Tag Archive: Right Speech


img_0015Protests erupted on campus of the University of California Berkeley late Wednesday that canceled a scheduled speech by conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-proclaimed “troll” and editor for Breitbart News. The university blamed the violence on a group of 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.

I worry about “the heckler’s veto” being used to shut down free speech. We live in a country where people of all faiths, politics and ethnic backgrounds should be allowed to freely speak.

What we find is one political party or president uses hate tinged speech to justify hatred versus policy. We’ve all seen it, “unethical and corrupt media,” “she’s sick,” “a senator’s father helped kill a former president,” “an attorney betrayed their staff,” “You’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat, so I can learn nothing from you.” “Screw you,” they say. “No. Screw you first,” we reply.

As a Buddhist, it’s important to understand everyone has a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because he or she has a different point of view. Factual observations and other evidence may lead either to disagree, but the person always remains honorable.

For example, I listen to far-right and alt-right perspectives. Not so much because I agree with their position, but rather to understand. Our 2016 Presidential candidates accused one another of racism and bigotry so often they forgot about the people. By stating falsehoods, we race-bait. Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas are key tenets of such racist ideology.

Lastly, few, if any, understand that if one person wins an argument, you both lose. This is problem most politicians, including our President, fails to understand. When winning becomes the number one goal, you’ll eventually fail. Need an example? Former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault warned all Trump critics they will soon be bowing before him. I will leave it at that.

Lastly, unless you in a country with a dictator, free speech shouldn’t have to hide. Protesters argue hate speech isn’t free speech. Why not? If so, why do free speech protestors have to hide behind masks? And if so, why do many such protests devolve into destruction?

In response To Berkeley protests, one blogger posted:

“President Trump must take action. We must get our colleges back from these radical haters. Any university that accepts federal funds must provide a balanced education. For every leftist professor, there must be a conservative professor. American universities are out of control.”

In the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and other protests, we’ve seen a clamoring for “safe spaces” whereby affected parties can process pain. What we require are spaces by which we can discuss and exchange ideas.

America is a free speech country. However, we really need to relearn the ability to agree to disagree agreeably.

The Voter Fraud Clown Show

Trump holds a rally with supporters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.

Watching the current White House Administration claim three to five million illegal voters participated in and cast ballots for Hillary Clinton is like watching a never-ending comedy marathon. Even White House press secretary Sean Spicer was forced to stand at the podium and reiterate the allegation.

So in case you missed the show, Trump lost the 2016 popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. He did win the Electoral College. The Electoral College put Trump as America’s head honcho. This is like saying, “I won at poker table with an inside flush, but my opponent collected 30 cards of a deck of 52. That fucking pisses me off. I am entitled to all the cards.”

Instead of moving on, Trump gets pissed to the point that his post-election tweet noted, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Instead of “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!,” Trump’s administration is water-downed by such a bullshit story, performed either by incompetence or stupidity – you pick.

The Truth About Voter Fraud, a report written by experts at The Brennan Center for Justice, found voter fraud rates were between 0.00004% and 0.0009%. In other words, of all the voters who cast ballots, one is more likely to get struck by lightning than meet an actual illegal voter.

Unfortunately the White House is home to our chief law enforcement officer and head of the legislative staff. But to give the current administration the benefit of doubt, I reiterate Senator Graham’s comments:

I wasn’t there, but if the President of the United States is claiming that 3.5 million people voted illegally, that shakes confidence in our democracy — he needs to disclose why he believes that,” Graham told CNN.

We do know of one case of voter fraud – she was a Trump supporter. If White House Representatives produces evidence that millions voted illegally, then it holds true some of those illegal votes were probably cast in favor of Republicans. Thus, a recount could prove Trump is not the elected President. By reviewing data more analytically, we can query how does administration gather data, how does the administration know who is a non-citizen and how do they know all voted for Clinton?

Maybe they received the data from Russia or WikiLeaks.

