Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions.
That’s the tagline for Views from Eagle Peak. It’s a little long, but it’s what it is.
George Floyd. Cops. Minneapolis and more. Protests–peaceful and violent. Us and them. Self-identity–race, sex, job, age and much more. Attitudes and beliefs. Norms and Values. Hate.
We’re all human. That’s the race I put on those forms that ask for it. You can see from my profile picture I’m White. My wife of nearly 40 years is African-American. Her father wanted to kill us if we got married. Later he just said, “call me Dad.” That’s because, in the words of Daisaku Ikeda,
A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.
I prayed for his happiness and accepted responsibility for his attitude toward me–expecting to change myself and thus his perspective. Those things happened.
Blacks are seven times more likely to be killed by police gunfire than Whites are. I don’t have statistics for death by other police behavior. When charged (rarely) and tried (more rare), few cops are convicted in the death of Blacks.
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.
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:
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!
Mosque attacks, Jewish cemeteries and now US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Alt-right racists and xenophobes were emboldened by the ascension of Trump. Now it appears that there are some CBP agents that have been emboldened as well. We all know that there is a psychological phenomenon of lower level government officials being granted investigatory and enforcement authority and having it go to their heads. It seems with Trump’s rhetoric, some CBP agents might as well be wearing Trump wigs and Make America Great Again baseball caps.
This needs to stop. The new chief of DHS, General Kelly, needs to make clear that enforcement of entry rules by CBP is fine–but overdoing it isn’t. In the past couple weeks, here’s just a few samples of what’s happened.
Muhammad Ali, Jr. (son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali) was questioned for two hours at Fort Lauderdale airport after returning from a trip to Jamaica with his mother. They asked him about the origin of his name and his religion. Perhaps the agent(s) were too young to know who his father was (he told them but that meant little to them). Obviously he’s not from one of the seven countries on Trump’s ridiculous travel ban.
Henry Rousso, a noted French Holocaust historian was detained for 10 hours at Houston International Airport. For a time, it seemed he would be deported. He too, is not from one of the seven countries and is, in fact, Jewish. He is associated with both Harvard and Columbia Universities. He has been coming to and from America for 30 years without incident. He was coming to America to present a lecture on “Writing in Dark Times,” at Texas A&M University. According to a CNN report,
Rousso says an immigration officer told him he wasn’t “allowed to give a lecture and receive an honorarium” with his tourist visa. The US State Department allows foreign nationals to receive an honorarium under a tourist visa if they are a lecturer or a speaker and under certain guidelines, all of which Rousso met.
A Nigerian software engineer, Celestine Omin, was detained at JFK airport by CBP agents who reportedly asked questions intended to prove to their satisfaction that he really was a software engineer. Omin works for a startup tech firm, Andela, which recruits talent from Africa to assist American firms. He had a short-term visa allowing him to enter the US. See the story on Fortune/Tech.
Mem Fox, a celebrated children’s book author from Australia, was detained and questioned for two hours by CBP agents at LAX while enroute to address a conference in Milwaukee. She had been to the US 116 times but says she doesn’t plan on coming back. See the story here. She doesn’t look much like a terrorist in her picture, does she?
Juan Garcia Mosqueda, an Argentinian and owner of a New York art gallery, missed it’s opening after being detained at JFK for 14 hours and then sent back to Buenos Aires. The CNN story reports his claim that he was denied access to legal counsel, his bathroom visits were closely monitored and more. He is not a US citizen but has been a resident alien for ten years.
So much anger. So much hatred. So much blame. Four days of the Republican National Convention. With only a few glimmers of light or hope. In his dystopian view of America Donald J. Trump sees the entire Country as Gotham. A lawless place where terrorists from Islamic countries, murderers and rapists from Mexico, Black Lives Matters-inspired cop shooters and other evildoers roam the streets preying on innocent Americans. Fear no more–Trump and the GOP (at least many of the delegates at the Republican National Convention who are office holders) will quickly make it safe again!
Well, in the minds of Trump, Congressional Republicans and many of the attendees at the convention, the rise of terrorism is all the fault of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The two Democrats probably recruited Osama bin Laden to organize the 9/11 attacks just to make George Bush look bad! So the first step is locking up Hillary Clinton, as the Rudelicans at the convention yelled over and over again. Or she could be shot by a firing squad if Al Baldasaro, Trump supporter and New Hampshire state representative has his way. Or she could be hung on the Mall in Washington, DC, if United Airlines pilot and member of the West Virginia House of Delegates Michael Folk has his way. United Airlines suspended Folk from flying. The Secret Service is investigating Baldasaro. If Trump is elected, Obama will be gone, of course, and Trump will change everything on Inaugural Day, January 20, 2017–instantaneously!
Seems unlikely at best but read on. The plans will come later of course; just trust him–but how can we when he lies cheats and steals so much (more on that later) and can’t even run as important an event as his own convention without screwing up so many things. Like Melania’s plagiarism, Ted Cruz taking his revenge for the Donald’s slander of Ted’s wife and father–just to mention a couple of the biggies. So if he couldn’t get this four-day event for himself right, how can he lead the country? Anyway, based on what we know now and what we might imagine could be on tap, here’s what to expect. Continue reading Make Gotham Great Again?→
Two black men killed by police officers within 24 hours. Five police officers killed in Dallas and seven wounded shortly thereafter in apparent retaliation. The problem of “us and them;” the dehumanization of others who we view as less than us or our enemies. They disrespect, disregard or devalue our lives so we will do the same. There is another way.
