I highly recommend listening to this radio show exploring themes of racism, drugs and legal disenfranchisement. The discussion centers around California marijuana growing and the apparent inequities between white pot farmers and and widespread incarceration of African-American men throughout America. It’s a thoughtful discussion and one worthy of hearing and considering, particularly for white Americans. The show was ably created and produced by my step-brother Chris Moore-Backman.
For some reason being in Philadelphia is getting me in touch with my political nature. This evening, the ACRL 2011 conference reception was held at the National Constitution Center. Rather than spend time smoozing and drinking, I visited a few exhibits on my own and glad I did.
I love this country. I’m happy and proud to be a naturalized citizen. These are words that might be surprising to some of my readers, especially those who have known me a long time. My history of radical and far left-leaning politics don’t always match the views of the general population. I don’t (and wont) salute the flag. I will challenge and do protest my government when I believe they are acting incorrectly. I strongly oppose military action, the death penalty, economic and social racism.
This contradiction is true because a group of white men in their 30s and 40s got together in 1776 in order to “form a more perfect union.” The constitution is an amazing document.
One of the exhibits is Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs. This history of radical, and sometimes violent, movements on both the right and left are demonstrated through images, notes, and audio. The museum did a decent job of being unbiased in the presentation though I’m surprised they focused mostly on the 20th century. I felt at home, and had a sense of solidarity, with many of this who have struggled for social justice and the end of wars. I felt a sadness for those who have promoted hate and bigotry in the last century and continue to in this century.
Between my time with Raj Patel yesterday, the spies exhibit, and the multimedia presentation on the formation of the nation, I feel inspired to be political. I feel inspired to be radical. I feel inspired to be an American.
How do you work with your politics? How do you take part in our democracy?
Dear friends: the situation at Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam (also known as Prajna Temple) has become very critical. There are about 400 young monastics currently being evicted from the monastery by the Vietnamese government and local police. You can learn a bit more from a recent New York Times article called Tensions Rise as Police Question Monk’s Followers – the “monk” in this case is Thich Nhat Hanh.
These young monastics (mostly under age 25) have been living here since 2005 at the invitation of the local Abbott. However, they were asked to leave earlier this year. It is not so simple for monastics to simply disperse and go live alone or at home and that is why finding a suitable new location for 400 people is challenging. All the monastics are Vietnamese citizens and are practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the exiled Vietnamese Zen Master based in France.
If you want to learn more about the situation, please visit Help Bat Nha.
If you would like to help, please do any of the following:
- Pray for a nonviolent and peaceful resolution.
- Stay Informed. Follow Thich Nhat Hanh on Facebook or Twitter
- Send a postcard to the President of Vietnam in support of the 400 monks and nuns at Bat Nha. The postcard was first introduced at the Deer Park retreat in early September with Thich Nhat Hanh. The pdf files linked above can be double-side copied on card stock (text on one side, address on the other) and then cut in half (two post cards per sheet). A 98 cent stamp will ensure Air Mail delivery to Vietnam. Please consider copying them and taking postcards to your next Sangha meeting. You might offer to collect the cards and mail them yourself, asking perhaps for a donation for the stamp.
- Contacting U.S. Senators and Congresspersons, asking that they send a letter of concern about the situation of the monastics to the government of Vietnam. If you choose instead to write a letter, email will be the quickest option. Any letters addressed to Senators and Representatives’ Washington D.C. offices are inspected for security reasons and take an extra three weeks or so to reach their offices.
- Contacting Senators and Representatives on the Foreign Relations Committees. This file gives names and contact information for Senators and Representatives on Foreign Relations Committee subcommittees that would have interest in the situation at Bat Nha. If you live in their state or district, please call with your concern and request immediately.
Thank you for reading and for the support.
Update: You may wish to call members of the Vietnamese government. Mr. Le Thanh Phong- 091.386.5000, Mr. Troung Van Thu – 091.386.5294, and Mr. Ho Ba Thang 091.393.4718 are local members of the Vietnam government.
It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink of alcohol. I was 21-years old at the time and it was my third or fourth attempt at stopping. Today I am living on grace, and though I don’t speak publicly of this very often, I want everyone to know how proud I am of being sober for two decades and to thank those who have helped me along the way. This is a day to remember the goodness in suffering.
Today I am struggling. In fact, I have been struggling since before the national election. I don’t understand the opposition to gay marriage and how Proposition 8 passed in California.
Growing up, as a Mennonite, I was taught that love was of the highest nature. I see Christ as a true revolutionary who reached out to the poor, the destitute, and the outcasts and he did so without judgment and with pure love in his heart. In the past, I have written that I am a potential Christian and a practicing Buddhist. Today, after the election season in California, much of my bitterness and unhappiness with my Christian roots have been watered and I am not so positive about this potentiality. This is my struggle today. In fact, it is so powerful that I am experiencing resistance to attending another marriage ceremony between two people who may have voted in favor of Proposition 8. This is difficult.
As a practicing Buddhist, I aim to seek understanding and to have compassion. Writing here I am trying to reach some understanding and compassion for my Christian brothers and sisters who have taken the stand to discriminate against a group of people for their sexuality. I know good Christians, people right here in my town, and they are good people. And yet, they have taken the stand of not embracing, not loving. It seems fundamentally wrong, and in opposition to the teachings of Christ, to not allow two people who love each other the right to join in marriage. When I married Leslie in 1995, we did so to share our love with our friends and family, to give the relationship a bit more sanctity, more seriousness, and make a lifetime commitment. Why wouldn’t we want this for gay couples? Aside from the high divorce rate in marriages, I see nothing but positive outcomes to allowing marriage between two people who love each other. It recognizes and honors the love between two people.
Let’s start with the biggie. I am a registered Green, and proud of it, and I swore not to vote for a Democrat (or a Republican) in a presidential campaign again. However, the time has come for me to change my mind and vote for Obama. I hope you will too. Because we live in a duopoly, the winner will be either McCain or Obama. Our nation cannot afford a McCain/Palin administration. Period.
The other big issue here in California is Proposition 8 which would take away the right for same-sex couples to marry. The California Supreme Court has already ruled on this matter. It is unfathomable that we are voting for a proposition that would actually take away a person’s personal rights. I simply don’t understand those trying to pass this proposition, but it seems to come down to religion. It is hard to believe that the religious community would be advocating for discrimination and hatred. If you are in California, please vote NO on 8.
A few other important propositions in California: