Friday, June 15, 2007

A Lively Bunch...

... those Lagunatics! Met with the Democratic Club last night, as planned, and enjoyed the evening enormously. It was HOT in the little hall where we met, with virtually every seat taken, and human bodies adding to the accumulated heat of the day. Even the open windows and main doors did little to relieve the heat, and I was sweating profusely before I got the first piece read. I decided, too late, that I would have done well to have spec'ed out the space a little more thoroughly beforehand, and to have created a better perch from which to read and hold forth. That lack of foresight left me standing throughout, book in hand, with too much energy draining into pacing back and forth.

But I quibble. I found the audience very receptive, very warm to The Bush Diaries and its positions, and generally eager to respond. My hope is that the energy of the reading/performance will help to keep things stirred up as we approach the next election. We can't afford anything approaching a repeat of the Bush disaster, and what I dread is that liberal voters will not have the patience to last out the current, pathetically small Democratic majority and the stonewalling of a stubborn and inflexible president, so convinced of his own rectitude in all matters that he ignores the words and actions of anyone who does not toe his line; and that, as they have begun to do already, they--the liberal voters--will lose sight of the greater need and once again set to squabbling needlessly amongst each other, leaving open the field for another "strong", "decisive" Republican. This is my fear.

I would love to see the troops withdrawn from the Iraq fiasco, this afternoon if not sooner. I would love to see this president and this vice-president impeached, along with their attorney general. They most richly deserve it, and it would be a needed vindication of the power of the Constitution. But not at the larger cost of creating further divisions among passionate and thoughtful democrats, and making them look small-minded, "political," and vindictive. If this country is to rediscover its humanity and its leadership in the world, we liberals need to find the unity of vision and the resolve that have served the right wing so well in the past half-century.

That's why the Buddhist values seem so essentially important to me in our current predicament. Values like compassion. Tolerance. Patience. Generosity. A suspension of animosity. Unselfishness. Breadth of vision. A firm rejection of the ignorance of easy answers... Are you listening, Al Gore?


Anonymous said...

the question for dem pres candidates is how to look strong while exiting Baghdad? Is there a Buddhist approach to showing strength? Electable American politicians all seem to be about possing a macho image, compassion is not part of a Christian right wing vision that has taken over the country.The front page of the LA Times today is even about how Mormon's aren't Chrsitian enough to get elected.
There is no way a Buddhist is going to get elected, not in the current American climate.
What happened to separation of church and state?
And what is the deal with only one acceptable church?

George Luca said...

Oh wow... where do I start... if you could only see the irony of it all. Peter, you are obviously intelligent, there is no question about it. At the same time, I've always found it amazing that intelligent people can be so... limited... by their perception of themselves (i.e. I'm intelligent, therefore I must be right about everything).
For someone who preaches tolerance, you seem rather intolerant, and I was wondering... is mockery one of your buddhist values?
You are free to feel and believe as you desire, after all that is what makes the USA such a wonderful country. That is also why you don't see any americans getting on rafts to leave and try to build a better life in another country... So why mock???
What really concerns me is the statement you made concerning yourself... that you can achieve happiness without having to believe in a god... Please point to one single society that achieved that happiness while having eliminated God from the picture? (I think communism would be a great example, don't you???) Actually, why don't you look at our society and see if you recognize the effects of removing God as the primary governing force. Please do tell me where our society will end up if everyone will do as they see fit, as long as they have achieved their personal happiness? Isn't it funny that a society based on christian beliefs is affording you the opportunity to mock it? Dear Peter, I'd hate for you to stand before God one day and not know what to say. In one of your blogs, you mentioned "your Jesus"... That Jesus will either know you or not...

Oh, and to the anonimous knucklehead asking the question "What happened to the separation of church and state?"... You are just regurgitating an ignorant statement, without understanding the context of the reference. Here's a hint... go do some research, find the letter referencing the "separation of church and state" and read it in it's entirety... you might be surprised by what you find and more importantly you will no longer be ignorantly parroting what you've heard others say...

Peter, I wish you the very best, and I hope you are not offended at my difference of opinion...

Best regards,
George in Florida

They call him James Ure said...

Al Gore would be excellent.


It is very possible to be happy without God. Just look at the Dalai Lama. He is very happy. He is always smiling, laughing, compassionate and loving. Those are all traits of happiness if you ask me.

