Archive for February, 2018


Each of the years spent in the military, I was asked, “Are you ready to die for your country?” Without delay, I would respond “Yes Sir (or Ma’am).”  After each proclamation, I would be provided the tools and training to stay as safe as possible. And maybe I lived in relative naivety, for I never really expected to die or that I would really have to sacrifice my life for another. Yet, there were a few missions that upon return, I changed my underwear and gulped a quick drink.

I look back to these times some thirty-years ago. A half decade of service seemed dramatically different than today. Today, “war zones” are closer and reside in uncommon area rarely seen. Hospitals, work spaces, local ballparks, post offices and schools. By rejecting any gun control efforts, state legislatures are in essence asking the enemies of the past, i.e., out educators, to not only train and educate, but to pay the ultimate sacrifice, as required.

America, we are hypocrites, for we’ve considered teachers as our enemies? You read that right. And I provide one example.

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker all but declared war on Wisconsin teachers. In the wake of legislative changes, thousands of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public-sector workers camped out at the Wisconsin Capitol, protesting Walker’s efforts to reduce their take-home pay — by increasing their contribution to their pension plans and health care benefits — and restrict their collective bargaining rights. Walker in essence said, you are the reason we’re (Wisconsin) is broke.

There’s an interesting, strange line at the end of the new film The Big Short, which chronicles the Wall Street doings that caused the economy to crash. In a voiceover near the end of the film, Ryan Gosling tells us that while bigwigs got off without consequences for what they did leading up to the Great Recession, people blame “immigrants, the poor and for the first time, teachers.”

Less than a week after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Florida State House officially said “fuck you” (2/20/2018) by rejecting a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. However, lawmakers opened the session with a prayer for the 17 killed. Seventeen people received only a prayer. That’s the legislative equivalent of ‘sucks to be you.’

And the final twist … the US Army is awarding medals for heroism to three students killed in last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Alaina Petty, Peter Wang and Martin Duque, all students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, were also cadets in the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and will receive the Medal of Heroism for their actions in last Wednesday’s shooting. Of course, all the honorees are dead.

Real heroism exists neither in Washington nor in the Florida State House. In today’s world, we ask former enemies to sacrifice their lives for students. In turn, we provide these heroes with nothing but a few days of training. We exhibit a profound lack of leadership to their needs, pay them like shit, and blame them for our lot in life. And yet … and yet … when bullets fly, they willing place themselves between students and assassin.

If you want to honor the ‘agape love‘ Christ and Buddha professed, go to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victim funerals and honor them, their families and their lives.

Unfortunately, Americans prefer guns over teachers. Thus, our real enemy is ignorance and indifference.

The Hope in Death

Hope in death

Our hope in life beyond death is a hope made possible, not by some general sentimental belief in life after death, but by our participation in the life of Christ.

~ Stanley Hauerwas ~

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Perform a quick Google search for “hope in death” and you’re likely receive a litany of Bible verses that believers in Jesus have hope beyond physical death. These verses may be wonderful for the average run of the mill believer, but do they apply to those who’ve lost a loved one to violent? In a sea of which few have traveled, finding peace in Christ’s death is hard to align.

Several years ago, a Pastor proclaimed Christ knows your pain. Knows? Christ knows my pain? The sarcastic part of me notes Christ never died via an AK-47 in the hands of a minor not old enough to buy a beer. Had the same teen had the beer, maybe all the subsequent pain could have been avoided. Then again, probably not. Christ never had a limb amputated, never processed of lingering mental and physical therapy required to simply get out of bed and face the world.

In times of tragedy, Buddhism is no different. For Buddhists, there’s a spin that death is part of our natural life-cycle. Many die alone. Oftentimes family members never got to say goodbye, or communicate one last time how much they were loved. Victims of mass shootings experience similar thoughts. In sudden death, trusting in some sort of universal design, we hope our loved one’s spirit remains safe and in the care of higher beings.

So, where’s the hope?

