Japan.  In more recent times, many Americans with no connection to Japan or Japanese-Americans have begun practicing Buddhism.  With rare exceptions (seen mostly in martial arts movies of dubious relation to reality) Buddhism is a religious philosophy that doesn’t support or even condone war to resolve differences between nations.  You will need to look hard to find any Buddhist terrorists anywhere in the world or point to any wars initiated by Buddhists.  Nonetheless, there may be occasions that require combat.  Shijo Kingo, devoted follower of Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th-century priest whose teachings I follow, was a samurai and a physician.  Now there is an odd combination–along with being a Buddhist.  If you read the writings of Nichiren, it is clear that Shijo Kingo had a hot temper but it is not suggested that he went around indiscriminately killing people.

Forty years ago I spent Veterans Day in Vietnam.  I had been there only a little more than a month at that time.  Two years later, I was out of the Army and protesting the Vietnam War.  Although I hadn’t volunteered, I thought what we were doing there was the right thing.  By the time I left, I realized I had been greatly mistaken.  Not until I encountered Buddhism did I find a religion that would supply the moral compass critical to an effective military.  The focus of a military force must inevitably seem to be on killing the enemy.  Yet that has to be the last resort.  The military must be capable of killing but must not wish to kill.  The lethal, the near-lethal and the simply horrific consequences of combat desensitize human beings to the point that they often do get to the point of wishing death on others.  When we honor those who have died or served in the military for their service, we need to keep that sacrifice of their soul in mind as well.   Buddhism allows redemption of those thoughts and deeds that war brings to the veteran. 

Anti-gravity bra

OK, what the hell is a guy doing writing about this?  Well after the last couple of posts, I thought it was time to lighten up (very punny, haha).  But seriously, this a good story line that I stuck in my writing topics folder for future use.  Let’s be clear here, I am not talking about annoying underwires and strap architecture; no I am talking about a device that could actually repel gravity.  A total defeat for the effects of aging and the increasing mass that may accumulate over time.  Now there would be a real-world application of technology to ensure an inventor’s  financial fortune, eh?

In case I haven’t offended anyone, let me try one more joke line I have been wanting to use if I ever get the chance to do stand-up comedy.  What is up with those stupid leather bras that go on the front of cars.  Let’s say you have a car with a big front end; you know the kind of I’m talking about, right?  So if you don’t buy a bra for it, what I want to know is, will the bumper start sagging after a while?  See, just another use for the anti-gravity bra!

© Copyright 2007 by John Maberry

Bitch-slap Bush?

Don’t you want to?  I do, until the smirk fades and he cries for his mommy.  I couldn’t waterboard him, not after my post yesterday.  In Vietnam, I lay in my bunk at night or sat in a guard tower on a berm dreaming of rolling a grenade into the Commo Chief’s hooch.  Stubby was a drunken lifer and near-psychotic.  But I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t get access to a grenade and besides, how could I get back to my bunk before it went off–implicating me.  I never felt that strongly about anyone before or since.  Still, when I saw the blood gushing from a student’s face on a bridge in Mankato, Minnesota I was angry enough to throw a rock at the state trooper whose baton had struck the protestor.  I regretted immediately; how could I respond with violence to violence when I wanted the killing to stop and the war to end?  It’s all in the memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland.

It actually bothers me that I don’t feel the same rage, the same disgust, the same revulsion, against Bush that I felt against Nixon.  If anything, he is more dangerous than Nixon in his intellectual weakness, his moral shortcomings, his persistent but mistaken certitude in the wisdom of his own judgments and the sycophants that support him and the persuasive neocons that influence him.  So the best I can muster is the desire to slap him.

Not a very enlightened, not a very bodhisattva perspective, eh?  There surely is a Buddha nature in him, just as there is in any human being.  I know that; I just forget sometimes.  The interesting parallel to the Nixon era is that after he beat McGovern in a landslide in his run for a second term, that he would up resigning less than two years later, in August 1974, before impeachment could remove him from office.  I prayed all of 2006 that the American people would come to their senses about Dubya as they did with Nixon and that he too would be forced to resign as the truth came out.  Well, he didn’t, but the American people did wake up–clear enough from the national elections a year ago and Bush’s current approval ratings. 

