Archive for August, 2014

Buddha BeerSince leaving the hospital, I’ve had nary a drink. Strange, attempting to sip whiskey made me crawl in pain while partaking beer has produced negligible issues. This leads me to precept 5 – abstention from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.

Of the five great gifts — those original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, principles — the last one has been tough to nip in the bud. Oftentimes, I theoretically banter, “Can I partake of a beer or two if my drink does not cause heedlessness? Or must one abstain completely?

From a true Buddhist perspective, by abandoning the use of intoxicants, one receives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. So yeah, I get all that. However, if Christ turned water into wine, are we to presume Christ accepted liquor? Or did Christ simply perform the miracle, but abstained? Tough call. Still, as a Buddhist living a simple life, there are many times when I concur with Chesterton, “Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.” Additionally, beer is a required accruement for any Cubs fan, for one couldn’t survive a game without symbolically leaping from Wrigley’s upper deck.

Having lived in Alabama, I remember passing through Clay County, infamously known for being the last ‘dry county.’ Technically, it’s illegal to have any form of alcohol within county borders … period. I thought you couldn’t be a real county unless you have at least beer. One could have a minor-league baseball team, maybe some hidden ICBM nuclear weapon launch sites or the world’s largest annual county fair. But at the very least, you need beer. Clay County affords none. But the point being, many residents, religious or otherwise, bootleg alcohol weekly. And amazingly, the sun continues to rise in the east and set in the west.

From another perspective, there are ten Demeritorious Deeds (Dasa Akusala Kamma). All of them occur through some form of bodily action:

  1. Killing
  2. Stealing
  3. Sexual Misconduct
  4. Lying
  5. Slandering
  6. Harsh Speech
  7. Frivolous Talk
  8. Coverousness
  9. Ill-Will (hatred)
  10. Wrong Views

On a comedic note, a fellow blogger noted that by violating Precept 5, he violated almost every Demeritorious Deed noted.

But for a person living on borrowed time, I try not getting into guilt trips. Living in precepts and vows is part of a long journey of purification and clearing the mind. Thich Nhat Hahn mades an interesting comment in For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life, in that if one lives fully in one precept, they actually live fully in all five. If one takes only 1 precept but they live fully in it, according to Hanh, they’ll eventually keep all five.

Hahn may be right. Basically, going to the extreme either way is awful. Drinking to excess and trying to drive, play sports or negotiate a multimillion-dollar contract would be unwise. So be wise. Be respectful.

And all wisdom aside, if I’m close to death’s door, I’m requesting a shot of Blanton’s Bourbon.

The Hard Makes Us Great

imageWe all have faith. Everyone believes in something. For some, it’s God voicing piercing morning prayer. For others, it’s faith of love in another. It could be faith that our elevators work, the automobile in the next lane will not crash or the pilot will land an aircraft perfectly. We all have faith that ice cream cones will taste heavenly. The rain will quench the farm field next door, or the shores of Eastsound will quiet a restless heart.

Paul Torday’s novel Salmon Fishing in Yemen captured faith’s essence:

“I had belief. I did not know, or for the moment care, what exactly it was I had to believe in. I only knew that belief in something was the first step away from believing in nothing, the first step away from a world which only recognized what it could count, measure, sell or buy. The people here still had that innocent power of belief: not the angry denial of other people’s belief of religious fanatics, but a quiet affirmation. That was what I sensed here, in this land and in this place, which made it so different from home. It was not the clothes, not the language, not the customs, not the sense of being in another century. It was none of these. It was the pervading presence of belief.”

So how can the poor give unto the rich and how can the rich give unto the poor. This is exactly what the love of my life taught. Karen first taught to learn to believe in universal love. At the time, I couldn’t understand her, yet I could see it. Still, Karen’s level of commitment overpowered me and I hid from the depth power surrounding me. Thus, she wasn’t able to see me through the journey I so desperately wanted to endure.

Obviously, there’s an essential key second lesson: in my continual effort to keep and enrich Karen’s spirit, if I can hear God in my most meditative moments, then I have faith Ferguson, Chicago, New York, Detroit or anyone can achieve a beautiful blend of faith and works. That the God so seemingly absent, is so ever present. He can and does thrust the sword of love into our hearts and chaffs away the seeds of hatred. As Marcus Luttrell wrote, “No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

Third, leadership is not just having the vision of change; it’s the ability to effect change. The vision must empower people to succeed; to become the community, the home and person you want to be. In the movie, A League of Their Own, Dottie Hinson tells Jimmy Duggan “It just got too hard.” Jimmy replied, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.

