Tuesday, January 08, 2008

NH prediction

I know who I want to win in NH, and I know who I think's going to win, but I'm not predicting that.

What I am predicting, based on the record high turnout (lines out the ' block at Dartmouth College, the bleeding crucible for the YAF, where those miserable little bastards damned near race-baited the great Bill Cole to death; running out of Dem ballots across the state), is the destruction of the Republican party for at least 3 four-year cycles. We're going to expand the majorities in House, Senate, governor's mansions, and state legislatures, we're going to take the White House, and it won't end there:

Indictments, baby. High crimes and misdemeanors. War crimes. You bastards better be lawyering up.

Jan 2009--bring it on.

[ETA: in the comments, Cindy raises the issue of the anger in a post like the above, and how it seems at odds with the previous resolution to "teach peace". See later comments for my response to her fair query, but see below for further illumination for why I think that anger might be there--not just for me but for many others. This is from a private exchange with another correspondent:

I think the rage in the electorate is going to be so great, and the Democratic wave so big, and the magnitude of the high crimes and misdemeanors revealed so appalling, that the House and Senate leadership will be forced to take action. I also think that Pelosi and Reid will be out at leadership; I think Waxman and Dodd (Feingold and Webb and Murtha too) will have much more sway. I also think the FBI is going to go after the CIA and NSA involvement, as payback; that payback is already starting.
Takeaway point: I think that the vast majority of the electorate have no idea of the breadth, severity, and horror of the crimes this administration has committed.


Cindy Stewart-Birdwell said...


Sometimes your language sounds so angry.....how is that "teaching peace"? What goes around comes around and those that do harm will face a recognition of their deeds one day, without our wishing for it or trying to promote it through anger. The Universe is ultimately just, and balance will come again....even in our Government.

Just my thoughts.....I do think I know your heart though, I got to know it in Texas, and I remember the abundant goodness there.


CJS said...

Thanks for your comment. A couple of responses:

(1) First/most accurate disclaimer: I would never claim to be a "good" Buddhist, or one entirely without anger.

(2) I don't believe that "peaceful" is always (or should be) the same thing as "without anger". I believe that some anger is justified, appropriate, and necessary in order to create change. I think there is a crucial distinction here between "anger directed at situations of injustice" versus "anger directed at individuals". I am prone to both (see (1) above), though only the first seems like good Dharma to me. The magnitude of the crimes against humanity by this administration are, in my view, cause for anger.

(3) "Teaching peace" does not, in my opinion, in all circumstances mean, "teaching without anger." See (2) above.d

(4) Finally, it seems to me that Buddhism does not teach "never feel anger"--this is impossible for humans in the midst of samsara. We are going to feel anger, justifiable and unjustifiable both. Rather, I would suggest that Buddhism teaches *non-attachment*, to anger, as to things, situations, or experiences. In other words: "if you get angry, don't clutch on to it. If you are happy, don't clutch on to it."

The community activist in me might add: "if you get angry, work for change--but don't get attached to results. If you are happy, share that happiness--but don't get attached to retaining it."

Thanks again.

masbrow said...

Cindy seems to be hooked on primitive beliefs about the nature of reality,(the idealization of "the Universe" in a kind of New-Age theism) and misunderstanding of the Dharma; where what is required is not lack of anger or any other emotion, but egolessness.

Cindy Stewart-Birdwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy Stewart-Birdwell said...

Thanks Chris, I always wanted to talk to you about that...I understand your POV, don't always agree, but thanks for taking the time....really.

Masbrow......Primitive? That made me laugh, hon! Good to know you have me figured out though!


8:37 PM

Constance said...

In response to Cindy:
Language can "teach peace". Words are part of our inadequate and generally accepted color spectrum of communication. Choose your adjective: soothing language, instructive language, lying language, livid language, inventive language, loving language, etc.
Let's say that our Esteemed Blogger has moved into the Red. He's mad. That's it. That's all. And his anger has grown as the list of atrocities has burgeoned. I know this anger. There is a difference between anger and ill will. For every expletive he keys in, a baby walking stick will not fall off of a palm leaf in Papua.
I speak now from my experience. We are encouraged to speak out, but we are asked not to rock The Boat. We are taught that rage is not "becoming" (especially in Ladies). However, our gentle indignation is pitiable when we discover that our righteousness doesn’t have the cojones to marshal our pronouncements into action. This tiny little cross-purpose could be the one aspect of the Ideal of American Congeniality that will be our undoing. This will be how we let “Humanity” down. This will be how no one saves anyone else. It’s much easier to order another Sauvignon Blanc or light a candle and pray for the enlightenment of others. This called “arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” We’ll meet at Applebee’s and talk about it. Can it be that we are still not sure “what to do” about the atrocities are enacted on our brothers and sisters? No matter how many arms are blown off? No matter how much skin is charred? How tired have we become? How anaesthetized are we?
Really, really anaesthetized.
Teachers need to teach anger. They must teach us how to discern that thread of white hot energy that shoots through our bellies and tells us when something is wrong.
It is apathy - not anger - which continues to be the most corrosive aspect of our collective behavior. But that’s another story . . . A cry of frustration isn’t necessarily a call for the punishment of those who perpetuate misery (not that some of us haven’t fantasized about the Death of a Thousand Cuts). It is also the voice those of us who yearn to witness these horrible imbalances righted in one lovely, tidy, satisfying, Rectification Event, for all to see, and to be reassured that our blindness is not inevitable after all.