Still, we are stuck with this man saying if the Senate won’t approve his nominee for AG, then the Justice Department will have to go leaderless through the end of the Bush era.  The CIA must be able to waterboard people and it is none of the business of the Senate to expect the president’s nominee to say otherwise.  Resign, be impeached–no, Bush should be committed for psychiatric treatment.  More importantly, somebody close to him needs to explain world history to him and teach him about karma.  While he still breathes, there is still time for him to eradicate the bad causes he has been making for the last six years.  For all of our sakes, and his, let’s get him help now.

Q: Is Waterboarding Torture? A: DUH!

Michael Mukasy, Bush nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General, says he needs to research the matter before he can say whether waterboarding is torture.  Why is this even a question that must come up at a confirmation hearing?  Because “Fredo” and his friends at the Imperial Justice Department of the Bush Imperial Presidency said it’s OK for the U.S. interrogators to do pretty much whatever they think they need to do to get information from suspected/alleged terrorists.  So if Mukasy agrees it is [DUH] torture, then he implicates Fredo and friends in criminal behavior.  Torture is and should be illegal.  Waterboarding has been around since the Spanish Inquisition say the news articles.  The U.S. itself has prosecuted people for it on many occasions.  So how or why might it be OK now?  Because the people who are being tortured are “outsiders,” Islamic terrorists (allegedly).  See Shankar Vedantam article on how and why torture has actually increased in the last 100 years as civilization has supposedly progressed.

When a group of people persist in blocking the entrance to a building, in protest of some policy or another, they are arrested for trespass.  They expect and accept this arrest as a legitimate consequence of their act of civil disobedience.   Why should a government interrogator be protected from prosecution for torture, knowing full well that what he or she is doing is both legally and morally wrong?  Why should he or she expect to be immune to the laws against torturing prisoners?

Oh, it must be because of 9/11.  These people are so dangerous, their behavior so heinous, the risk of not getting information from them too great.  So it is OK to torture them.  Isn’t that what Kiefer Sutherland teaches us on 24?  Well no, the end doesn’t justify the means.   Forget about the similarities of Vietnam and Iraq; look at the similarities of government lawlessness during Nixon and Reagan days and now.  It used to be that the School of the Americas at Fort Benning just taught all the Latin American right-wing dictatorships and others how to torture their own citizens.  While we still have extraordinary renditions by the CIA to let other countries with fewer compunctions against torture really get into prisoners, we are now willing to get our own hands dirty directly.  Thank you, cowboy Dubya and your Texas mafia.

We in America have never quite lived up to the moral high ground that is drilled into us by our history and civics courses in K-12.  Still, we have at least aspired to that higher moral ground–some of the time.  Relatively speaking, we torture less, engage in less indefensible conduct, commit fewer war crimes, etc.  We should continue to aspire, not sink to the level of the lowest common denominator for the sake of military and political expediency.

I am an ethical pragmatist, a secular humanist, a Buddhist.  If torturing one person would save the lives of hundreds or thousands of others, would that not be a pragmatic choice?  Perhaps, if it were certain that the torture would produce reliable information.  But there’s the rub; there is no such guarantee.  But if the interrogator has an urgent need for information, thinks there is no other way to get it and proceeds to torture–shouldn’t he or she get off the hook?  NO!  He or she has still inflicted incalculable pain and suffering in a potentially vain effort to extract information, in violation of law, and to let him or her off gives every other nation, every terrorist group and anybody else free rein to point out America allows this so why shouldn’t they?  But let me add this, there is a law of cause and effect at work at all times and places.  Despite the differences in religious beliefs in practices among the world’s religions, they all share a common understanding of “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.”  In Buddhism it is karma–you will get what you have coming.  The religions may differ on when, from whom and how–but it will be coming.  So all of you who approve, endorse, permit and encourage torture, realize that you are just as complicit as the one pouring the water over the cloth atop someone’s nose and mouth.