Remember, the hard makes us great.

imageIf news reports prove accurate, Burger King will ‘whopper’ decisions from Canada to save taxes as Turner Network slashes jobs from increased NBA production costs.

If there’s one key lesson corporate America should learn from Ferguson, MO it’s that we tend not to think of employees as assets. Corporate leaders will profess an undying love for all, but this characterization is devoid of reality. In truth, corporate America will confirm employees cannot be owned, taxed, depreciated, or disposed of as machines or other tangible assets. Thus, employees are disposable.

Evidence of management stupidity has both surrounded and astounded me. Unbeknown to many, much corporate stupidity occurs in dimly lit board rooms by men of little integrity, courage or information.

While waiting patiently to speak to the Board of Directors of a major hospital system on governance controls, a hospital CEO stated he found an ingenious way to reduce payroll expenses. With a sense of arrogance and conceit, he announced:

I had accounting summarize the number of hospital personnel by residential zip-code. I concluded that for every employee residing in a low income area, we can pay them less, for their cost of living is less. Thus, we should not pay them anymore than they need. They shouldn’t get rich off of us

Horrified someone actually thought of this, my repugnancy grew as Board members unanimously confirmed this was a fantastic strategy.

Another moment occurred during a hospital takeover. An ignorant hospital CEO was meeting with his executive staff when he queried the Information Technology Director.

You know,” the CEO stated. “When the buyout is complete, you’ll have two data analysts.
Yes,” the IT Director confirmed.
Well, get rid one.
Now.” the CEO interrupted.. “I want him gone today.
But,” the IT Director countered. “I don’t know what he does yet?
Now!” yelled the CEO.
Yes sir.

The lesson is clear – cut expenses, increase profit. If you don’t, management is likely to find someone who will. What’s strange is we’re willing to blow multimillion dollars on overhyped sports warriors. For instance, NBA players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng signed two-year contracts in what is believed to be an effort to reach free agency just after the new NBA profit sharing deal comes to fruition. Rams management was stupid enough to pay Quarterback Sam Bradford over $60 million in signing bonus during the past four years – for what?

Being one of the thousands receiving pink slips, you’re no longer considered valuable, loved or part of the team. Employee morale parties and team building exercises are show and tell fodder. And should one presume such activities contribute to the moral fiber of work, I dare ask, “In accepting the multimillion dollar contracts, does anyone really believe sports gladiators really gives a spit for the working family of said town?

Having been speared by corporate greed, this Buddhist heart says we spend far more time worrying and fretting about such fears than what’s required to confront and deal with them. To those on the corporate fast track, most of you are heading straight toward major car-wrecks. You may be a master of procedures or technology, but you need to learn the nuances of coverage, liability and valuing things with no price tags, like arms and legs, time and companionship.

All of us must do what leadership cannot – focus on eternal things, the things that matter to God, focus on love. That’s what has lasting value.

ALS Ice BucketStudents and staff at Las Cruces Catholic Schools planned to participate in the latest good-hearted craze — the Lou Gehrig’s disease ice bucket challenge — until the Catholic Church said no. Ah, beware sayeth the ignorant tight-ass club (i.e., Catholic demigods), for embryonic stem cell research, requires the destruction of the pre-born. Thus from a Catholic perspective, it’s inherently unethical and violates fundamental human rights. Accordingly to archdiocese spokesperson Dan Andriacco, “… it’s a well-established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit.”

Remember, using stem cells is one factor in most of America’s suffering. Several years back, Catholic TV’s Mike Voris deduced the cause of all our financial problems is from abortion, or ‘child murder.’ Never mind all the corruption, dysfunctional system or maybe bad leadership, it’s all because of abortion.

Just as Mr. Vori’s reasoning for why abortion is the crux of all our problems is idiotic, so is the Catholic repudiation of the ALS ice bucket challenge.  It’s so stupid it hurts.

But hey, there are more pressing issues. The Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead of Atlanta slated renovations on a newly acquired rectory for its parish priests, i.e., one bishop and three priests, at a cost exceeding $2 million. This comes on top of Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot home, for cool couple million. Gregory’s Tudor-style mansion stretches nearly 6,400 square feet, includes two dining rooms and a safe room. Spending close to five million on residences that house a couple of people is insane.

