Archive for July, 2013

alg-anthony-weiner-confession-1-jpg-300x231Author and Columnist Lisa Bloom wrote an interesting column about Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin. One of her quotes stood tall and mighty:

Some of us are trying to raise our girls to be more than voiceless partners sucking up their pride as their husbands trample over their dignity.”

Over the past several days, many political writers have espoused theories that Ms. Abedin suffers from the “Stockholm Syndrome” or she craves power.

But in reviewing this whole sordid situation, it’s all about leadership. Men who claim to be leaders have to do more than just show up. We are called to be whole, to be believable, to live with dignity, purpose and love.  True love for another requires a discipline of character, to set a course of action that benefits those around you.

Not to bash the late Michael Jackson’s family, but the Jackson family claims the promoters are responsible for the actions of the doctor who administered a powerful anesthetic that killed the late singer. Seriously? As Lindsay Johns wrote several years ago:

Are we so desperate for role models that we now need to trip and fawn over the coffin of a man whose rabid self-loathing and glaring psychological imbalances made headline news for decades?

For me, you could group Anthony Weiner, John Edwards and Mark Sanford and Elliot Spizter, together. It’s ironic to note Spitzer’s campaign criticized Weiner by stating “…no husband would ask his wife and family to step into the media frenzy surrounding the campaign at this time.”  What the hell? Yet Sanford made political news not only for reemerging in politics, but by winning. Again, “What the hell?”

The philosopher Seneca noted: “Noble examples stir us up to noble actions.” What would the reverse imply? Real leaders demonstrate personal integrity is balanced against the professional. A true leader shows the way by example.  The Apostle Paul phrased it:

If one is to have personal integrity, he must have a moral code by which he operates. He must acknowledge that certain things are right and others are wrong. Ultimate moral truths are inflexible; they are not situational. A leader must acknowledge moral responsibility, both in his words and in his walk (cf. Acts 1:1).”

There is a global crisis currently afflicting humanity. Simply put, it is a pervasive lack of moral leadership. We continuously uncover unethical behavior at all levels of society, from the family to the highest corridors of legislation.  Sanford, Weiner, Spitzer, Edwards, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and many others are not true leaders and shouldn’t be accepted as such.

I concur on one point: life has all sorts of injustices. And some would argue that it is very difficult to live a moral life. The problem for Weiner and those like him is that it’s extremely difficult to provide leadership when three key orifices of your body spews the same message. For the rest of us, the problem is how can we live being part of the solution and not part of the problem.

A truer leadership model is one that unequivocally centers upon service to others. Real leadership releases the potential of the individual while safeguarding the well-being of others.  Prophets, philosophers, philanthropists – truly great men whose lives have been a beacon to humanity and whose time on earth has served to elevate the human spirit – these are the real role models we should be craving.

Sanford, Weiner, Spitzer and Filner aren’t even close.

I respect Huma Abedin. She has a lot of fortitude and courage. She deserves better. So do all New Yorkers.

Sacred HoopBeing in the Denver, Colorado area for the past nine months has allowed me to visit various Native America n homes. Visiting one such home today, the patriarch retold a recent passing of a good friend. And being a Buddhist, I found that Native Americans view this earthly plain as a world of learning experiences. Creator places everyone here for only a moment. Each of us comes with many gifts. Thus, these gifts are meant to be shared.

Often they pray to the four directions:

  • East is where the sun rises. The eastern spirit of sun or fire brings warmth and light. It is the place of beginnings. Its light brings wisdom. It is the power of knowledge.
  • South is the sun at its highest point. It is the direction from where warm winds blow. South is the spirit of earth, the power of life. It represents peace and renewal.
  • West is the spirit of water. It is the direction from which darkness comes. It is the power of change, the place of dreams, introspection and the unknown. The west signifies purity and strength.
  • North is the spirit of wind. The cold wind blows from the north. It is the power of wisdom. Here we take time to reflect on what we began in the east, in the morning, in our youth.

Praying to the four directions is a beautiful is symbolic to the Sacred Hoop and is one’s ability to be embodied by all four points. As we journey around the sacred hoop of life, at the point of the four directions, we learn lessons. Some journey at a rapid rate, others slower, knowing they don’t wish to hasten our time here before we journey on to the other world.

Many Native Americans believe we pass over into the spirit world, where we are met by ancestors who passed before us. This world is a world of love and beauty, not to be feared.

In my own experiences, I have heard many who’ve had a near-death experience state it was a difficult choice to make, whether to remain in the spirit world or to journey back to this earthly plain. Some chose to return; others wished to remain in the spiritual state of being.

Regardless, Native Americans, believe our spirits live on. Our outer shells deteriorate, but our spirits choose this life while we are here on our journey.  In truth, as a living Buddhist, as a living Christian, I cannot fathom a better view of life itself.

We are all artists. Share your gifts. Share your life. Life different than I. Live better, love better. Please paint the brushstrokes of love on every person you meet.

ds_img_direct.phpEight days past the George Zimmerman verdict, Americans continue to appear to help captive by coverage. The parents of Trayvon Martin joined thousands of Americans at more than 100 scheduled vigils in cities nationwide demanding Saturday what they described as justice for their 17-year-old son, who was shot dead last year.

“It’s overwhelming,” Tracy Martin told CNN at a rally in Miami attended by hundreds of supporters, many of whom chanted, “No Peace! No Justice!”  On Friday, President Obama weighed in:

“But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.”

I do feel sense of sadness for the Martin parents. Their son shouldn’t have died. But while we memorialize Trayvon Martin and seek “No Peace! No Justice!,” we should not forget all the others who require our faith and love.

“… administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

  • When anti-Islam activists like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer led an all-out war in their attempt to prevent the cultural center from opening. At the time, Fox News became a major broadcaster of their Islam-phobic agenda. Fox News gave anti-Islam activists a platform to rally against the Park51 community center, while others spoke against anti-Muslim bigotry, denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on the mosque.
  • Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, one fatally, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.
  • An American woman traveling in northern India in June of 2013 was allegedly gang-raped after she accepted a ride with three men in a truck, police said.
  • Similarly, in Brazil, an American woman was gang raped and beaten aboard a public transport van while her French boyfriend was handcuffed, hit with a crowbar and forced to watch the attacks.
  • Three black women beat the crap out of a white woman in Seattle while a crowd watches.
  • Sanford police arrested 12 African-Americans, eight adults and four children, in connection with a mob beating of a pregnant woman. The brutal attack came almost a year after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in the same town.
  • In April 2012, African-American Cordell Jude, 22, was driving in Phoenix when Daniel Adkins Jr. walked in front of him with his dog. “Watch it!” Jude yelled to Adkins, who was mentally disabled, according to USA TODAY. Adkins then swung what looked like a pipe in the air and Jude shot and killed him — the pipe-like object turned out to just be a dog leash. Jude claimed self-defense; he remained free for three months, but now faces second-degree murder charges and is set to go to trial next month, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office. The Arizona Stand Your Ground law passed in 2010.
  • Malala Yousafzai, the young girl shot in the head by Taliban gunmen while riding a school bus in Pakistan.

Are you surprised that we’ve rarely heard of these beatings, murders and rapes? Most were based upon some form of hatred? In light of these, I barely heard a word from politicians decrying racism. I did not see Jesse Jackson proselytizing for justice.  How come I haven’t seem Reverend Al Sharpton protesting? Why could we not see the unified marches in several major cities?

As a Buddhist, I try to live by the “Do no harm” rule. Racism is wrong and many have been killed or maimed in its name. But while racism comes a deep and darkened place, racism should not be selective. If we stand to the Trayvon Martin’s of the world, we must stand for all the others. If we march for Trayvn, we must march for all.

From President Obama’s perspective, he could have been Taryvon Martin. But Malala could have been my sister. Daniel Adkins could have been my brother. That pregnant woman in Sanford will be someone’s mother. The Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin is a religious sanctuary for many.

Racism is bigger than just Trayvon Martin. Racism is global. As living Buddhists and living Christians; as living Methodists, as living Atheists, we must stand for it all. Fragmentally parceling out peace rallies is neither peace, nor justice.

imagesI spent the last several days debating whether to weigh in on the Trayvon Martin case and prosecution of George Zimmerman. Obviously, there has been tremendous thought, commentary and diarrhea of the mouth.