David Caruso–Descended from a Parrot?

OK, I don’t see a snarky pose as appropriate for this blog.  But I am still not rid of the cold so I am picking an easy target just so I can say I posted something today.  Plus, I am still trying to get a rise out of readers (all 2 or 3 of you out there).  Will being snarky help?  Then let’s get to it. 

Take a look at the previews for CSI-Miami (please don’t watch the show; that is too–eww!).  Look at Caruso (who plays Horatio Caine) and the next time you’re at a pet shop or see a parrot on TV, compare the head movements.  See the resemblance?  What normal human being affects such odd head tilts while talking or moving around a room as he does?  Then there’s the random sunglasses on/off/on/off routine that accompanies the head moves.  This conveys what?! 

OK, so parrots don’t wear sunglasses but if you gave them a pair, I’ll bet it wouldn’t be long before they’re doing an on/off routine imitating people–especially if they watched Caruso for a day or two.  Perhaps you get the idea that I don’t think much of his acting ability AND you would be correct!  He seems so entirely full of himself.  Unfortunately for him, what he seems full of is something most people flush away once or twice a day.  I won’t even comment on the odd intonations, stresses and pauses in his dialogue that seem to be yet another affectation intended to convey some meaning or feeling but which just grates against the senses and conflicts with the plot/simple meaning of words, etc.  About the only sensible role I could see for him would be in a remake of Madonna’s music video for “Vogue.”  Because striking a pose is about all he is capable of.  So I guess he could also make it as a male model.  But as the star of a TV show?  Gimme a break!

Writing and Marketing

I am short on things to say today.  I am fighting a cold I caught promoting Waiting for Westmoreland at the 30th reunion of my law school class this past weekend.  Too much handshaking and intermittent nibbling will do that to me every time.  I am supposed to be expanding the content on the websites, as well as finding other marketing steps, but I will put that off.  Although daimoku (chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) will help eradicate illness, while in the midst of it some common sense says don’t try to do intellectually demanding tasks that require attention to detail.  So it’s a good time to catch up on reading.  Anyway, I will leave you with this potential item to write yourself–I don’t really think it’s right for me:  An Idiots Guide to Writing a For Dummies Book.  I just have a feeling the market is right for that title, don’t you?  Seriously, though, if you have content ideas for the blog or the websites, don’t keep it to yourself, please let me know.  Thanks.  Oh, and if you have a radio show on which I could talk about the book, let me know.

Daily Lama Report

Oh, I’m sorry; that’s the Dalai Lama.  It’s just that the Washington Post has had at least one item (often two or more) about his visit to the DC area for at least the past week.  No need to be snarky or whiny here; he is doubtless a well-spoken exponent of peace and understanding.  He is revered both as a political leader (most Americans love championing the underdog; as the exiled leader of the theocratic Tibet he qualifies) and as a charismatically hipper version of the familiar Buddhist monks.  So what is it then, that I am trying to say here?  That news reports might mislead the uninitiated or uninformed into thinking that the Dalai Lama’s significance in the world of Buddhism is greater than it is or that Tibetan Buddhism is a dominant form of Buddhism. 

The fact is that Daisaku Ikeda, leader of the Nichiren-Buddhist international lay organization, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), has received over 200 honorary degrees from prestigious universities throughout the world.  The SGI has members in more than 190 countries and is the largest Buddhist organization in both Japan and the United States.  Its membership is exceedingly diverse (not just intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities, New Age types, etc.) racially, ethnically, educationally, economically, and otherwise.  This certainly cannot be said of most Western religions and not even of other Eastern religions, including Tibetan Buddhism.  Why is this so?  It is because the practice of Nichiren Buddhism can be easily learned by anyone, creates value for everyone and provides a plausible hope of peace and happiness for the entire world.  Don’t take my word for it; look at the 20-minute video on the SGI website.  

Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions

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