So how did Gregory justify dumping this kind of cash into homes versus, let’s say, an ALS ice bucket challenge? Well, according to Gregory, having these elite digs allows him to ‘smell of the sheep.’ Gregory feels this home will have the pope’s blessing.

“He (the Pope) wants his bishops to engage with his people,” he said and “… allows for larger groups to visit; the grounds also are good for cookouts and other outdoor activities.” In this way, said Gregory, he can follow the pope’s admonition to “smell like the flock” — to be close to parishioners.

Good luck in getting invited to any barbecue.

On a funny note, Samsung disregarded the ignorant tight-ass club and shook things up a bit by placing the Galaxy S5 under the ice bucket in its latest commercial. “I am the Samsung Galaxy S5. This is my Ice Bucket Challenge,” the phone says in its British Galaxy S-Voice. “Gosh that’s freezing. I nominate the iPhone 5S the HTC One M8 and the Nokia Lumia 930.” The joke, of course, is that none of those Samsung rivals are water resistant phones.

ALS is about living today. Studying and practicing spirituality is more than just stacking kanjur tenjur (religious texts) in one’s house. For one to live only in books, religious doctrine and piety, Biblical texts aren’t going to help us. What most strict religious people miss is that Christ and Buddha didn’t rely solely upon scrolls, textbooks or books; they lived in love. Likewise, we need to learn, practice and live in love. Once we learn and practice the form of love they gave, we will flourish and increase.

Anyone can become like the Buddha, because we all have the Buddha nature in our mind – that pure, untouched and undamaged human mind. I would rather live in love during an ice bucket challenge than await for a barbecue invitation from some highly arrogant and ignorant bishop.

Sound Bites

imageNote from journal:

“Rioting continues for third day, black residents with rioters, mostly young, directing fury at government and vehicles. The injury toll continues to mount as several hundred policemen moved to control riots. Only a small number of injured are white. There is widespread feeling that repercussions could be great. Police comdr, sees no end – i.e., the battle between police and rioters. As activists were repressed or saw friends beaten or killed, some took up arms and became insurgents.”

The diary entry noted is decades old and obviously not about Ferguson, Missouri.

What I witnessed decades ago is about the social history of how people built homes, education systems and a country. The streets upon which I walked are not unlike Ferguson, Missouri. Similarly, citizens believed in a fight for freedom. As such, newspaper articles will be written and awards won. But is that where all this ends?

Most Ferguson, MO rioters believe the establishment is maintaining control via “at all costs” mentality. In maintaining that form of social control, it’s necessary to arrest, even shoot, those who refuse the dictates of old white men. Thus, the resistance welling up from a lifetime of oppressive conditions is demonized.

In truth, my diary note was written in a hotel room near Soweto, South Africa, not Ferguson, MO. But what lessons can Soweto provide Ferguson?

  • If the eradication of economic injustices is not achieved within the lifetime of those that experienced it, Ferguson, MO as well as other cities will continue to be plagued by racial tensions;
  • African-Americans must somehow learn to respond as an organized political movement, not a mob;
  • If the lives of millions of the poorest aren’t improved, racial tension and violence will provide yet another example of a failed revolution; and
  • The American public doesn’t adjust to rapid changes, whether it be in accusation or outrage.

Al Sharpton provided an enlightening quote after his return from South Africa decades earlier:

“Because ultimately history is going to judge you by what you achieve. That’s what stimulated me there (South Africa): that it’s more important to affect the lives of people and their agendas than to be caught up with sound bites or style or any of that.”

Many, myself included, now consider Sharpton nothing more than an agitator.

As a Buddhist, the challenge is to tell a story that produces results. It’s about goals, not about the loudest way to vent. The worst error is talking about nonviolence while being violent, for violence surrounds us every day; the very violence in which I, you, we, are complicit.

Life is not a sound bite. Unfortunately, almost everything coming from Ferguson and Clayton are sound bites.

CaptureIn a speech directed toward the Greater St. Marks Family Church this past Sunday, Al Sharpton’s vitriol spewed from many angles and can be summarized accordingly:

Michael Brown is gone. You can run whatever video you want. He is not on trial. America is on trial! I have never in all my years seen something as offensive and insulting as a police chief releasing a tape of a young man trying to smear him before we even have his funeral.”