On a personal note I am Buddhist myself and am quite happy. In fact happier then when I was a Christian. I am not saying that you can not be happy as a Christian--no, I am saying that happiness is not owned by any one religion.

As for the fall of Communism I know from studying the Soviet state as part of earning my history degree that their downfall was mostly due to economic collapse. I'm not defending Communism but what I am trying to say is that a theocratic state isn't any better--it's the other extreme.

Do you believe that a theocratic Christian state would be good? I'm assuming from what you wrote that you do. I think one only need to look at the Islamic states to see what a bad idea one religion states are. And I do not restrict my criticism of theocracies to just the monotheistic ones.

There is a movement in Thailand by some mislead Thai monks who want to make Buddhism the official religion of Thailand because of the majority Buddhist population. However, thankfully the king and the parliament have voted against such measures.

I also wanted to ask you about this statement:

Please do tell me where our society will end up if everyone will do as they see fit, as long as they have achieved their personal happiness?

Do you mean by this that Buddhists believe that they can do as they see fit because following their faith brings them happiness? If so I would ask you to look up the 8 Fold Path and the 5 Precepts of Buddhism.

Christianity is a beautiful religion but so are many other religions. Let us not limit us in this country to only one religion. America has always been about diversity.

Sure the Constitution may not directly say that there must be a separation of church and state but is it not a crucial idea to the good of all? Would you want America to be a Buddhist theocratic state being a Christian? Or perhaps an Islamic state?

Then there is the issue of prayer is school. Lets assume that the prayer would be Christian but which sect of Christianity's prayer would we use. Catholics say a different prayer then Protestants, etc. And what if your child were subject to and Islamic prayer in school everyday--speaking of happiness, would that make you happy?

All I'm asking of you is to put yourself in the shoes of belonging to a minority faith and try to see their point of view.

I respect your religion and all I ask is that you respect mine as well. You do not have to accept it or even like my faith but I do have a right to practice it without it being infringed upon by the majority. Just as you have the right to not be infringed up on by the minority.

Everyone's faith is of equal status in the eyes of the Constitution. Liberty means we have the right to choose which faith or no faith will make us happy. Just because someone might be an Atheist does not automatically mean that they have no morals or values. I hope this is not what you are implying.

PeterAtLarge said...

Not offended in the very least, George. Indeed, I'm always delighted to hear other opinions than my own. I would welcome them more frequently.

One small point: just because people aren't "getting on rafts" to leave this country does not mean, surely, that everything this country does--or everything the government does in our name--is above question, criticism and, yes, even at times reproach? I'm guessing that it's my recently-abandoned, once rather irreverent "conversations" with Bush that you take for mockery. Okay, I teased in The Bush Diaries. Perhaps, at times, I mocked. It's one way of putting out the questions, criticizing and, yes, at times reproaching...

Oh, and thanks to James for his answers to several of your other concerns. Anyway, I wish you great happiness with your God, even if he doesn't happen to be mine. Best of everything, PaL

George Luca said...

I'd like to start by thanking you both for the cordial tone of the responses... it is greatly appreciated. Having said that, I feel the need to explain a few things...

To "They call him James Ure":

I'm afraid I didn't clarify my point about happiness... there are many crack dealers, child molesters, atheists, christians, buddhists, muslims etc. that are happy doing what they do... happiness doesn't really have much to do with doing what is right, except maybe when it comes to doing what is right in your own eyes. I , by no means, begrudge you your happiness. The statement that troubled me was about achieving happiness without having to believe in a God... While I agree that it is possible to achieve that happiness (see my examples above), the implication is that you don't really need a God, since it's all about being happy. However, just because I'm happy doesn't necessarily make me (or what I do) right. And just because I think I'm right, doesn't necessarily make me right. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and many other leaders felt that what they were doing was right, however there are millions of people in each case that would contend otherwise. So then the question becomes... "Who decides what is right and what is not?".
Definitely not society at large. Ergo my example of the communist society. And on a slight note of digression; I was born and raised in a communist society and please believe me when I say this... what you studied will never compare with the reality of what I and hundreds of millions of people have lived through (and many hundreds of millions have died because of). The communist society failed because there was no moral fiber to sustain it. That is what happens to a society at large once God is removed from it. In a nutshell, there is no higher authority to answer to, therefore I/we can do whatever I/we want for my/our gain. There are no consequences to how I lived my life, so I can do as I see fit...
I maintain however that a society founded on morals established by God has a much better chance of success, as people's basic unalienable rights are guaranteed by the Creator, who created them equal (sound familiar?)

