Tag Archives: hope

American Democracy Remains at Risk as the Insurrection Continues

My 2021 goal: creating value–bridging America’s political and cultural divide.  Easier said than done. 

In the SGI-USA, the Buddhist organization I’ve been a member of for 40+ years, this is the Year of Hope and Victory. I’m in with that.

Joe Biden has lots of hope. He accomplished in four months more than Donald Trump did in four years (in my view). But he’s having a hard time fostering bipartisanship in Congress. That’s politics; not the practice of Buddhism–or any other faith.

In 2017, I published a tenth anniversary edition of a memoir Waiting for Westmoreland, the path from Vietnam to enlightenment. The back cover blurb says this:

The book is the true story of a 20th century Candide—an innocent growing up in America in the fifties. As a boy, the author suffers the death of loved ones. Spending a year in Vietnam, with its readily available sex and drugs, thoroughly corrupts his youth. Then the political realities of the war and Watergate shatter his idealistic illusions about America. So, to reclaim his virtue and ideals, he thinks he must reform the people or institutions that failed him.

His quest for the tools of change becomes a frustrating pursuit. Finally, he encounters a person who has the knowledge he needs. She introduces him to the life philosophy of Buddhism, which reveals that the credit or blame for all of life’s events lies within—not from others. Looking for happiness outside oneself is fruitless. Only by taking personal responsibility for one’s own life can one be truly happy. Reforming oneself, not trying to change others, is the means for making the world a better place.

Q: So, why all the politics here on Views from Eagle Peak  the last few years?

A: In 13th Century Japan, Nichiren, the founder of the Buddhism I practice said this, “There are not two lands pure and impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.”

Our tagline for Views is Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions. 

The thing is, there are millions of delusional people out there–members of one of the two major political parties in America. Guess which one. 

Are parties analogous to lands? Is delusion evil? Well, not necessarily. But there is one party that exhibits racist behavior–the one once called the Party of Lincoln. The roles of emancipator vs oppressor of minorities have reversed again. 

Words do matter. Especially when they’re false—AKA lies. 

In recent polls, 70% of Republicans STILL believe Joe Biden didn’t fairly win the 2020 US Presidential Election. Why?

There are two reasons for the belief in the BIG LIE (that the election was stolen from Trump):

  • Because Trump said so–and they believe HIM.
  • The echo chambers of consumer choice–right-wing cable, network, web, social media, talk shows, etc. that confirm the false narrative of fraudulent ballots or counting irregularities.

Over the last few decades, the availability of news that reflects the perspectives and biases of the listener/reader/viewer has increased substantially. Why look for objective news that doesn’t match one’s beliefs in reality when one can enter the echo chamber and have opinions or conspiracy theories validated as fact?

When checking the weather, people really want to know what’s expected for that commute, game, trip, etc. It’s annoying, frustrating even, finding that the politician or party one favors is corrupt or not serving one’s interests.  BUT it’s as important–if not more so, than knowing whether an ice storm or tornado is coming, that the President is a liar, a cheat, a con man or worse. 

Joe Biden won–fair and square. That’s a fact.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said (as did others, in subtle variations in wording), “You are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.”

ALL Presidential election results in the 2020 race were certified in each state and territory. Many of those states were controlled by Republican secretaries of state. There were audits and recounts in many states, with no change in the results.

As many as 60 legal challenges were filed by lawyers associated with Trump. Many of the judges were appointed by Trump himself or former Republican presidents. All but one case was summarily dismissed–the other on a technicality prior to considering the merits.

William Barr and the Trump Department of Justice found no significant fraud in the election either. 

The insurrection continues? Yes, it does–just in a new form. The new attack on democracy is on the popular vote itself–not on the results.

The insurrection began with the January 6, 2021, latter day of infamy. The violent attack on America’s Capitol by a mob instigated by Trump himself.  White supremacists, conspiracy theorists and a variety of other right-wing groups–Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Boys and more.

The new attack on democracy is directed at future elections. Hundreds of bills passed in Republican led legislatures across America. Bills reducing polling place hours, days to vote, mail-in voting, and much more. All making voting more difficult–for minorities and those more likely to vote for Democrats. The goal:  Republican candidates win despite fewer registered voters. AND if the results aren’t to their liking–the legislature can overturn them. That’s called autocracy, not democracy.

At the January 6th insurrection, the Trump mob killed or injured nearly 150 police officers. Millions of people watched on live TV–across mainstream media channels, PBS, cable and more as they stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and defacing historic architecture and artifacts.

Why? To overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. They set up a noose and chanted to hang Vice-President Mike Pence. Others hoped to kill Nancy Pelosi and kidnap others.

Yet, even as their lives had been at risk, a substantial majority of Republican House members voted to object to certification of Electoral College results–accepting the BIG LIE. Eight Senators acceded to the same falsehood.

