Archive for May, 2015


AP_Jade_Helm_15_ml_150508_16x9_992I scrutinized Dallas Fort-Worth Airport while our plane landed in Dallas. During a brief two-hour layover, I wondered how many special forces were ready at the helm, to take over the airport and Texas as a whole. But alas … I survived.

For those out of the loop, Jade Helm 15 is a scheduled special forces training exercise across seven Southwestern states. Sparked by the stupid and associated conspiracy theories, public officials have heard inquiries from whether this may in fact be just an exercise to whether all seven states would experience martial law. Others claim Jade Helm might be part of a plot to give Texas back to Mexico, a prelude to an economic collapse, Wal-Mart store closings are really holding grounds for troops or an entry point to a series of secret underground tunnels.

One resident brought a sign to last month’s Bastrop County Commissioner’s Court hearing that read, “No Gestapo in Bastropo.” This led Todd Smith, a Republican lawyer and former state legislator, to accuse the governor of “pandering to idiots” and legitimizing paranoid right-wing machinations. Still, Governor Greg Abbott asked the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation; effectively authorizing the government to monitor the government.

Op-Ed writer James C. Moore hit the stupidity of Jade Helm’s reaction in his CNN Opinion “We Texans are brave enough to resist Pentagon:

“While Gen. Travis laid in a supply of extra “beeves” in advance of the Mexican assault from Gen. Santa Anna at the Alamo, we are fearful of running low on Slim Jims and Moon Pies as the Wal-Mart’s are turned into detention centers for citizens robbed of their constitutional rights. As POWs (Prisoners of Wal-Mart), we expect to be put to work in the sporting goods department against our will while earning below minimum wage.”

As a Buddhist, I understand many of the fears we all have. We have fears of terrorism, fears of death, fears of being separated from people we love, fears of losing control, fears of commitment, fears of failure, fears of rejection, fears of unemployment, etc. Many of our present fears are rooted in what Buddha identified as “delusions” – distorted ways of looking at the world and ourselves.

If we learn to control our mind, and reduce and eventually eliminate these delusions, the source of all our fear, healthy and unhealthy, is eradicated. We cannot control whether things will go our way or not, but we can learn to control our own minds, our responses, and our own conduct, and in this way gradually find a genuine liberation from all fear.

As Shantideva says in Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

Buddha, the Able One, says,

‘Thus, all fears

And all infinite sufferings

Arise from the mind’.”

Or, we could do as Mr. Moore suggested:

“… be not afraid, America. We are Texans. We will resist logic and intelligence to the very end. And we will keep up our traditions. From the Alamo to the Battle of Goliad, the Confederacy, LBJ’s Vietnam, George W. Bush’s Iraq War, and even Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys, we have a long legacy of losing. And the odds are also against us in the coming Battle of Jade Helm, but we expect to prevail against the invaders, and we will not give up our rights.

Or our air conditioning, cold beer, and Slim Jims.”

bs-md-protests-20141210-001You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right? Freddie Gray will never be back. Those windows will.

~DeRay McKesson to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer~

This past Sunday, I caught the dialogue between Sally Kohn and LZ Ganderson on CNN’s Reliable Sources. At the end of day, Mr. Ganderson posed a question, after all that’s been said and done in Baltimore, “Will anyone care?” Does America want change? Are we really committed to making lasting change?

As I thought about his question, DeRay McKesson’s activism proliferates my thoughts. Can society dialogue without destruction?

I want to believe there is a way to protest that is more than marching but not bloodshed,“ DeRay McKesson told The Washington Post.

And that’s where the protest movement fails. Against the long road of progress, protesting is easier. It’s quick. Raising the conscious thought of America is one thing. Making a last impact in society in and of itself is exhausting.

McKesson emerged from Ferguson a prominent organizer and activist. However, in the wake of Baltimore, Ferguson, New York and others, McKesson’s “Word To Action” online newsletter is nothing more than a list of tweets and quips. Little content actually brings people together to promote solutions.

To highlight, McKesson’s tweeted,

We have become too casual with the word violence — it refers to harm done to people. The police are the only violent ones here” and “Property damage is not violence, it is property damage. Violence is when people are hurt, injured, harmed. The police have been violent.”

Sometimes windows are never replaced. Sometimes businesses close. The Baltimore Sun reported that in addition to damaging an estimated 200 businesses, rioters torched 144 cars, including both police and civilian vehicles. City restaurants lost millions of dollars from a weeklong curfew and fear from long-term harm to Baltimore’s image.

In December 2014, the Baltimore Sun also noted,

The symbolic starkness of medical students sworn to save lives participating in a demonstration known as a “die in” showed just how wide-reaching protests have become.

“People of all races, all different types of people and all different kinds of organizations — not just civil rights organizations — are taking part,” Baltimore NAACP chapter president Tessa Hill-Aston said. “Everyone is seeing that there’s something wrong.”