From a Buddhist standpoint, maybe we (this website as well) shouldn’t spend all this time debunking Trump’s lies. Repeating lies and myths—even to debunk them—simply ends up reinforcing them, as countless studies have shown. If you want to debunk a lie, you should focus on stating the truth, not repeating the lie.

For God’s sake, live in truth.

For the rest of us, sometimes it’s better to watch the clown show.

img_0011Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer tried to undercut the national view of misleading facts into alternative facts. Ok, let’s get real, “Alternative Facts” are nothing more than lies.

After listening to Conway’a message, I kept thinking of how vast the difference between her statement and Precept 4.

Let’s start with some history. The Trump administration basically started his Presidential term with trying to convince Americans that Sean Spicer’s arguments about inaugural crowd facts. Of course the rift between the media and Trump’s press secretary was quite the show.

In case you missed it, Sean Spicer basically went on national television and new White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily lectured reporters this past Saturday from the podium of the press briefing room with a long digression about how many people had shown up to watch Trump be sworn in as president.

This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

As CNN noted , aerial photos indicated former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience. To these, Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.

Kellyanne Conway coined a new term Sunday morning when she stated that White House Press secretary Sean Spicer was not lying about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. Instead, Conway claimed, Spicer simply told us “Alternative Facts.”

Of course no one understands Trump made almost 200 statements during the campaign that were deemed “Pants on fire” lies or simply false.

I will side-step the politics here, but seriously query, should I meet God, can I use “Alternative Facts” to condone my actions? Can my son use “Alternative Facts” should during a court trial? If the President uses false precepts and lies to the public over crowd numbers, what will he do in times of serious trouble?

As a Buddhist, any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion and lead us away from unity and harmony. Any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in giving, love and wisdom and thus help clear the way to peace. To know what is right and wrong in god-centered religions, all that is needed is to do as you are told.

In a human-centered religion like Buddhism, to know what is right or wrong, you have to develop a deep self-awareness and self-understanding. And ethics based on understanding are always stronger than those that are a response to a command. So to know what is right and wrong, one needs to look at three things – the intention, the effect the act will have upon oneself and the effect it will have upon others. If the intention is good (rooted in giving, love and wisdom), if it helps myself (helps me to be more giving, more loving and wiser) and help others (helps them to be more giving, more loving and wiser), then my deeds and actions are wholesome, good and moral.

Of course, there are many variations of this. Sometimes one may act with the best of intentions but it may not benefit either myself or others. Sometimes intentions are far from good, but that action helps others nonetheless. Sometimes by acting out of good intentions helps me but perhaps cause some distress to others. In such cases, the actions are mixed – a mixture of good and not-so-good. When intentions are bad and the action helps neither myself nor others, such an action is bad. And when my intention is good and my action benefits both myself and others, then the deed is wholly good.

So looking at the Trump organization, when the fake is presented as truth, then to whom does this benefit? And when lying in life, to whom do you benefit?

We all deserve honesty. Unfortunately, most of us get only shit.

hqdefaultAfter reading of the events surrounding Donald Trump’s Chicago Rally, I thought of an old story of a guy who wanted to be a locomotive engineer. Accordingly, the lead instructor present the applicant a problem.

If you had one train coming from one direction at 55 mph, and another train coming from another direction at 45 mph, what would you do?”

Thinking for a minute the applicant responded, “I think I’d call my brother.”

That’s a really strange answer. Why would you do that?

Because my brother has never seen a train wreck before.

What’s disturbing about Trump’s combative Chicago Rally was all of us saw it coming. Instead of decorum, understanding and forgiveness, it appears many went and got their brother.

Over the past year or so Black Lives Matter, Ammon Bundy, Mizzou Football team, Melissa Click, Mizzou’s Concerned Student 1950, Racial Protesters on many college campuses (Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca College, UCLA, etc), Muslim Protesters, Mexican Immigration Protesters, Syrian Immigration Protesters, Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooter, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and a host others have practiced “in your face” degradation and hatred.