We could go on and on about truth versus lies (AKA “alternative facts). Like with the reality of the pandemic versus it being no big thing. The deaths of over 600,000 people seems real. To some, that’s not even a fact.

Back to Buddhism–changing oneself to change the world. Hating those who don’t believe what you believe doesn’t help. They still have a latent state of Buddhahood buried within. Changing political leaders will NOT necessarily make the country safer, healthier, happier or more financially successful–for all. BUT–praying, speaking and acting on the belief of the humanity of the other side is the path to positive results. That, instead of simply condemning or ranting about the racist and autocratic actions of folks on the other.

But make no mistake, American democracy IS at risk. If the laws already passed and the others in process take effect, it will be possible that the results of elections in 2022 and 2024 could be overturned.  Legal and political efforts ARE essential.

As a Buddhist, I may pray for good health. But if I have a severe infection or a broken limb, medical intervention is required–not just faith in my religious practice. 

Great things have already happened with Biden as President. More improvements are on the way. I have hope that America is turning the page to a brighter and more successful future. But it won’t be without continuing controversy and division. That’s the nature of the times America is in. We must bridge the divide. It WILL take time. We must be patient and determined

Unlike the last five years, this will be only the second post on politics—the GOP and Trump. Don’t expect another post like this one before the fall–unless political lightning strikes. 



Hope is a decision–now more than ever

Joe Biden is President-Elect–so say all the major media, including Fox News.

A change is coming but not the radical one those on the other side feared. The Democrats lost seats in the House and at best may get a tie in the Senate.

The good news is that America dodged the bullet of losing its democracy and slipping into autocracy. Now, the people of America, led by a President who intends to serve ALL the people and to heal the partisan and cultural divisions will have the chance to be truly United States.

That won’t be easy. There will be resistance to change, this time by those who were enamored of Trump and enabled by him to defend white privilege. Also by those who feared “Socialism” would come to America (it never was coming and certainly isn’t now). Or some who thought COVID-19 was a hoax or would go away by itself.

There will be resistance by some of the progressive members of the Democratic party who were looking forward to establishing new policies that others viewed as a bridge too far. Not happening in 2021 or 2022.

Consider this excerpt (those of you who live in the US, at least) from a very long article in the 2nd Eagle Peak Annual, published on October 30th. It offered commentary and analysis on three books. Just check the link to see which ones.

We all live here, in these United States. We depend on one another producing goods and supplying services. Goods that we wear. That we use in our daily lives. Services at medical facilities, schools, retail stores, repair shops and more. “Can’t we all just get along?” Asked Rodney King in 1992, a victim of police brutality that resulted in costly riots in Los Angeles. Nearly 30 years later, the answer remains uncertain.

Here’s a couple more excerpts, snippets really, from that item on the Annual.

But change is sorely needed. Policy changes. Dealing effectively, for a change, with the still deadly dangerous pandemic. Spurring economic recovery. And healing the divisions of race, class and party.

Political solutions are not a panacea. Yes, we all hope that the candidates we vote for will keep their promises made on the campaign trail. Promises that suggest if only we did X, Y and Z instead of A, B and C, we all would be happier and more prosperous. We should all know better by now! 

Don’t rely on elected officials to do it all! We all need to work together within our shared humanity to make America a better, more prosperous and more just nation. Don’t believe all the stuff that people post on social media–conspiracy theories and nonsense abound there. Verify through fact checking sources, what you do see on such sites. Go beyond the echo chambers of your favorite news sources that tell you what you want to hear. Make new friends among your neighborhood and community.

Finally, let’s get to the title of this post. It comes from a book by Daisaku Ikeda. Hope Is a Decision.  My review of the book appears below.

Hope Is a Decision: Selected Essays of Daisaku IkedaHope Is a Decision: Selected Essays of Daisaku Ikeda by Daisaku Ikeda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For 43 years I have been practicing the engaged Buddhism that Daisaku Ikeda has spread throughout the world over the last 60 years. While you might suppose that indicates a bias on my part in writing this review. On the other hand, you might conclude that I know the extent of wisdom he can share. That said, I should also note that this book is neither an introduction to Buddhism nor an appeal to follow it’s teaching. It is what the title implies and the review below describes.

Even after so many years, one needs encouragement now and then. One needs words to share with others, words that provide hope in times of crisis. In the US and around the world we have been in a variety of crises–the worst pandemic in 100 years, poverty, political turmoil and more.

This is a very inspirational book of essays, with comments on the wisdom of poets, writers and historians from throughout the world. It’s easy enough to give in to despair, as Ikeda points out. At the same time, as the title says, hope is a decision that one can make. He spells it out in a series of essays written over decades. Here’s a couple examples. Both are from page 14 and 15 of the Kindle edition.