If we really loved these people, then we must try to fulfill their wishes. That’s the proper way to approach it. You see, the best way to keep a memory of that person, the best remembrance, is to see if you can carry on the wishes of that person. Their wish is for us to live.

Christ stated he is with us always, even unto the end (Matthew 28:20). But I offer an alternate meaning. It is through our faith of life that we crush the hatred of death.  Live a life focused on making others proud. And in doing so, moving through the grieving process and, through our faith in living, and the love of family and friends can we begin to heal and move forward. In doing so, many will find their loved ones in many places and ways throughout the day and evening.

You will find your loved ones in a touch on the arm; a dream; a coin appearing in one’s path or a butterfly twirling about. The signs and symbols will be unique to each of us and remind us our loved ones are near. These signs remind us of the unbroken bond that we will always hold. And like Christ, they will be with us always, even unto the end.

Living life fully enriches faith, family and friends. “Living” is very Buddhist, very Christian and crushes death’s hand.

Dear L&H:

Thank you for crossing my blog and making the choice to write me a wonderful personal note. According to your email, you were hoping for a Valentine’s Day message. Well, blew it. Missed it. Sorry.

On a personal note, like many, I struggled with a burdened heart. As Christians know, Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day for peace. Yet, none of us received peace. In the wake of Florida’s shooting, I would not expect any major legislative progress. As many know, Congress has been largely ineffective in passing any meaningful legislation since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting where 20 young children and six adult staff members lost their lives.

February 9th, I wrote an email to a personal friend that pondered a lunch conversation driving back home. I reflected on not only our conversation, but the musings of author Kate Bowler, as she progressed through her cancer diagnosis. Trust me, I will tie these together.

So, I can relate to Bowler’s comments:

“…. a neighbor knocked on our door to tell my husband that everything happens for a reason.”

“I’d love to hear it,” my husband said.

“Pardon?” she said, startled.

“I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said, in that sweet and sour way he has.

I know there’s some idiot out there, who responded to the Florida victims with trite, “It’s part of a larger plan.”

For you L&H, I’ll update parts of my friend’s email. I believe the message is timely.  In times of tribulation, many of us have received comments from the well intentioned, some are bizarre, others rude. I include some comments as well as my immediate inner thought response (outlined in parentheses).

  • “It’ll be okay, I just know it.” (Really? That’s great. Tell me how you know?)
  • “Someday this will all be behind you.” (Nope. For many, this event will always be in the forefront.)
  • “Don’t worry, things will get better.” (This does not get better).
  • “So when will you be all better?” (Hmm, like I said, does not get better.)
  • “Live in the moment.” “Be strong.” “Fight hard.” “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t give up.” “Attitude is everything.” (I will remember this when I can barely breathe.)
  • “We’ll pray for a miracle.” (God has risen only two people from the dead. I don’t see it happening in Florida.)
  • “Could be worse.” (Just did. Listening to you confirms it just got worse.)

And the coup de gras of all statements:

  • Everything happens for a reason.”
  • It’s all part of a larger plan.”

To this, I remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.

I sympathize with all the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims and seriously injured. For them everything’s on the hook.

Yet, several days post incident, I believe there is a sense of hope. First, the real message is to focus on how you treat one another, how you treat yourself, the value of human life. Second, like students who power-packed a rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, all of us need to make impassioned pleas for legislation to regulate guns. “We will be the last mass shooting,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez declared to wild cheers.

Emma Gonzalez is declaring that we must get angry. We need to be angry: angry at our lawmakers for doing so little to prevent these catastrophes; angry at our news and entertainment media for simultaneously feeding off these tragedies and fueling them with a steady stream of sensationalism and moral incoherence; angry at ourselves for perversely tolerating these things, and then forgetting them until the next round of violence.

As you know, I believe in many things. I believe in Emma Gonzalez. I believe you T&H. May you become the snapshot of change, archive each moment, and live it. And In all things, know that I have faith in you.

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