From a commentary perspective, it’s clearly apparent the prosecution failed to prove their case.  In fact, prosecution witnesses actually assisted the defense and the defense did not have to have George Zimmerman testify. Witnesses were extremely pathetic by comparison; seemed ill prepared, performed badly and allowed the victim to become the aggressor.

While I cannot fathom shooting Trayvon Martin, I’m totally dumb founded by the race allegations against George Zimmerman. True Trayvon Martin was killed after an altercation initiated by an armed man who stereotyped. As if it made a difference, after Mr. Martin’s death, many either tried to portray Zimmerman as Hispanic, White or White-Hispanic. Unfortunately, the FBI has been unable to confirm any accounts that Zimmerman exhibited racial bias. In fact, Sanford Police Detectives told FBI agents that there had been several burglaries in the area and that gang members in the community “typically dressed in black and wore hoodies.”

People incorrectly compared Trayvon Martin to Rodney King. But there’s several major differences. First, the Rodney King beating was videotaped. There is no such video in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin assault and murder.  Secondly, Rodney King’s arresting officers were charged with using or permitting unreasonable force under “color of law,” which applies only to law enforcement.

On the emotional side, the Martin family attorney said the slain teenager would be remembered alongside civil rights figures Medgar Evers and Emmett Till. While I abhor Trayvon Martin’s death, Mr. Martin was no Medgar Evers. Evers was a NAACP civil rights activist assassinated in 1963 and Till was a 14-year-old black boy brutally murdered after supposedly flirting with a white woman. While all tragic deaths, I’ve seen nothing indicating Martin matched either. But Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die either.

This leaves the protest, with a few even burning the U.S. flag. MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry nearly broke down in tears describing her reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. Al Sharpton became both activist and anchor by claiming there were grounds for civil rights charges. NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock tweeted “Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family.” Several hundred gathered in downtown Seattle to rally, holding signs, with some chanting, “We are all Trayvon.”

In truth, the sign should have read, “We are all Trayvon and we are all Zimmerman. If you want to hold someone accountable for Mr. Martin’s death, then look in the mirror. We may not have pulled the trigger that killed Martin, but each and every one of us contributed significantly. How so?

First, the “Stand Your Ground” law that initially kept Zimmerman from being arrested is still the subject of much controversy. Florida’s law became the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model bill” that has been introduced in dozens of other states. As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported, the bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The National Rifle Association lobbied hard for the measure, while law enforcement opposed it. Defenders cited the 2004 case of James Workman, who shot an intruder and had to wait months before prosecutors decided his case self-defense. Opponents worried the law would encourage the use of deadly force. With the help of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), more than 30 states have passed some version of the stand your ground law. All of us allowed our legislatures pass these laws.

Secondly, more than 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, accidents, or by police intervention each year. Roughly 18,185 people have died from gun violence since the Newtown shootings. Every day, 50 children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, accidents, and police intervention.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any nationwide protests for any of those 18,250 or so children.

Lastly, Joe Nocera’s column on the Weekend Gun Report summarizes it all. Here’s a sample:

  • A 10-year-old boy was among those injured in a shooting at a Long Beach, Calif., gas station Saturday evening. Surveillance footage showed four men running through a gas station around 8 p.m. when shots struck the 10-year-old boy sitting in his parent’s SUV. Another bystander was hit by the crossfire; his injuries were non-life threatening.
  • A man and a 17-year-old girl were hospitalized after being wounded in a suspected drive-by shooting on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois.
  • At least four people were shot – 1 fatally, 3 critically – outside a home in the Kelvyn Park neighborhood of Chicago.
  • A 15-year-old boy was shot in the West Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
  • A 24-year-old man with gang affiliations is in critical condition after a shooting in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago early Friday.
  • A man was shot several times and found lying in the road in a mobile home park on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio.
  • D’Maris Glover, 15, who was shot near the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio and died of his injuries.
  • A 7-year-old was shot and wounded in Santa Ana, Calif., late Saturday after his father’s car was targeted by a gunman.

Yes, racism exists. Racism is ugly, mean and repugnant. But George Zimmerman had a gun and the state of Florida allowed him to carry. Citizens of the State of Florida allowed these laws to move forward. And contrary to all other opinion, we, as a society are responsible for not properly regulating who can carry and operate these weapons. Yes, George Zimmerman pulled the trigger that killed Trayvon Martin. But we as a society gave Mr. Zimmerman the tools that lead to this unnecessary and needless death.  Without the weapon, without the “Stand Your Ground Law,” the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman altercation would have remained an ugly fight.