But I query, is Sharpton’s speech insightful or incite(ful)? For the life of me, I cannot understand the demands. Everyone wants justice form Michael Brown. But from face value, all I see is Sharpton and other protesters demanding instant justice.  Will all Ferguson riots disappear simply with the arrest of Officer Darren Wilson?

While Brown supporters claim police are smearing a good kid’s name, it should be remembered Brown supporters are smearing the officer’s and prosecution name as well. Even after forensic pathologist hired by the Brown family stated all of the bullets entered Brown from the front, the Brown family attorney claimed he was “executed.”

Having traveled the Mideast and witnessing a few executions, I can confirm that what happened to Brown was not an execution. Executions I’ve seen never looked like what happened to Michael Brown.  This doesn’t mean Brown should be dead either. But before placing our own, eye for an eye justice mentality, it’s important to remember the United States has a legal process. And that legal process hasn’t opined.

In our rush for Brown’s sainthood, we are subtly convicting Darren Wilson. This trial mob mentality is no different than those commonly utilized by some remote tribal court. The backstage strategic puppeteering that all high-press cases engage in, and had better engage in, is quite amazing. Literally, the unique role of today’s lawyer is litigating in the court of public opinion. Contrary to public opinion, circumstantial evidence and personal bias shoved down a listener’s throat is just as powerful as physical evidence. Brown’s attorneys are prepping future jurors.

Brown supporters, police and the Sharpton’s of the world deal cards in a life or death game – and everyone is getting played. Come time for a jury to sit and opine upon Officer Wilson’s fate, no one will remember Wilson’s “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket.” However, most will remember the Ferguson riots, the looting and the word ‘executed.’

Remember the buzz words, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit?” Defense lawyers for O.J. Simpson mastered the court of public opinion. Robert Shapiro  and Johnnie Cochran persona, Simpson’s celebrity and televised trial riveted the nation. By the end of the criminal trial, there were dramatic differences in Simpson’s guilt between most black and white Americans.

In November 1998, Bill Moushey and Bob Martinson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a 10-part series, “Win At All Costs,” exposing where federal agents and prosecutors pursued justice by breaking the law.  In the series, the two wrote: “They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury and set up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions.

Let’s face it, Officer Wilson’s trail is occurring as we speak. And to be honest, the Officer Wilson has no chance of winning.

imageDuring the seemingly ceaseless Ferguson, MO, riot I noted coverage of a north St. Louis resident, Jeffrey Hill. In a National Public Radio interview, Hill said it made little sense to try and work with a society that hassles black men daily. Furthermore, African Americans should refrain from any interaction with the white community.

“This isn’t the first person that’s died from the police,” he said. “This isn’t the first racial issue that we’ve dealt with in this country. We’ve been in this position to be in public and have discussions and get answers and all of that, and they have proven time and time again that that’s not what they want to do.”

Hill suggested that the black community pull away from broader society.

I sincerely value Mr. Hill’s comments, but personally, society as a whole and many African Americans sacrificed too much to pull back. There has been too much blood, too much death and too much destruction to simply walk away.

What’s interesting to watch is how Ferguson residents struggle with their response. I concur that what happened to Mr. Brown was tragic. And should eye-witness reports prove accurate, the officer in question must be adjudicated via a court of law, not by a lynch mob mentality that serves no meaningful purpose other than to inflame.

It probably won’t shock you to know that after the cameras stop rolling, we’re left nearly in the same place we started. Harry Chapin’s song W*O*L*D is spot on, “… you can drive on ten-thousand miles and still be where you are.” And that’s what happens when camera lights stop – after all the sound bites and television interviews, someone needs to query, “Why did this happen? Why did Ferguson residents destroy the town in which they live?

Reverend Traci D. Blackmon of Christ the King United Church of Christ (Florissant, MO) acknowledged widespread frustration in the wake of Brown’s death.

We are here to stop the bleeding in our streets,” Blackmon said. “We are here to take our communities back. We are here to take our children back. We are here to take our voices back. And this time, we will not go away.

I can’t agree more. How do we stop the bleeding? How do make our voices known?

It’s tragic Michael Brown lost his life. But should our reprehension be limited to only Brown? What about all the other young black murder victims? Nationally, half of all murder victims are black, with the vast majority of those deaths being committed by other blacks. Where’s the march for them? Accordingly, whites are just as likely to be killed by other whites. Yet, we march not for them either. To bring this point home, a Ferguson woman was shot in the head during a ‘drive-by’ shooting as citizens rioted in Ferguson streets. Where’s her marchers? Who rioted’ in her name?