Cindy Stewart-Birdwell said...

Very well said, Constance. I applaud your eloquent reflection. I know about anger, (I'm not sitting here conjuring crystals and rainbows, not by a long shot), I was questioning something I have always wondered about, having known Chris for quite some time in Texas, and wanted to hear his take on something I should have sat down and discussed with him long ago. I am not a Buddhist, I am not a New-ager, (though some of my friends would think so), I am a seeker....and I question things that I have trouble understanding. Do I think humans can totally avoid anger.....never. My goal is to channel it into action, conscious, positive action.....while hopefully lowering one's blood pressure at the same time. Thank you all for clarifying and sharing your thoughts.


Dharmonia said...

Once at a dharma talk in Bloomington we all got into a very heated discussion about anger. We had just heard the Tibetan Buddhist “bottom line” on anger, which is that it disturbs the mind and basically generates bad karma. This prompted a strong reaction on the part of many participants, who felt that anger stemming from righteous indignation over atrocities and injustices was not going to generate bad karma, but rather spurred people to take right action. Someone said “What about all those “wrathful” Tibetan deities?” referring to the archetypal fiery, weapon-wielding characters like Vajrapani, Yamantaka, and Manjushri with his ignorance-cutting sword. This prompted a discussion of the difference between “wrath” and “anger.” I don’t remember every detail, but two of the things our teacher monks said have stayed with me:

1) It turned out that part of the problem had to do with semantic differences. The Tibetan words for anger and hatred connote an “intent to do harm.” I think this is an extremely important distinction, and it’s not always addressed in either translations or Buddhist teachings. Manjushri may be all about destroying ignorance, but not the *ignoramuses.* And, there is an important exception to this: there are plenty of Buddhist parables about the Bodhisattva who takes upon himself the negative karma of killing in order to save others-- who decide, for example, to knock the block off of someone who is currently in the process of killing several other people.

2) It is possible to generate the desire to correct social injustice, stop wrongdoing, fix what’s “broke,” and create change *and still maintain a peaceful mind.* In the Tibetan view, the other reason anger is “bad” is because it disturbs the mind. If the mind is disturbed and agitated, its ability to take “right action” may be impaired. Does that mean we’ll never get angry? Hell, no. We are human. But, does it mean that it would behoove us to try and cultivate equanimity? Hell, yes. The archetypal “wrathful deities” who work to destroy ignorance may be portrayed with snarling faces, scary weapons, and rings of fire around them, but this is symbolism. They are enlightened beings; their minds are calm, rational, and clear.

One of my teachers said that if you are wondering whether you are experiencing anger in a negative way, all you have to ask yourself is: Do I still have a calm and peaceful mind? Or is my mind agitated?

I have no idea how to get to this non-agitated place; I suppose that’s what a lifetime of meditation is supposed to help you with. But I’m willing to believe that I *could* decide that some asshole needs to be voted out of office, and still have a reasonably calm mind. On the other hand, if someone were trying to kill a member of my family and I had a gun, I would probably shoot his lights out, and there is no way in hell that I would have a calm mind. (Maybe someday, in some life, but not now).

So what about hoping that indictments will be handed out? OK, you can’t say that there’s no “intent to harm” there. BUT, I view that in the same category as the Bodhisattva who puts a hole in the guy who’s killing all the other people on the ship. I know Coyotebanjo better than any other living person on this planet, and I think I can safely say that he would willingly take on a serious shitload of negative karma if it would save the next 50,000 Iraqis and Americans who are on Chimpie and the Grim Reaper’s list.

Cindy Stewart-Birdwell said...

Hey Angie...

This is something I should have sat and talked about with you too! We did have a few talks in Texas though, didn't we? It's a very interesting subject....anger, and violence, for that matter. I know for a fact that I would also shoot someone (If I had access to a gun) in a heartbeat, if anyone in my family was going to be attacked with an intent to kill. So with that, of course, leads to the discussion of going to war (been against it every time)....killing others in countries that have an intent to kill us....and on and on. Many layers to this topic, many questions for me too, as I discover my true beliefs and what I intend to practice in my life. I must admit, these questions, and the answers I come to, are at odds many times with what I think is "the better way". All I really know, is that I do my best to practice kindness and a peaceful mind as much as possible, even in the presence of the absolute assholes of our world. I have always felt that these people are placed in our lives, one of their purposes being, we can learn to transcend the knee jerk responses that cater to our animal instincts. For fear of sounding naive, or whatever, I will stop there. But I think you get the gist of what I'm trying to say.....

Thanks for all the input, really, it's been a rousing couple of days and has provided me with much to ponder.

In Peace....Cindy

masbrow said...