It’s our job to protect the Trayvon Martin’s of the world. In the end, my inaction assisted in killing Trayvon Martin. And so did yours. We need to protest against ourselves.

tissot-woe-to-you-scribes-and-pharisees-747x483The Texas Senate approval of one of the strictest anti-abortion measures may have effectively closed 37 of the 42 clinics in the entire state and banned abortions after 20 weeks. Fox News pundit Erick Erickson sent a tweet, with a link to a site that sells coat hangers.  The historical intent of the message is that women who couldn’t find an underground doctor often inserted knitting needles or wire coat hangers into their vagina to terminate their pregnancy. Unfortunately, the coat hanger is not a myth.

Texas Senator Glenn Hegar, stated,

I stand by this bill. I believe it raises the standard of care for women in Texas. It is also important that we protect unborn children from pain.”

However, Texas Senator Dan Patrick, rejected the assertion of Democrats that bill sponsors are motivated only by their opposition to legal abortions.

Anyone who says this is not about protecting women’s health is flat wrong. This bill really is about the safety of the baby and the mother. Everyone who supports this bill values both lives.”

Historically, we know restricting or banning safe and legal abortions does nothing to prevent abortion. Instead, it ensures that illegal and unsafe abortions will abound and women will pay for their attempt at reproductive freedom with their lives. Banning abortion and making safe, legal abortion care inaccessible is deadly.

Contrary to Governor Rick Perry and Senators Hegar and Partick’s philosophy, the Texas bill does little to protect children. Think I’m wrong? Here’s a snippet of facts:

  • 25% of all Texas children live in poor families.
  • 6% of all Texas children in poor families only have one parent employed full-time, year-round. Compare that to 85% of children in not poor families.
  • 55% of children in poor families live with a single parent.
  • 1.2 million Texas children have neither private nor public health insurance. Uninsured kids get sick. Their parents have no place to take them other than a public hospital’s emergency room, which by law cannot turn them away. And if those parents cannot pay the extremely expensive bill? The taxpayer picks up the tab.
  • Poor children miss out on the most important factor in getting good care: a doctor who knows the patient and their medical history. Children with asthma and diabetes – chronic diseases best treated by a family doctor on a routine basis – comprise many, if not most, of the kids who show up in the emergency room.

It’s disingenuous to say you’re protecting children on the one hand while doing little for constituents living under poverty’s anvil with the other. The Texas legislature cut state spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by $2.03 billion for 2012-13. More than $800 million of those cuts were to reimbursement rates for doctors who agree to treat poor or disabled children.

So while Texas claimed to protect the unborn, legislators did little to help prevent abortions or prevent unplanned pregnancy. State legislators did nothing to change the need for abortion among Texas women. All the legislature really did is declare state decisions can be given priority over mothers’ decisions after 20 weeks.  At the end of the day, if you’re a single mother in need of a babysitter to attend college and past poverty, don’t expect the Governor or many legislators to volunteer.

The Texas legislature should not stand before Christ and claim how wonderful they are. Biblically speaking, the entire special session and all its pseudo effort mirrors that of the Pharisees, it’s more about religious piety and image than it was about actually supporting the safety of either “the baby or mother.”

Abortion is not simply a black or white issue. Anyone proposing to claim otherwise is ignorant. When thinking of this whole mess, (inspired from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield) I am amazed how religion mobilizes people to do awful things. There will be a dark side to completely outlawing abortion. And anyone who loves religious experience, including me, had better understand there is a serious side. Declaring war on the right-to-choose will have dramatic unintended consequences throughout the country.

There’s simply way too much ignorance … on all sides. And people wonder why a coat hanger becomes a solid option.

08asiana10-articleInlineLet’s face it, racism is everywhere. Pervasive racist attitudes continue to exist. As such, all of us will continue to experience hostility, anger and hatred. Remember, the world is full of highly educated men and women, comprised of all ethnic races and economic classes. Yet words like “n—er,” “ch–k,” and “f-g” are used throughout society.

Don’t believe me?

