Okay, I make a point of accepting a challenge when it comes along. A comment on my past entry has me wondering whether I'm in fact as "frustrated" as the writer says, and whether I'm too "caught up in the tumultuous world." Am I a part of what the current occupant of the White House described, in his absurdly short address to the Republican convention last week, as "the angry left"? You bet I am. It seems to me the only rational response to what he and his administration have wrought, these past (nearly!) eight years. I'm mad about pretty much everything to do with politics. I'm mad, particularly, that the American voting public seems willing to be led about by its me-first nose, allowing the spinmasters to twist every evidence of corruption, incompetence and failure to their advantage.
I'm mad, this morning, in the knowledge that blame the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac debacle and the attendant bailout will be cast on "government" and "Washington"--not for the truly reprehensible laissez-faire deregulation that for too many years catered to corporate and homeowner greed alike, but for bringing the bill to the door of the almighty "taxpayer." So who gets blamed? Not the free-marekteers, who have obscenely profited, but those who believe that government has a responsible role in exercising due vigilance over the economy.
I'm mad, this morning, about the "bounce" for the McCain campaign as a result of his selection of a person as unqualified to be president as anyone who has ever stood the proverbial heartbeat from that office. I'm mad that the "family values" gang are now ecstatic about the kind of unmarried teenage pregnancy that has previously aroused their ire and condemnation, despite their fanatical opposition to the kind of education that could help prevent it. I'm mad that this governor of Alaska has commanded so much media attention, as fodder for the consuming public's childish need for novelty and excitement, while the important issues that confront this nation go ignored.
And while I'm at it, I'm mad about the senseless war in Iraq and the deceptions that led up to it; I'm mad about the sheer incompetence of its conduct. I'm mad about the seven-year neglect of every other pressing issue in the Middle East including, especially, of course, the simmering conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians that is at the heart of it all--along with the demand for oil. I'm mad about the disgracing of America in the eyes of the world, and about the public shredding of its constitution. I'm mad about the coddling of the rich and the neglect of the poor. I'm mad about the denial of scientific evidence and the shameful delay in addressing the issue of global climate change. I'm mad that vast numbers of citizens in this richest nation in the history of the planet lack adequate access to health care. I'm mad that cour children's education lags so far behind that of children in other developed countries, and that we are so busy attending to our own needs and defending our own rights that we lack the will to make the improvements that are needed.
So, yes. I'm angry. It seems to me the only sane and reasonable response to what is happening in this country. And yes, I confess to being "caught up in this tumultuous world." I was gifted by my parents with a social conscience that will not allow me to walk away from what I see to be madness, injustice, abuse of power and economic exploitation. As for being one of a "frustrated bunch of Buddhists"... well, call it frustration if you will. And yet I have said repeatedly that while I learn immeasurably from the teachings of the Buddha and the meditation practice they inspire, I am not (yet?) able to call myself "a Buddhist."
So far as I understand them, the teachings here would not have me deny the anger that I feel. They would ask me to conscientiously explore the source of that anger, and the ways in which it might be relieved. They would not have me ignore the suffering of the world around me, nor my own. Skillfully practiced, though, they would help me to establish the kind of equanimity that might in some measure alleviate the suffering of myself and others. They would urge the kind of goodwill and compassion that is much needed in the world--and in our country--at this time. We would all be getting on very much better if we could remove our own prejudice from the equation and listen with mindful attention to the views of others. I recognize that I myself am not very good at doing that, but at least I'm aware of the need to try.
That said, to reduce Buddhism to the catch-phrase "all is dust" is to seriously misunderstand the wisdom that it teaches. Perhaps, as I understand it, the alternative construction, "there is dust, and then..." might be a little closer to the mark.