Tag Archive: Social Justice


As GOP leaders continue marching the American Health Care Act through the legislative process, we are left with bickering pros and cons of affordability and coverage. As one who’s earned a livelihood from the healthcare industry, I view legislative gladiators from the cheap seats and ponder, “If you can’t afford health care, should the state let you die?

The current House plan relies on government tax credits, regulation of the insurance industry, and continued government funding to keep the low-income population insured. Yet in-between weeds, down in the fine print no one ever reads, one can find insurance reforms are positioned so carriers can offer a wider array of policies that pick up less of the tab for getting care. Additionally, Insurance companies can charge the oldest enrollees as much as they want, roll back the Medicaid expansion thereby eliminating approximately 11 million of the nation’s poorest from health care and eliminating healthcare services of poorer via planned parenthood.

In February 2017, Cardinal Burke noted, “Catholic health care, by its constant and careful attention to the perennial moral teaching of the Church, safeguards and promotes the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death ...”

Sounds wonderful, but there are little safeguards that promote the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our faith-based nation spends a hell of a lot time upending/defending Roe vs. Wade, but the notion we protect all human life from conception to natural death is bullshit. The back hallways of healthcare facilities are littered with the strewn, discarded and neglected. These hallways are filled with the “let them die” arrogance. We simply do not care about the respect of human life.

Both Bernie Sanders and the Pope have stated similar positions, “…access to health care regardless of income” is a right. Technically speaking, even one without health care can get health care coverage via a hospital emergency room. And in truth, both the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s American Health Care Act provides opportunities for health care access. Now whether one can afford that access is an entirely different matter.

Health care is not mentioned in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yet our Founding Fathers rightfully focused on life, liberty and justice. Conservatives continue to believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Several years ago, a 17-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School wrote:

“… it must be noted that the key word in said act is “affordable.” The American people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, worrying about groceries, bills, and car payments. For better or for worse, that is capitalism, and as a country the United States has stayed true to its ideals. Nevertheless, the competition of the game of life should never have to be a game of life and death.”

Health care coverage is extremely complex. By nature, medical clinicians, Buddhists, Christians and many others of faith are concerned in their own way in the alleviation, control and ultimately the removal of human suffering. The American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck began his bestselling book The Road Less Travelled with the statement “Life is difficult.” He added, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”

Borrowing from Peck, the current health care debate is difficult. The disparity between health care and American values is crudely displayed as political views, politicians, managers, and administrators impact who receives what level of proportioned health care. While hospitals are forced to meet sometimes arbitrary measurements of performance, financial incentives are dolled-out on the backside. Lost in all this is what matters. For instance, what may matter more to a patient is the intangible and unquantifiable aspects of care experience. On what measurable performance scale can it be recorded that a dying patient is helped through denial, anger, and resentment to peace and serenity?

Of course, we can mimic Rep. Roger Marshall’s (R-KS) holy view to wash our hands. Marshall used Jesus to justify his opposition to Obamacare by explaining that poor people will reject health care.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are.”

Can we afford to be spiritually ignorant as some politicians? Should society claim that if one can’t afford health care, they die? No. At this point, both societal value and the American Health Care Act are morally unaffordable.

Mizzou ProtestIt is our duty to fight for our freedom!” was the chant from hundreds of students on MU’s campus after the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation was made. “It is our duty to win!

For months, black student groups had complained Wolfe was unresponsive to racism. A week ago, graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. The complaints came to a head several days ago, when at least 30 black football players announced that they would not play until the president was gone and Butler ate.

But few protesters and organizers, if any, ever review the consequences. Both action and inaction have consequences.

  • University of Missouri system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor of the flagship campus, R. Bowen Loftin, announced on Monday that they were resigning their posts in the face of growing protests by African-American students, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a strike by football players who said the administrators had done too little to combat racism on campus.
  • Janna Basler, an official with the school’s Greek Life department, pushes a reporter and snaps, “Don’t push me.” At one point, Basler blocks the reporter from taking a picture, and after making contact with him, claims she didn’t touch him in any way. Janna Basler has been placed on leave Wednesday as Mizzou investigates her actions.
  • Melissa Click, professor of assistant communications recruited “muscle” to get rid of a reporter, pushing his camera and yelling at him repeatedly to “get out.” Ironically, it was Click who posted on social media that there should be more press covering the unrest at Missouri earlier in the week. Click later apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment. Currently, Click’s not out of a job. She is still an assistant professor.
  • Jonathan Butler, the student whose hunger strike kicked off a chain of events leading to Wolfe’s resignation, comes not from poverty and oppression, but from great wealth. The Concerned Student 1950 group, which led the recent protests at the University of Missouri, had demanded that University President Timothy Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege.” The comparisons between Butler and Wolfe has a sense of irony.
  • Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head tweeted, “Students please take precaution. Stay away from the windows in the residence halls. The KKK has been confirmed to be sighted on campus. I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard.” There were no KKK, National Guard or state troopers. Mr. Head’s actions raise larger issues. Could some of this drama have been inflated? While several news outlets posted actual evidence of the police report of the feces painted swastika, many questions remain. Who exactly were the pick-up truck offenders? Since we don’t know who they were, it’s possible they weren’t even students.
  • Dale Brigham, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, submitted his resignation as outrage among some students grew in the wake of his email message. “If you give in to bullies, they win,” Brigham wrote. “The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.” Under intense pressure, Dr. Brigham has cancelled the exam and resigned from the university. There is no definitive indication that Mizzou has accepted the resignation.