An 11-year-old boy’s rendition of the national anthem at Game 3 of the 2013 NBA brought tributes and the darker side of hate as racists lit up twitter:

  • “… they got a Mexican kid singing the national anthem (Daniel Gilmore).”
  • “… Who let this illegal alien sing our national anthem (Matt Cyrus)?”

Tweanty-Two year-old Tyler Gregory Okonma, known by his stage name Tyler, The Creator who sends forth such profound ignorance in his rap lyrics:

“… fuck bitches with no permission and tend to hate shit
And brag about the actions in a rhyming pattern matter.”

 And then the latest form of racism, Flight 214 involved hate tweets:

  • “… of course the Korean plane crashed, Asians can’t drive … (ASAP Yarby).”
  • “… I blame North Korea for blowing up the plane (Kylee Holt).”
  • “… apparently Asians can’t fly (Miriam)”
  • “… I’m wondering if the pilot of this plane that crashed from South Korea was Asian…they can’t drive anything. (Devin Rivers).”
  • “… airplane probably had an Asian pilot and he was squinting so much, he couldn’t see the runway (Eric Nelson).

With that, I choose to take a stand. To clarify, there were 77 Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 Americans, 1 Japanese and 12 flight attendants on Asiana on Flight 214.

Leslie Mayo, an American Airlines flight attendant and spokeswoman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants stated, “I can’t say enough about all of them because they — we — always work as a team. Whenever crew members talk about (incidents like this) on the training videos that we watch, they always say: ‘I have no idea where this came from, how I did that.’” Flight 214 cabin manager, Lee Yoon-hye, told journalists: “I wasn’t really thinking, but my body started carrying out the steps needed for an evacuation. I was only thinking about rescuing the next passenger.” Additionally, San Francisco police officer Jim Cunningham raced to join firefighters without any protective gear, handed out knives to the flight crew to help passengers escape, guided passengers to safety and even had the wherewithal to retrieve an iPhone left behind so that its owner could call family members.

From all news reports, there was no indication Flight crew members said, “Asians firsts, Americans last” and cabin manager Lee Yoon-hye was the last person to leave the burning plane. The flight crew of Asiana Flight 214 should be honored for their heroism, grace, guts and determination. They do not deserve racist tweets, bad jokes or thoughtless, stupid ignorance. In the face of death, the flight crew and first-responders stood together, stood firm and beat back the Angel of Death by saving countless lives.

They deserve our praise not our ignorance.

Slide1In airline flight, as in life, no runway will compensate for coming up short. And Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was 1,000 feet (400 meters) short of the normal landing spot before crashing.  Conversely, on January 15, 2009 US Airways pilots executed a dramatic emergency landing on the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 150 passengers and five crewmembers aboard Flight 1549.

The point is that ach of us has the power to transform many lives.  We are very interconnected.

On any given day, any of us could be assaulted, experience family breakups, suffer abuse, become homeless, lose our jobs, over materialize life or simply cannot seem to find a sense of spirituality. Conversely, we could be saved, given a life saving drug, stop briefly talk to a janitor and miss a disaster. We could babysit for a mother and give inspiration that will ultimately cure cancer. Someone’s daughter could revolutionize a way to feed the poor. Someone’s son could finally negotiate peace in a war torn area of the world.

Each and every day all of us make tens of thousands of decisions that impact the very nature of our very personal existence. All of us are responsible for how we succeed, live and prosper. Whether walking to work, whether eating a piece of fruit or whether we excel or fall back into a depth of misery so bleak that few rise from.

As Buddhists, what are we doing to help the world around us? In spite of all the difficulties out there, what new ways are we finding to help one another? Are we using our technology to come together or to find ways to separate? Does our faith transform or divide? Can we reach beyond our own mundane world and transform a generation in Africa, Calcutta, Chicago, Cleveland or the family down the street?

When the day started, I presume neither the crew of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 or US Airways Flight 1549 expected to have much impact on anyone. Yet, even in the most difficult of times, each flight crew saved hundreds of lives.

As we speak, one in five children still live in poverty; one of three children do not have health care coverage; roughly 17,386 people have died from guns in the United States since the Newtown shootings. Children in every social stratum suffer from abuse, neglect, and preventable emotional problems.

What is it that we do today…today…that will save hundreds of lives? Whom can you transform … today?

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