The term “white on black,” “black on black” or “white on white” crime is denigrating. Instead of attributing increased crime to poverty, lack of education, opportunity, inequality and disenfranchisement, we blame police officers, courts, whites, blacks, Jews, a Quick Trip store or whomever happens to be around. If it’s proved Michael Brown was gunned down without provocation, it’s due in large part to the stereotypes and slander all ethnic races assign one another. Riot to the nearest mirror and look. There, within the reflection, lay a key participant to the current mess.

In effect, we’ve institutionalized our racism. We provide the fewest routes for the poor to succeed, pay crappy wages, disfranchise people from voting, deny healthcare, a solid education and the opportunity to progress. Then we have the gall to be stunned when the volcano erupts some hot night somewhere near Jerkwater, USA.

America cannot afford to live in a segregated society. Rather, society needs a transformative solution. But what I’m afraid of is that we’ll ignore all of this … when the camera stops.

imageThe Patience Stone is a movie rarely seen by women who need to see it most.

Character names aren’t known in The Patience Stone nor is the country identified. However, many perceive the country to be in some Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

As The Patience Stone opens, the wife is a mess and there’s an open question of whether the family can remain intact. With two small daughters playing in the next room, she begs her husband to wake from his coma, take charge of her life once more and make things proper. Due to the ongoing sectarian conflict, the husband’s brothers fled and her prayers to Allah (God) remain unanswered. Bombs shake the house by night while armed men prowl the streets in daylight, hoping to kill in the name of God.

The Patience Stone portrays scenes of constant of debilitating chaos: bare floors, little food, no running water as the angel of death circles just outside their windows like a vulture in the desert. Technically, there’s no lock, just a latch. Parts of the wall are blown away. Hand-washed clothes line stretches across the dirt yard. A shaded wool blanket strung from the ceiling hides a closet and one scene depicts a long-legged spider dangling overhead while flies buzz in and out of her husband’s mouth. Almost daily, the wife looks through the broken and fractured windows of her own life, hoping in some unimaginable way, a miracle will happen.

The more time you spend in her world, the smaller ours feel.

In the midst of all this harsh reality, The Patience Stone demonstrates a woman redefining societal expectations. It’s about those who refuse to conform to the gender role they’re supposed to play without question and of one’s fight for political and financial autonomy. While the characters remind us many walk a fine line – smiling on the outside, dying on the inside – there is hope only when the wife begins her own journey of self-discovery. The price she pays for such self-discovery is the loss of her family and community. But she’s rewarded with liberation.

Emboldened by the husband’s inability to respond, the wife improvises an IV drip and quietly begins telling her unconscious husband the conscious truth of herself and their relationship — all the secrets she dared never to reveal. Symbolically, he becomes her “patience stone,” a stone which absorbs all the miseries and misfortunes until finally shattering and delivering her from pain.

Such blunt confessions would get her killed if her husband emerged from his comatose condition. And that’s the catch … he does awaken. So what’s the first thing he attempts after awakening? He tries to kill his wife.

Having traveled parts of the Mideast, even if such a woman transcends her circumstances, it’s impossible to forget how helpless most are. And sadly, this movie fails to mention many are just like her, whether home or abroad. We’re called to remember that in the shadow of a world moving forward, it’s people just like this who’ve been left behind. When traditional anchors of livelihood have been destroyed by years of sectarian violence, ignorance and corruption, people are pushed to the margins and life becomes mere existence while God remains as obscure as galaxies littering the nighttime sky.

Every triumph is not of the same kind. Sometimes it arrives early and sometimes it takes a long time. One must not expect everything would be done in the same manner and that everything finds success. In the end, the wife chose freedom instead of endless corruption and religious dogma.

I pray more women do the same.

The Power of Intention

IntentionFrom a Buddhist perspective, there are many interrelated, interconnected scenarios rarely thought. On a prima fascia value, one wouldn’t presume any interconnection between Tony Stewart, Kevin Ward, the riots in Ferguson, Missouri and ISIS, but one thing connects us all: the power of intention.

Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. The world’s destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The Upanishads declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” The book of Proverbs states, “… as he thinketh in his heart, so is he …

Race car driver Kevin Ward’s death may have been avoided if Mr. Ward simply decided not to exit his vehicle, walk onto an active race car track and attempt to confront another driver. This statement is not a defense of Mr. Stewart, but if Ward’s personal intention didn’t lean toward confrontation, he’d probably be alive. But Ward appeared not to have such an intention.