Having said that, I'm not condoning a theocratic state, but you and I do live in a society founded on ideas rooted in the christian faith. The freedom of speech, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, the freedom of religion, the freedom of the press, the freedom to pursue economic success, the freedom to pursue an education, all these things that we, quite often, take for granted have been made possible because of moral standards based in the christian faith. You used a poor example, when you referred to the islamic states as an example of what a bad idea that would be... all you have to do is read the premises of their faith... read the Koran and one can never say such nonsense that Islam is a peaceful religion... As a matter of fact, true christianity will never force someone to believe in Christ. One can only be a christian by having received the revelation of who Christ is. That is why only in countries that have their moral fibers founded in the christian faith can there be freedom of religion and so many other freedoms.

Moving right along... I'm glad you actually KNOW that the idea of the separation of the church and state is not really in the constitution... most people in their ignorance assume that it is. However you err in one aspect. The idea of "separation of church and state" had nothing to do with keeping the church out of the affairs of the state... I won't tell you, instead I really think you should look into it for yourself. There is a lot to be said for putting the effort into finding something out for yourself, if you care enough to find out. Or, you'll just subscribe to the "Ignorance is bliss" school of thought and continue as before.

Putting myself in the shoes of a minority religion... well, this is a country that was founded on the christian faith, yet everywhere I turn I see things promoted that are against it, and I'm consistently told to shut up about Jesus, and how wrong my religion is, etc... funny I don't see anyone get so upset when talking about the Dalai Lama or Mohammed or Vishna or Zeus, or any other religious figure one can think of. As far as prayer in schools go, I don't live in a muslim country, so if you happen to be of a different faith, you don't need to pray... or you can always choose to go live in a country where your faith is the majority. I know for a fact what would happen to me if I complained about prayer in a muslim country. And I also know what happens in a society where moral standards are being diluted because of what I'd like to refer as the "tyranny of the minority" (note, this is not referencing minority from a race perspective), where in order to respect the sensibilities of a few people we remove the very building blocks of our society from the foundation: we have more teen pregnancies than ever, more school shootings, more drug usage in schools, and we wonder why???. What about the minority infringing on the rights of the majority?
Please remember that the Declaration of Independence assures us that our equality stems from our Creator, having created us as equals. And now we want all the benefits without acknowledging the source...
In closing, you are considerably more eloquent than I could ever hope to be, however I'm afraid you are basing too much on mere assumptions.
I don't care much for religion. I care about truth. There may be many truths out there, but there is only one Truth, and that is as follows:
Everyone has sinned (even the Dalai Lama) against God, the creator of heaven and earth. We all need to be restored to a right relationship with Him. Jesus, with his death on the cross paid the price and paved the way for us to have that relationship restored. That is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Anyone who calls himself a christian but does not practice what Jesus did, is not really a christian, and one can't really follow The Way without the Holy Spirit. For you to say you were a christian and then became a buddhist, well you never really had the revelation of Jesus Christ. I might be going out on a limb here, but you were probably more of a cultural christian, maybe even went to church, but never knew the God that created you. In no way do I mean to be insulting, I just know that God desires for no one to perish, but to have everlasting life.

We could go on forever, back and forth, especially since there are so many misconceptions floating around that would need to be clarified first in order to have deep, meaningful conversations, however the human factor is removed online, and a lot is lost in that.

I do thank you for your kind words and Peter, I thank you for taking the time to respond as well.

I won't take anymore time and space on your blog, and having said my peace, I wish you both the very best.


Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way Peter,

I really enjoyed your poem "A Sadness" from the Viking Cruise. I'm glad I took the time to see a different facet of who you are, even if you couldn't completely keep the political twist out of it. Oh, what the heck... I'm actually jealous; It's been a long time since I've traveled on the Danube and I do miss it. Thanks for sharing the trip.

Also, please be kind enough to ignore my spelling mistakes. I'm too tired to care, and if push comes to shove, I'll blame it on me being a foreigner...

Now I'm really done.

They call him James Ure said...


Thank-you for the lively discussion. I guess we will just have to respectfully agree to disagree.

All the best.