Empowerment Temple of Baltimore has asked its congregants to wear black to Sunday services in honor of “unnamed African-Americans who have been brutally murdered by police,” church spokeswoman Nicole Kirby said.

So I ask, will society institute police reforms but fail to alter the culture? In and of themselves, police can’t resolve public problems alone. Ferguson’s city council passed several bills to establish a police review board, set limits on excessive court fines and fees exposed after Brown’s death. But substantive much-needed infrastructure investment and community solutions throughout America remains aloof. Solving racial disparity requires a variety of stakeholders creating bold initiatives and solutions that imprint new educational standards, employment and societal opportunities. Little of that effort exists.

To end, I paraphrase poet Ted Hughes. Wherever life takes me by surprise, and suddenly the artificiality proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, it is then we must throw ourselves into the front line. That’ what these moments require. It’s where society must come alive—even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. We must call upon our own resources—those real inner resources, to account, and love, to give, to provide comfort, to enjoy the simple notion that giving unto the man next to me is a worthy and just cause.

As Buddha said: live like a mighty river. Make plans and solutions as though they are the manna of life, then partake partake partake. This is how we get to where we need to be. Protesting is only an act. If any life matters, solutions are mandatory.

PrayforBaltimore-copyChants of “no justice, no peace, no racist police” echoed through Baltimore streets Saturday in a march organizers dubbed as a “victory rally.” Pastor Michael Crawford homilized “Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it. We were born for this hour and we will fight this right away — on our knees.” Crawford further alluded to principalities and powers of darkness being everywhere, but God was greater.

The victory rally came amid a surreal week in “Charm City,” where Edgar Allen Poe eloquently wrote “There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.” Here’s a few of the bizarre I saw:

  • Rashid Wiggins sold $10 shirts with the slogan, with “I Matter.” Apparently $10 will ensure one matters;
  • Protesters charged police with “kidnapping” a prominent black community organizer. Never mind the fact the protester was arrested for violating curfew;
  • CNN’s Brooke Baldwin decided to blame the Baltimore riots on returning veterans;
  • Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played in an empty stadium; and
  • The Ad Council used an ill-advised Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting a Caregiver Assistance program that included the background audio of a TV news anchor announcing:

Riots nationwide have prompted local governments to declare martial law….the President is asking that citizens find safety and remain calm….authorities are working to contain the outbreak.”

I pondered this mess while watching a lone protester stand in front of the burned-out CVS with sign reading “God heard our prayers.”

Seriously? God heard our prayers?

Let’s highlight some of the insanity.

In Baltimore, police and civilian vehicles were destroyed, businesses looted, and as of this writing, fifteen officers injured.  In summary, Baltimore tallied:

  • 200 Arrests;
  • 15 Structural Fires;
  • 144 Vehicle Fires;
  • National Guard;
  • Curfew;
  • Citizens Attacked; and
  • Police Officers Indicted.

In the wake of Michael Brown, Ferguson recorded:

  • 80 arrests;
  • Over 100 gunshots;
  • 25 buildings burned and/or looted; and
  • Vandalized police cars in Ferguson, Missouri.

Oakland, California residents notched the following in marches for Michael Brown:

  • A looted Starbucks
  • Smart & Final had liquor cabinets pulled off
  • Chase Bank had two front doors smashed
  • Wells Fargo (targeted in previous Occupy and Trayvon Martin protests) experienced broken widows
  • 40 people arrested on charges ranging from assault on a police officer, to vandalism, burglary, public intoxication, and refusal to disperse
  • Officers pelted with rocks, bottles paint and fireworks.

But hey, God answered our prayers. It’s such a wonderful example of God’s intervention. Isn’t it?

I’m amazed how people attempt to find meaning in the absurdity. Truthfully, God answered nothing. The only principality was ignorance and intolerance. They were bred from our inhumanity – bred from deep within our soul.

If that CVS protester was right and God answered Baltimore’s prayer, then His message to those who lost a business was … what? To those who were attacked, did God ordain that?  Was God’s hand of justification empowered through a young prosecutor, the indicted officers or both? To those who lost jobs as a result of destruction, did God answer their prayers as well? I mean maybe they didn’t want to go to work that day. Did God get the prayer wrong, simply fuck up and make a mistake? “Oops, my bad,” God exclaimed.

A part of me wants to yell, “God answered Baltimore’s prayer, but Bosnia, Rwanda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hiroshima and Nazi death camps were God’s plan? How many people go to bed hungry every night? And now you’re praying for the ‘God of justice?

Borrowing from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, I openly ask anyone to tell me about God’s plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how His plan answered Baltimore, you better also be able to explain how the plan wiped out so many who had nothing to do with either Gray or the officers. The test has to do with going and saying it to the person whose business burnt down. Look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to wipe them out but justice was served. I don’t worship that God, but at least you have integrity.

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