Similarly, would ISIS purposely summarily execute so many people if their own heart had not been filled with such hatred? Would the Israeli’s, Palestinian’s or Ferguson, Missouri rioters? Each leader and fraction expounds aggression while appearing to bestow being the victim. As a result, aggressors appear to receive validation while acknowledging their own internal dialogue of hatred. Aggression always has a chaotic and primitive aspect: it leads down the proverbial rabbit hole and ceases only when wrath fizzles.

During World War II, Hitler accused the Jews of many things and attempted to project societal defects onto Jews. Thus, the intention begat a false need to eliminate the threat. Like the Nazi’s, like Mr. Ward, like all rioters, we shield ourselves in rage while simultaneously claiming a false defense. Then we have the gall to “tell” the world of our victimization, do exactly what we accuse of the other and protract our own fear of terror unto another while beating the shit out of anyone daring to disagree.

The same intention of fear and hatred not only linked Tony Stewart, Kevin Ward, the riots in Ferguson, Missouri and ISIS, but it permeates society as a whole.

A basic tenet of Zen practice is to do no harm to self or others. But to accomplish this, we must understand our personal nature and how we’re projecting intention. As a society, do any of us really intend not to harm another with actions and personal prejudices? When you look at others through a microscope of compassion, are you able to see humanity and internal love?

“We are reminded that awakening, or enlightenment is not the property of Buddhism, any more than Truth is the property of Christianity. Neither Buddha nor Christ belongs exclusively to the communities that were founded in their names. They belong to all people of goodwill, all who are attentive to the secret which lives in the depths of their breath and their consciousness.” 

~ Jean-Yves Leloup ~

Imagine the historical societal accomplishments should we change our intention? How about curing cancer or solving universal poverty? … etc., etc., etc. We have the power to answer every question and solve every problem. However, we cannot solve much, if anything, if our solution leads us only to the intention of hatred.

What is the power of your intention?

Ferguson, Missouri Riots

Riot 2For a period of time, I lived in both Los Angeles, CA and Saint Louis, MO.

I lived through the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Those riots were a series of uprisings, lootings, arsons and civil disturbance that occurred in Los Angeles County, California in 1992, following the acquittal of police officers on trial regarding a videotaped and widely-covered police brutality incident.

I’m reminded of LA while watching riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  A vigil on Sunday for Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a police officer, was followed by protesters taking to the streets, looting stores, vandalizing cars and confronting the police.

There’s an eerie similarity between the 1992 LA Riots and the riot in Saint Louis. Images, videos captured on cellphones and posted on social media, as well as local media reports showed people spray-painting and looting a number of stores. One Saint Louis television report captured video showing looters running away from stores with their arms full of shoes. Another demonstrated rioters carrying two cases of Budweiser Beer.

The looter pictured in this blog with baggy rapper style pants and no shirt did nothing to honor Mr. Brown or his legacy. In fact, all he did was become the ‘poster-child’ of repugnant.

Rioting does little to remember the victim. Having lived through LA’s Riots, the aftermath will bring a series ‘commissions’ designed to defuse tension; initiatives will be announced, programs launched. News personalities such as Al Sharpton will arrive and protest the insanity, cruelty and abuse. Melissa Harris-Perry may shed a few more tears and we’ll view these feints with suspicious eyes, for such performances marginally advance public interest.

I do not celebrate any of these events. I simply acknowledge they happen. Yet riots themselves tell us something important: that grievances long ignored have to be accounted for; that there is a new boldness found within those no longer content to suffer in silence.

It would tear apart any person who is humane to see what riot victims suffer. What makes all of this even more punitive is the endless wait for justice by the families of those who’ve died in the mindless violence perpetrated by one of their own. Both the Brown family and business victims will experience a seemingly endless wait for justice. It will be years before anyone gets a sense of legal closure.

Buddhism is about love, both personal and communal. Immediately after the 2011 riots, Vancouver residents began erasing the bad memories from the streets by cleaning them up. The citizens started to write words on the wooden boards that momentarily replaced shop windows. These messages included apologies, messages of love addressed to the Canucks hockey team, to the city of Vancouver, or simply to other people.

Why? Because this is how you act when you feel like you’re part of a community. This is the true soul of community. This is the beauty of America.

May all of us find such a community.

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