Friday, June 22, 2012


... who castigates Obama and suggests that I'm too willing to turn a blind eye to what she sees to be his unprincipled actions, this letter (I trust she will not mind): 

I think you do me an injustice in assuming that I do not examine these matters in great depth and sometimes anguish.  I was born before, and lived through World War II.  I earned my political pragmatism and my perhaps slightly jaundiced realism the hard way: with bombs and ration books and pervasive national fear and pain.  And I had it easy.  At that unhappy  time, I am convinced, Churchill was principled only in so far as it furthered his obsession with defeating the Nazi empire.  I'm also convinced that there are people we have to deal with in this day and age whose misguided fanaticism could lead, as did Hitler's, to world war, mass genocide--and even the extinction of our species.  

As for the slippery slope you caution me to be aware of, let me play a little with your metaphor: I'm sure you will have noticed that our nation hardly occupies the high ground.  The political world, particularly, is a morass of lies and slander, venality and self-interest.  Unfortunately, this is not some weird, inexplicable anomaly thrust upon our unwilling, saintly selves, but a reflection of who we are.  If there's a slippery slope, we're sliding down it, near the bottom already, and increasingly out of control.  The precipice looms.  in my view, we threw democracy off the cliff some time ago in order to facilitate our joy ride.  Greed and ignorance have ceded the field to the interests of power and wealth.

Of course we should hold our president to higher standards.  We should hold all our politicians to higher standards.  But those you and I favor, the Democrats, are operating in a system already gone far awry, against political opponents who have no scruples whatsoever.  It's all very well to stand outside that fray and cast aspersions from the luxury of the spotless high ground we like to think we occupy.  Those poor bastards have no choice but to grovel in the pit of excrement created by our principled selves.  

So there.  My two cents.  You say: be principled.  I say: be real.  I fear you're right, that we will not see eye to eye.  But, as Ellie reminds me, reading this, politics should not be "off the table" as you suggest., even between friends who disagree so fervently.  With love, Peter

A late added note, from the "Introduction" to the latest book out from my publisher, Parami Press, One Monk, Many Masters by Paul Breiter:  "Ajahn Sumedho, a Western monk of the Theravada Thai Forest tradition, said, 'Any fool can say how things should be.  It doesn't take any energy to criticize.'  In ordinary life, we do more than enough fault-finding, and it doesn't bring us a whole lot of benefit.  It is also a basic tenet that what we see in others is a projection of our own habit patterns."  Amen.  

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