Monday, November 5, 2012


... it is shameful that any person be required to stand in line for eight hours to cast a ballot, yet this is happening in Florida and elsewhere.  It is shameful that election officials should be involved in efforts to make voting harder, rather than facilitate it.  That private citizens be allowed, even trained, to stand guard at polling places to intimidate their fellow citizens.  That armies of lawyers must be hired by both sides, in order to defend the rights of voters--or to challenge them.  (It is also shameful that the Supreme Court of this country should countenance the flood of money that contaminates the electoral system, but that's another story.)

Before the world, we proclaim our democratic system to be the best that mankind has ever devised.  And yet we offer to the world the spectacle of endless lines of voters frustrated in their efforts to cast a vote.  We offer the spectacle of a congress hog-tied by the refusal of its members to reach compromise, a senate that can be halted in its tracks by the obstinacy of a single senator, a president stymied in every initiative by those who do not bother to disguise their irrational hatred for him and their expressed intention to do nothing but drive him from office.

I am angered by the argument of equivalence, which I hear so often these days: that "both sides do it."  No, they don't.  It's predominantly the rightists who are working to disenfranchise voters, and rightists who are responsible for a government that is reduced to virtual inaction on all important fronts.  It is rightists who offer no compromise from outlandish positions on taxes or health care.  It is rightists who, on the basis of no evidence but their own prejudice and willful ignorance, refuse to accept what science has to teach us.  It is rightists who thump bibles and seek to impose their morality on every one of their fellow citizens.

We call ourselves, constantly, loudly, boastfully, "the greatest country in the world," and gladly preach our virtues to nations we look down upon from the lofty heights of our democracy. But our hypocrisy stands exposed by a media that broadcasts the images of these realities to a watching world.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


... you can say whatever you want to say in a campaign."  So said Mitt Romney in a campaign speech this morning.  He intended it as an indictment of President Obama.  But it's a perfect description of his own campaign philosophy: say whatever you want to say. Or whatever you think your audience might want to hear.  It's another reason NOT to trust a thing he says.

Monday, October 29, 2012


In the coming days before the election, I intend to devote my daily Buddhist meditation practice to sending wishes of goodwill to American voters on both sides of the political spectrum, from far left to far right.  May they base their decisions on the principles of compassion, justice, wisdom, and a dedication to the truth.

In yesterday's, Sunday New York Times there appeared a full-page advertisement purchased by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  In it, the Reverend Graham admonished voters "to cast their ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel."  "I urge you to vote," he continued, "for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman."

I want to ask the Reverend Billy Graham which biblical principles he refers to, but I think I already know the answer.  They are the principles of the Old Testament, the principles of "thou shalt not," whose angry, vengeful God found it proper to smite the enemies of Israel--and all those who opposed his will.  I want to ask the Reverend why he advocates for those ancient principles, rather than those of the New Testament--the principles of compassion, mercy, justice for the meek and health for the sick, the principles that drove Jesus to turn over the tables of the money-lenders in the temple?  These are the principles out of which I myself would wish Americans to cast their vote.

As regards the "sanctity of life," to which the Reverend Graham refers, I'd refer readers to the excellent op-ed piece by Tom Friedman, Why I Am Pro-Life, also in yesterday's New York Times, in which he points out that, for many of Graham's evangelical persuasion,  the "sanctity of life" appears to apply solely to the period between conception and birth.  Post-partum, you're on your own to face, perhaps, a hail of bullets from a madman with an unregulated assault weapon or survive, unprotected and unaided, the ravages of poverty or disease.  In Buddhist thought, as I understand it, the principle of compassion applies not only to your fellow humans but extends to every living being--from birth to death.

I have been wondering, too, this week, how it must feel to know that you are the recipient of projections from literally billions of your fellow human beings.  The Jesus of the New Testament was the recipient of those projections: the adulation of those who found in him their need for compassion and understanding, the hatred of those who saw in him a threat to their old ways of thinking.

Where, I have been wondering--no comparison intended!--does President Obama find the strength and wisdom to deflect those billions of projections and maintain his sanity?  It must come, I suppose, from the realization that projections have more to say about the sender than the recipient: as readers of The Buddha Diaries know, I try to make it my practice, when I make a conscious effort to examine the judgments that come up, to learn what they have to teach me about myself, not the person about whom I make them.  The latter is most frequently merely a mirror for those things I dislike--or like!--about myself.

So I send metta to the American voter in the coming days, hoping that those many who hear the voices of evangelists and vote on biblical principles will vote on principles of the New Testament rather than the Old.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Integrity is as simple as saying what you mean and meaning what you say.  It’s what you’re known by and what you’re trusted for, if you are trusted; or what you are rightfully distrusted for, if you lack it.  

In my book, a man who changes what he says he believes in order to please or conform with those he’s speaking to is a man who lacks integrity.  I cannot trust what he tells me when I know that he will say something different when addressing someone else.  By the same token, a man who fails to disavow public statements made on his behalf that conflict with his own professed beliefs is a man who lacks integrity.  He does not earn my trust.

It has come down to this.  We should have known it all along.  In fact, we did know it.  From the start of his campaign, Mitt Romney has manifested a stunning absence of integrity.  If he has core beliefs, as he would have us believe, he has shown himself ready to cast them to the winds at the least contingency.  It is what he is known for.  The “etch-a-sketch” reputation is not unearned.  Watching the early Republican debates provided us with ample evidence of this propensity. 

I do no assail a man’s integrity easily.  It’s an uncomfortable thing for me to do, because a man’s integrity is his most valuable—and vulnerable—asset.  I would like to honor a man’s commitment to his religious beliefs, his uprightness, his constancy.  But in Mitt Romney’s case, all this rings hollow, it seems a sham when he fails to step forward and condemn the kind of outrageous bigotry and ignorance we have seen from his supporters and surrogates in recent days: to wit, Gov. John Sununu’s overtly racist slander of Gen. Colin Powell—a man, by the way, whose considerable integrity was mercilessly exploited by the former Republican president—following his endorsement of President Obama; and the unconscionable comments about rape from several prominent Republicans…

Even should he step forward now with forceful condemnation, we could not believe him.  We could believe it only another matter of political contingency.  It does not speak well for a man who would be president, that he sacrifices his integrity with a smile on his face, a joke, and a dismissive wave of the hand.  No last-minute pretense of compassion for the poor, of respect for women’s rights, of concern for the middle class, of peaceful global intentions rings true, when it comes from a man who makes no bones about publicly shredding his personal integrity in this way. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reason #38: Obama has made the world safer from the threat of Nuclear War

50 Days, 50 Reasons to Vote Obama — Reason #38

In contrast to Mitt Romney's sabre-rattling, President Obama has taken clear steps to make the world safer from the threat of nuclear weapons, including signing a landmark New START treaty with Russia in 2011.

Reason #39: Obama Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

50 Days, 50 Reasons to Vote Obama — Reason #39

While the Congressional Republicans have done their best to render the President's new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau impotent, its founding lays the groudnwork for an important new set of protections for consumers against the unchecked greed of financial institutions. We can only hope that the silver lining in Elizabeth Warren's blocked appointment as the CFPB's head is her taking back Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat for Massachusetts.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Reason #40: Michelle Obama's Whitehouse Kitchen Garden

50 Days, 50 Reasons to Vote Obama — Reason #40

The First Lady's vegetable garden is the most expansive to be planted at the White House, building on a long tradition of gardening at the President's residence. The garden sets an important example for the country, illustrating the connection between access to fresh fruits and vegetables in America's kitchens and the living healither, better fed lives.

American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America