One cannot be certain if there is an actual increase in racial incidents or just an ability to record and post such events in moments. In our age misbehavior can be documented with a cellphone and spread simultaneously via social media. Videotape of protesters using “in your face” tactics only guarantees violence at political rallies will increase.

Both Sanders and Trump have raised the specter of violence. Trump’s campaign began depicting entire categories of overwhelmingly peaceful people as threats. Sanders’ political revolution hints at overthrowing a government of bureaucratic privilege, replacing it with government based on workers’ democracy while maintaining state owned property relations. Political revolutions occur throughout history and many times end in a worse situation than before.

Oh yeah, one fact most revolutionaries neglect – in revolutions, people die. One only needs to look at Ammon Bundy as history’s most recent example. Bundy’s revolutionary plan ended January 26, 2016 on Oregon’s Highway 395, with eight arrested and the death of LaVoy Finicum.

From a Buddhist perspective, our political leaders could use a heavy does of “Right Speech.” Right Speech is the third of the eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path. And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech and from idle chatter.

If this country is going to move forward, eventually, we’re going to have to sit in a room with each other—both sides—and find common ground.  Our country has problems, which most of us agree upon. Our problems are similar to those of the world around us. But we have to find a way to work them out, together. Civility means learning how to make political change to address the frustrations of the American community.

All of us should be aware of what we say and how we say it. However, it seems we’d rather just get our brother.

imageNBC Nightly News host Brian Williams apologized and recanted his story about being in a U.S. military helicopter as it was forced to land under fire in Iraq 12 years ago, Stars & Stripes reported.

You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy,” Williams wrote on his Facebook page.

Many of my father’s father’s fish stories are folk lore in rural Wisconsin. My grandfather was a huge fisherman. He loved fishing. He also loved ‘fish’ stories. He was good at them. We’ve all heard them before. “Hey, there was really super duper extra large Bluegill. He had to be at least 17 feet long.” Of course through the years, there was the shark that got away, “God, he was huge. Must have been ninety feet long.” We laughed, he laughed, drank our beer and listened by the camp fire for another regaling battle of man versus nature.

We’ve all had our fish stories. For six days in June 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s whereabouts were unknown. Magically, the Governor reappeared and reported having been on a lengthy leisurely stroll hiking mountains, when in fact, he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Senator Rand Paul continually provides misleading statements about vaccine safety, claiming “many” children have developed “profound mental disorders” after vaccinations. There is no evidence any recommended vaccine causes brain damage or other mental disorders. Other notables include Clinton did not having sex with that woman … but did; Al Gore inventing the Internet and Missouri State Senator Todd Akin believing women cannot get pregnant when truly raped. So his loyal voters must feel that those who did conceive, well they must have secretly wanted as such.

The National Review wrote, “Fox News is a personalities-driven opinion network with occasional news reports; it is inevitable that its broadcast hours will be more rapidly punctuated by controversial statements than those of others.. Unsurprisingly, the opinion-heavy Fox News and MSNBC both have relatively high falsehood scores on the PolitiFact report card, while CNN doesn’t. It’s not as though Michaela Pereira never says anything that might be disputed — she simply never says anything that is interesting, true or false, so nobody cares. Or, as PolitiFact puts it: “We use our news judgment to pick the facts we’re going to check, so we certainly don’t fact-check everything. And we don’t fact-check the five network groups evenly.””

Sigh … To be fair, I wasn’t in Brian Williams helicopter either. Wish I did – would’ve been a hell of a ride.

Still, let’s face it, fish stories are everywhere. All of us project our own home movies onto everyone else’s screen. If you haven’t, you’d be an oddball rarity. Christ not included, name one person who hasn’t lied, stretched the truth or told something not factual? When conversing with friends or colleagues, we’ve filtered our stories. If you feel otherwise, go look at your resume. In a 140 character text and one-minute sound bite world, it’s hard to be completely honest. Memories fade and our minds adapt to the moment before us.