“It is enough,” said Shakyamuni (also known as Siddhartha Gautama–the historical Buddha), “to kill the will to kill.”
His words came as a response to this question: “We are told that life is precious. And yet all people live by killing and eating other living beings. Which living beings may we kill and which living beings must we not kill?”
In his 1991 lecture on The Age of “Soft Power” and Inner-Motivated Philosophy, delivered at Harvard University, SGI leader Daisaku Ikeda said this about Shakyamuni’s words:
Shakyamuni’s response is neither evasion nor deception. . . . He is telling us that, in seeking the kind of harmonious relationship expressed in the idea of respect for the sanctity of life, we must not limit ourselves to the phenomenal level where conflict and hostility undeniably exist–the conflict, in this case, of which living beings it is acceptable to kill and which not. We must seek it on a deeper level–a level where it is truly possible to “kill the will to kill.” Read more here.
Ironically, it was just six months before Ikeda’s lecture that Rodney King was severely beaten by Los Angeles Police (who were later acquitted on state charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force but two of whom were found guilty of federal civil rights violations). The acquittal of the officers of state charges led to riots in Los Angeles in which 55 people died and 2,000 were injured. During the riots, King said, “can’t we just get along.”
Dehumanization and the Us vs. Them dichotomy inevitably leads to the arguments and counterarguments between Black Lives Matter proponents and law and order proponents who deny that there’s a problem or the scope of it. Few, if any, are in possession of 100% truth nor are few 100% wrong. They just have an understandable but often less than helpful perspective. Here’s another excerpt from Ikeda’s Harvard Lecture, the second paragraph excerpted is the lead-in to the quote above explaining Shakyamuni’s response:
One of the most important Buddhist concepts, dependent origination holds that all beings and phenomena exist or occur in relation to other beings or phenomena. Everything is linked in an intricate web of causation and connection and nothing–whether in the realm of human affairs or of natural phenomena–can exist or occur solely of its own accord.
. . . .
As I mentioned in discussing encounters between different cultures, not all relationships are amicable. The reality of opposing interests and even hostility must be acknowledged. What can be done to encourage and promote harmonious relations?
In Ikeda’s first quote above, I intentionally left out his second sentence, in which he observes that Shakyamuni’s response is based on the concept of dependent origination. We are all, like it or not, interconnected. We are all human, living on this earth at the same time. When we interact we can choose to find hate in others or blame them for our misfortune. Or we can choose a different view. In over 35 years of marriage between myself, a white male, and a black female, we have traveled through most of the 50 states in America, to Canada and to Japan. We can count on the fingers of one hand the times that we have perceived any overt or perceptible discrimination against us by people of any other race. Why? Because we don’t regard others that way AND because we overcame opposition to our marriage from her father.
So, it is enough to kill the will to kill. But it is even better not to hate at all.
OK, there’s no such legal offense, but you wouldn’t know it from what happens in Jefferson Parish schools according to a request by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that the U.S. Justice Department investigate the system. SPLC’s original complaint in 2012 resulted in a U.S. Department of Education investigation–
“into the disproportionate number of African-American students arrested for minor rule violations in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System, the problem has worsened, the SPLC told federal authorities this week.”
Recently, a 10-year old girl with autism wound up handcuffed on the ground with the knee of a police officer in her back. An eighth grader was hauled away in cuffs and spent 8 days in juvenile detention for throwing Skittles in class.
Something seems very wrong with this public school system when, instead of customary in-school discipline by teachers and administrators the police are used to aggressively over-enforce rule violations by students. The SPLC report says this about the system:
Jefferson Parish stands out in Louisiana as the school district with, far and away, the most school-based arrests and law enforcement referrals. The overwhelming majority of these arrests are for nonviolent, minor student misbehavior. African-American students are disproportionately targeted.
The supplemental complaint describes how 80 percent of the district’s school-based arrests during the 2013-14 school year were African-American students – even though they are only 41.5 percent of the student population. When the SPLC filed its initial complaint in 2012, African-American students comprised 76 percent of school-based arrests despite being 46 percent of the student population.
OK, maybe the title is redundant, but it seems that Heath and Deborah Campbell of Hunterdon County, New Jersey have struck a new low in stupidity. Could they possibly be looking for inclusion in the Guinness book of World Records for the most idiotic bigots? They named their 3-year old son “Adolf Hitler Campbell.” They have a younger daughter they named “JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell.” It’s unclear to me what or who the name of the youngest, “Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell,” refers to but I assume it must have some Nazi significance. This all came to light when the news media picked up the story of a ShopRite bakery refusing to put the 3-year old’s full Fuehrer name on his birthday cake. A nearby WalMart did the deed. The first bakery is apparently taking grief for their refusal. Apparently, beyond their lack of concern at injecting perverse political beliefs into their children’s future by giving them these names, they are also incapable of decorating cakes themselves. The ShopRite proposed leaving room on the cake for them to put the name on themselves. Perhaps they are not totally literate either. This all would be amusing, in a disturbing kind of way, if it were not for the nonchalant attitude of the Campbells as quoted in the news media. What will Stormfront, the Hammerskins and others think of this? Invite them in or beat them up?
Forty years ago today, shots rang out in Memphis, killing the Reverend Martin Luther King. I was in Hawaii that day, on R&R from Vietnam. I returned to my unit in Bearcat, the 9th Infantry Division basecamp 25 miles east of Saigon after the riots had spread across America. Things were not much more wonderful there. Tensions between blacks and whites were already high. Continue reading Martin Luther King→
Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions
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