Friday, March 26, 2021


I have a friend in Sydney, Australia, whom I first knew more than sixty years ago. I remembered her as an early great love of my life; she remembers me, well... less well! But at least she remembers me. It's an interesting story for another time. Anyway, we renewed contact about five years ago, and then lost touch again until more recently. I have enjoyed getting a view of America from the other side of the world--and also trying to summarize what's happening around me for the benefit of someone who lives so far away. I thought it might be interesting, here on The Buddha Diaries, to include you, even in mid-conversation. Here's my latest effort:

Hello again, Susan,

Thanks again for yours. Such a lot to respond to… and maybe more to add, after these two latest dreadful shootings which I’m sure you’ve read about. Our media seems intent on asking: Why? I think the question should be: How? How do we continue to make it possible for such obviously deranged young men to acquire the kind of weapons that can destroy so many lives in so few seconds? It seems beyond belief to people like myself (old lefties, liberals, whatever) that our government is so paralyzed by fear of the NRA and subservient to the Second Amendment (the “right to bear arms”) that was written, for God’s sake, at a time when “arms” were front-loaded muskets, one shot at a time, and time for reloading in between! Did you know that we now have four hundred million firearms in private hands in this country—more than actual people!

Which brings me to one of your questions: the filibuster, which has been paralyzing the US Senate for years now. It’s an arcane rule that allows any senator to hold up any bill until he/she finishes talking about it. Originally that meant actually standing on the Senate floor and haranguing on forever, or until everyone gave up and let him/her have his/her way. But that rule was changed and all they have to do is announce an intention to filibuster and the whole works get gummed up. The mere threat of a filibuster is enough to prevent any action. The result is that absolutely nothing gets done in the US Senate. Now that it’s a 50-50 split, one conservative Democratic senator (Manchin) has the yea-nay power on every single piece of legislation. And he won’t budge on guns, voting rights, or any other major issue. It is, again, beyond belief, in this supposedly most powerful country in the world. I think I would be inclined toward some other place to live if I could find one; and if we weren’t so settled (and, yes, I must admit it, so comfortable) here.

We (the “right”ones, of course!) are much relived that the Covid relief bill has passed—though without a single Republican vote in House or Senate—and that Biden and his team are finally doing such a fine, and remarkably speedy job in vaccine production and distribution. I’m surprised to hear about your own delay. We hear generally such good things about Australia’s handling of the virus. Obviously, at least until now, you have done a far better job that we have. Trump, as I see it, is becoming increasingly irrelevant, even though his supporters (even those in Congress) refuse to give up on the Big Lie that he won the election. Thanks, I think, in good part to social media, the QAnon faction and its close cultural relatives remain absurdly influential, and it’s disturbing to see elected officials cowering before the nonsense they promulgate. The media are already talking about the 2022 mid-term elections, which will be a test of the remaining power of Trump and Trumpism. It pains me to say that we could still swing further to the right. But I’m hoping not.

I’m interested to hear that your friend in India could not get into The White Tiger. I found it quite compelling reading. I’m now engaged in a powerful book coming from “the other (i.e. Muslim) side”. It’s called Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar, and (thus far) it’s mostly about the life of a Pakistani man growing up in America. But the family also visits relatives in Pakistan, and the tension left behind by the British Raj is a part of the story too. What a mess the rich and powerful countries have created in the world—and what a potential disaster we have prepared for our (only!) planet! You mention the devastating rains in New South Wales which, yes, I have read about; and we have our own climate extremes over here. Again, we have to rely on Biden and his team to change our course—and perhaps the world’s. 

Mentioning the Raj reminds me of another of your questions—about the Oprah interview. I thought the young couple came across rather well, even though their privilege makes their complaints sound somewhat self-serving. Many Americans, these days, seem more royalist than the Brits! For myself—I wonder if it’s so for you, too—I’m old enough to remember the importance of the Royal Family during World War II and to respect the poor old Queen’s unswerving sense of duty to “her people.” I think I feel more sorry for their rather ridiculous predicament than eager for their removal. But would be interested to hear more of your thoughts.

Did I cover everything? You wrote such a long and interesting email, provoking lots of thoughts. It is—have I mentioned this before?—especially interesting for me to see this country from the other side of the world, so I look forward to your insights. 

With love, as always, and excuses for the typos, Peter

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