Unlike the Ten Commandments, the Buddhist Precepts are not rules everyone must be compelled to follow. Instead, they are personal commitments people make when they choose to follow. Practice of the Precepts is a kind of training to enable enlightenment. Right Speech goes beyond simply trying to not tell lies. It means speaking truthfully and honestly, yes. But it also means using speech to promote good will and reduce anger. Right Speech is using speech to benefit, not to harm.

celebrities-charlie-hebdo-violence_833D60E342464269AC0AE417BF4A4246Four cartoonists, journalists and bystanders were murdered by Islamist radicals in the offices of Charlie Hebdo. In the aftermath, much of the world rallied in solidarity with cartoonists and their right to free speech. Count me as another voice in solidarity.

It should be noted that Charlie Hebdo didn’t pull punches. Critics claimed the newspaper pushed the boundaries of decency by portraying nuns masturbating, popes wearing condoms and Muhammad in pornographic poses.

Still, as a whole, free speech has been under a conservative eye for some time.

For instance, whether Sony’s computer hack and extortion was the result of a ‘pissed-off’ employee or North Korea, the ability to distribute an uncensored film was targeted. When a treasure trove of highly personal information led Sony to censor themselves, free speech became the larger victim – simply because of widespread fears of violence. And for a while, caving emboldened those who hate free speech.

Sony’s isn’t alone. Russian President Putin fines bloggers, citizen journalists, and activists failing to register as members of the media, and further fines if bloggers failing to uphold strict media rules. Online media expert and high-profile Russian blogger Anton Nosik told the agency that China is “much more liberal” than Russia.

On Friday Saudi Arabia began publicly flogging a blogger sentenced to 1,000 blows, 10 years in prison and a large fine for starting a website critical of the country’s religious establishment. Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, stated Mr. Badawi would face “the inhumane punishment of a thousand lashes in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion.”

In 2010, Jetsun Pema, the younger sister of the Dalai Lama, was scheduled to present a lecture at the Festival of Tibetan Spirituality, Arts, and Culture in Bangkok, Thailand. She was denied a visa because her presence might be seen as a Tibetan political statement by the Thai government.

Then there’s the Chinese. The Chinese government imprisoned three brothers of a Washington-based reporter for Radio Free Asia, apparently intensifying its suppression of free speech coverage of the troubled province of Xinjiang. The harassment of Hoshur’s family started after reporting on an Uighur torture victim. Additionally, in September, China sentenced moderate Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment for “advocating separatism” and voicing support for terrorism, a move that the White House condemned as persecution of someone who merely expressed peaceful dissent.

When the Sony hack occurred, Columnist Deon Price argued that in the wake of The Interview, there should have been no rally in support of freedom of speech. Instead, there should have been a rally protesting Sony Pictures and their irresponsibility.

I couldn’t disagree more.

The problem free speech oppressors fail to comprehend is that free thinkers cannot be silenced. The reason we live in a free society is that offensive speech is allowed. Humor exposes the vices and follies of the powerful and is a wonderful means of resistance for ordinary citizens. One may not like someone’s particular thought process or viewpoint, but I like knowing one has the right to like or not to like it.

Laughter is the most terrifying sound to any and all terrorists, especially when such laughter is born from a satirical caricature, drawn from a cartoonist’s hand. For this reason, the pen is mightier than the sword. Ironically, the terrorists failed, as they emboldened surviving Charlie Hebdo staff to print 1 million copies of their next edition.

From a strict Buddhist perspective, speech is a very powerful tool. If we verbally attack someone, those words linger for years. On the other hand, well thought out words can stop conflict, make friends and heal rifts. This is the power of speech and this is why Buddha included Right Speech in the Eightfold Path.

While I concur with Buddha’s right speech perspective, I’m not about to censor anyone whose views conflict. Their words and perspective may establish credible dialogue. Thus, while I haven’t read any of its publications, I’m buying Charlie Hebdo’s next edition. And I’m buying Sony’s “The Interview.”

With that, my personal message to French citizens is I stand in support.

And my message to all upcoming terrorists? Simple … fuck you!

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