The moment we make a powerful resolve, every nerve and fiber in our being will immediately orient itself toward the fulfillment of this goal or desire. On the other hand, if we think, “This is never going to work out,” then every cell in our body will be deflated and give up the fight. Hope, in this sense, is a decision. It is the most important decision we can make. Hope changes everything, starting with our lives. Hope is the force that enables us to take action to make our dreams come true. It has the power to change winter into summer, barrenness to creativity, agony to joy. As long as we have hope, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

There may be times when, confronted by cruel reality, we verge on losing all hope. If we cannot feel hope, it is time to create some. We can do this by digging deeper within, searching for even a small glimmer of light, for the possibility of a way to begin to break through the impasse before us.

View all my Goodreads reviews here

Starting now, you won’t see so many knocks on the current president of the US. They won’t be needed soon. We may have some comments on what transpires in the White House or the administration over the 70+ days until Biden is inaugurated. Perhaps some coverage of what happens in the life of Trump thereafter.  

What you will see, often, is progress on the front of healing the wounds in America. Finding a path to accomplishing positive results in controlling the pandemic, restoring the economy, restoring civility and more. 

The George Floyd Saga is being hijacked–take it back

We understand rage. Rage that can lead to violence. Violence doesn’t encourage change–it distracts from the message that it’s police behavior needs changing.

NOTE: Since 2015, Minneapolis police rendered 44 people unconscious by neck restraint. That practice needs to stop right now! That’s how George Floyd died.

Who are the looters, the rock and bottle throwers, the fire starters, etc.?

Don’t be taken in by them–they are NOT protesters. They are people with a different agenda. 

Continue reading The George Floyd Saga is being hijacked–take it back

Nixon and Now Trump

So long ago, there was Vietnam and Watergate. Experiences that profoundly altered the trajectory of my life. With innocence lost and illusions shattered, I couldn’t just go to college to find that day job to backstop my goal of being a writer. Instead, I embarked on a quest to reclaim my ideals and find a way to make the world a better place.

I despised Nixon as I never had any man before (well, perhaps not including the M. Sgt who was the bane of my Vietnam tour existence). Not only that, I felt cheated of my future. In the end, it all worked out for the best. The 20th century Candide found the faith and practice that has ensured his happiness and his fortune (not just financial–but health as well). You can read all about that in Waiting for Westmoreland, my memoir.

Nixon’s malevolence pales in comparison to Trump’s. Now I have another disruption to my existence. I am sorely tempted to spend days and nights railing about Trump’s cruelty, his narcissism, his misplaced belief in his own competence, his pride in his own ignorance, his assaults on the rule of law, his racism, his rapturous adulation of despots and disdain for democracy. I could go on and on. Instead, I’ll offer just one token image of contempt. This post is not simply another polemic about politics generally and Trump specifically. Read on after this faux Vogue cover.

Fake magazine cover with Trump as groom and Kim Jong Un as bride

Those of faiths other than my own Buddhism, might say “this too shall pass.” For me, as with Vietnam and Nixon, it will do much more than that. I won’t be diverted from my writing of fiction. I won’t be diverted from enjoying the fruits of my labors enjoying travel and other retirement pastimes.  I’ve cited these words of Nichiren here on Views before, in relation to optimism:

“When great evil occurs,  great good follows.”

After Vietnam and Watergate, the American people accomplished great things. Laws were enacted to prevent the worst excesses of Richard Nixon. Decades later, there are those who forgot them. George W. Bush talked of “compassionate conservatism.” It turned out to be just as much of an oxymoron as could be expected. Now America has the party of Trump–a cult of personality that formerly was called the GOP. What will result after Trump? What great good will follow?

After the great evil–the lies and deceit, the children sent to concentration camps, the corruption of “all the best (sleaziest, stupidest, most incompetent, most criminal) people hired to staff the Trump administration–here is some of what will happen:

  • People will go to jail (many people–you’ve seen the list before)
  • People (Trump, et al) will wind up with much less wealth than they claim to have)–it’s possible the Trump Organization will be dissolved (one could hope; karma is a serious thing)
  • Laws will be passed to rein in an imperial presidency–excessive executive powers will be curtailed
  • The justice system will be restored
  • The GOP and its foolish followers will find a new path or splinter into new parties that won’t be of consequence for years to come
  • America’s diminished role in world affairs and the world economy will eventually improve–but never to the point that it occupied prior to Trump
  • Identity politics will be recognized for the positive and pragmatic response to the policies of elitism, racism, neofacism, White nationalism and the many other failures of both Trump and the GOP as it now exists

And then we’ll do it all over again. As someone has said, history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes. We must relearn and overcome again the mistakes made before. It’s all part of the human existence. But from 2025 to 2060 or so, America and the world will be a better place–in my opinion. What will you do to make a difference? Don’t stand idly by or be too disturbed by the ugliness of today in Trumpistan. Engage with others with compassion and concern. Have hope. Don’t let this simply pass–make something good of it!