This is an interesting conversation and I thank CJS and Cindy for starting it.
Cindy, the phrase "primitive beliefs about the nature of reality" is one translation of a Buddhist term that describes theism and other superstitions. I in no way meant to imply that you are "primitive" or that I have you figured out, I was just responding to what I took to be theistic sentiments in your comment.

As for cultivating equanimity, when we try to do this, where is the equanimity? It's nowhere, it can't be "cultivated"(Nor can the "person" doing the cultivating ultimately be found).

Buddhist tradition gives us the "Three Marks of Existence",1)Impermanence, 2)Egolessness, 3)Peace.

That means that these conditions are already operative, So that George Bush, Criminal, being President, One Million Iraqis Killed by him, and all of us us being pissed off by the situation is sublimely perfect, and constitutes"Peace" just as it is.

One thing about Samsara(the world we live in) is that it cannot be fixed. That is almost the definition of the word. But that doesn't preclude us from being moved to fight(use violence, either verbal or physical) for justice as we see it, and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said he is not strictly a pacifist, that sometimes there is a need for violent action.

So to live in Enlightenment is not to follow certain codes or conventions of behavior, it is to jettison the ego and live spontaneously doing whatever is required by the situation. And that can include behavior which seems to bystanders or observers to be violent, selfish, or just downright crazy.

I have the greatest respect for you all,

CJS said...

Further to Dharmonia's comments above: yes, I would willingly take on the unavoidable bad karma of killing, if by assuming that bad karma I could prevent worse/more suffering. I would commit violence to prevent worse violence--and I have done so, as a martial artist, in the nightclub business, and on the street (ask Dharmonia the story about the time I threw a violent street-person out the open doors of a subway train to keep him from hurting others).

Here's a quote (I think relevant) from a post I wrote in the wake of the Virginia Tech murders, and the extraordinary story of the professor and Holocaust survivor who sacrificed his own life to save those of his students. In the immediate wake of those assaults, many of our students (and their parents!) were very frightened about the possibility of copy-cat attacks elsewhere.

So, the next day, as I had done in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, I went into the classroom, taught the class, and then, just before I let them go, said

"One other thing. I want to acknowledge the shock we are all feeling at the terribly sad events at Virginia Tech. There is no explaining such things--but I believe in my heart that the work we do here, in this classroom, trying to understand how music adds to human quality of life, helps push the world a few inches toward being a place where such horrors don't have to happen."

I told them the story of Liviu Librescu, and finished by saying

"I want you all to know that you are all safe here, in this room. Nothing bad can happen to you. I won't permit it. Nothing bad can happen to you, in this room, as long as I'm alive."

Several of them wept.

The blog post that day read, in part, "Musicians believe that playing music is their best, most open way of expressing the Holy Yes of love.

A small icon of Manjusri, the warrior Buddha who wields a sword that cuts through ignorance, sits above my desk. I would die--or incur the unavoidable bad karma in taking up Manjusri's sword of discriminating wisdom--before I would let anything, anyone, from the universe to a fascist government, take away from me or from my students the ability to do this."

I would die--or assume violence's bad karma--in the service of preventing worse suffering.

Cindy Stewart-Birdwell said...

Thank you, Mason....I just now realized that "Masbrow" was you! I appreciate your comments, really I do. These issues have been a struggle for me. I still have a hard time equating defending myself (or my family) by using violence, if need be, and the path of non-violence. Within me as a human being are these facts: I would kill someone who would try to kill me or mine, I am against this war, Bush, and all the evil in our Government, I can get mad as hell from time to time, AND I have a need to embrace a peaceful path, refrian from angry words, refrain from bashing ANYBODY, and try to make it all seem congruent. This is such a paradox for me, and hard to find some resolution. Maybe herein lies the peace though.....like you said, we can't "fix" anything. I just try to practice peace, day by day, as it comes to me....


As always, you give me much to meditate on. I know I would feel safe in your class, your students are fortunate.....I would be grateful to have you on a subway, on a bus, in a bar, anywhere someone was causing a violent disturbance....and be very thankful you would step in and protect. I am also at the same time so moved by someone like Gandhi. How then does it all come together, make sense and feel right? To incorporate these values AND these actions into my life, without feeling hypocritical...this is my quandry. Wow, approaching fifty years old sure has set me to thinking about such things, well, I've always thought about them, just didn't know how to articulate them, who to discuss them with, or to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to admit.....I KNOW NOTHING! Ironically, there seems to be some peace in that.....go figure.

In Gratitude....Cindy

Dharmonia said...

Dharmonia (meself) said:
If the mind is disturbed and agitated, its ability to take “right action” may be impaired. Does that mean we’ll never get angry? Hell, no. We are human. But, does it mean that it would behoove us to try and cultivate equanimity? Hell, yes.

Masbrow replied:
As for cultivating equanimity, when we try to do this, where is the equanimity? It's nowhere, it can't be "cultivated"(Nor can the "person" doing the cultivating ultimately be found).

Dharmonia experiences light bulb -- Whack! Gassho.

Thank you my friend – you are right on.