Hope, Cynicism and the Stories We Share

As often told here and elsewhere I acquired the dream of being a writer at an early age. Scifi became an early objective. By the time I had experienced Vietnam and read much of Kurt Vonnegut’s work, dark humor had become a more likely focus. Watergate made that notion all the more likely.  Still, I began a quest for a means to make the world a better place than those innocence destroyers, those illusion dispellers left me with as a cynical idealist. Easier said than done. I found no  answer to regain a positive perspective or hopeful outlook. At least not until I encountered the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. That’s all detailed in Waiting for Westmoreland, a memoir published several years ago now.  But this post isn’t about my faith, it’s about an article I read on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, from which I cadged and modified the title of my own post:

Some thoughts on Hope, Cynicism and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Here is what she says, in part

“To live with sincerity in our culture of cynicism is a difficult dance — one that comes easily only to the very young and the very old. The rest of us are left to tussle with two polarizing forces ripping the psyche asunder by beckoning to it from opposite directions — critical thinking and hope.

Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.

Finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving the situation produces resignation — cynicism is both resignation’s symptom and a futile self-protection mechanism against it. Blindly believing that everything will work out just fine also produces resignation, for we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. But in order to survive — both as individuals and as a civilization — and especially in order to thrive, we need the right balance of critical thinking and hope.”

Popova goes on to establish the task of storytellers, a group among which I count myself at least at times, to make things better.

What storytellers do — and this includes journalists and TED and everyone in between who has a point of view and an audience, whatever its size — is help shape our stories of how the world works; at their very best, they can empower our moral imagination to envision how the world could work better. In other words, they help us mediate between the ideal and the real by cultivating the right balance of critical thinking and hope.

I want to see myself, this site and my writing generally–as much as I can, to be congruent with this quote Popova cites from E.B. White,

“[W]riters do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life”; that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down.”

Read the article. It will make you think–think better thoughts.

Hope and Self-Reliance

Hope is a town in Arkansas, birthplace of Bill, that American president of a few terms ago. “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” the Clinton theme song, expressed how he turned his birthplace into a virtual motto—a cris de couer for all that needed doing, that needed fixing. Bill had hope. He passed it on. Many people had it when Barack Obama took office. Not so many among the GOP, of course. Fewer now than in 2008, even among some fellow Democrats. But that is the way of politics and of people. Many prefer to look to others for hope and inspiration. To look to others for the solution to all that ails them, spiritually, economically and otherwise. A foolish thing to do, that, expecting others to be one’s salvation. More often than not, such misplaced reliance leads to disappointment. Better to find hope within. Better to have faith that through one’s own thoughts and one’s own efforts whatever obstacles one may encounter can be overcome and one’s goals accomplished. Scary though it may be, having such self-reliance, it is and always will be not simply the best way but the only way likely to succeed.

There is no Retirement Age in Life

“Age is not an excuse for giving up. Allowing yourself to grow passive and draw back is a sign of personal defeat. There may be a retirement age at work, but there is no retirement age in life.” Daisaku Ikeda

Sometimes referred to as the “Third Age,” retirement is when we get to do those other things we didn’t get to do while we were working. It is not the time to sit on the porch in a rocking chair. That is the way to an early death. Sure, for those who have spent decades at a physically–or even mentally,  demanding job there may be a reason to seek some rest and relaxation. Still, the mind and body must remain active. For me it is in writing–expressing my thoughts and experiences in the hope that they will encourage, inform or entertain others.

From Great Evil Comes Great Good

“Great events never have minor omens. When great evil occurs, great good follows.” So says Nichiren, founder of the largest sect of Buddhism practiced in the United States. While it would be an overstatement to characterize the entirety of the Bush administration years as great evil, there certainly has been plenty of it. Greed, lies, torture, imperialism, etc. At the same time, can there be any doubt that but for those evils (and the collapse of the economy, attributable in part to administration laissez faire policies), Barack Obama would not have been elected this year. Not sure about the “great good”? Consider the response to his election from ordinary citizens here and abroad. Consider the response from leaders around the world. Look at the faces among the thousands of supporters at rallies and celebrations. White, black, brown, yellow. Young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight. Compare those faces to the tiny crowds present at the McCain rallies. A diverse, large tent versus a tiny, exclusive tent. Which is the “real” America–the small-town, small-minded, “your bedroom is my business” members of the GOP (Grumbling Obnoxious Partisans?) or the hope-filled Democrats and Independents that are tolerant of differences, are tired of ideological polemic and are a mix of ethnicities?