The casualty list continues to climb.

At the end, the victorious idealists became the very essence of that which they hated, oblivious to anyone’s point of view but their own. Thus, both Mizzou and student leadership cannot attest to their leadership. Stupidity, maybe. Leadership, No.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are genuine life lessons.

  • What failed both protesters and administrators alike is not being open to negotiate. When we negotiate, we come to a new situation without any preconceived notion of how we’re going to take care of it. All of us must come completely open.
  • When stuff happens, you’ll find better success facing suffering together, when everyone is actively engaged in dialogue.
  • How we lead is significantly important for all we lead.
  • Not everyone is out to get us … that statement is true on both sides of the negotiation table. No one person is accountable for every slight life offers.

It’s a shame that any victory for the common good was trampled by ego and self-promotion. Instead, “viral” social media sensations became more important than substance. What will these protesters will do when a future boss doesn’t compliment them? And zero-tolerance racism may be a great goal … is it possible?

With the lack leadership exhibited by all parties in the Mizzou fight, it’s great knowing the systemic oppression of racism will finally be banished.

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.20.07 PMVisiting San Diego this week, I had the chance to visit Juárez, Mexico.

A PRI The World program noted that once known as “the murder capital of the world,” Juárez is still recovering from cartel violence and some on both sides of the border say they feel safer. Despite current politics surrounding immigration, people constantly flow back and forth on a daily basis. Some who ebb in and out of the yin-yang flow are students.

These students travel, each day, from Mexico to the US, all of to break the cycle of poverty.

Families living in extreme poverty see quality education as an impossible cost. Even public school carries costs, including books, uniforms, and transportation. Because parents have not experienced the increases in earnings, quality of life, and personal dignity that come from education, they don’t know what they are missing by pulling a child out of school to work instead. This is why it’s a cycle: children who grow up without education are less likely to send their own children to school.

By providing a quality education, a vicious cycle gets replaced. Instead of poverty sowing the seeds for still more poverty, education creates an environment that leads to opportunities and education for successive generations as well. Instead of leaving school to work, children have the chance to engage their intellectual curiosity, and live in a more stable society.

Children in poverty are less likely than middle-class children to develop basic educational skills before kindergarten. Too often, poor children have fewer early learning experiences. For example, poor and low-income children tend to live in homes with fewer books and less language stimulation.

If society wants to adopt a quality lifestyle for all children, then breaking the cycle of poverty requires investing in our children and ensuring they have nurturing and enriching experiences, including high-quality early care and educational opportunities.

Yet few politicians offer solid solutions.

Governors in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin and Connecticut’s Democratic governor have proposed higher education cuts for the 2016 fiscal year. Higher education spending traditionally is a juicy target for budget cutters because schools can make up the lost revenue by raising tuition.

A day before jumping into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that, among other things:

  • Slashed $250 million from the University of Wisconsin;
  • Expanded the state’s voucher program that uses public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, including religious schools — even though there is no evidence the program has helped improve student achievement; and
  • A majority of public school districts in Wisconsin will receive less funding this year, and no school district’s state funding will keep up to inflation.

If the Buddhist principle that all things are connected is correct, then our own fate and the destiny of the world may be intimately bound up with the educational fate of the poor. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 per cent of its adults able to read and write.

Statistics show why education is perhaps the most effective strategy to tackle poverty and is integrally linked to human, community and national development. When people have basic life and literacy skills, economies grow more quickly and poverty rates decline.

I remember a scene from Saving Private Ryan, where Captain John Miller said, “This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something.” From time I wonder if an errant drone strike destroyed the world’s chances to cure cancer? It is just me, or does anyone ever think some terrorist annihilated humanity’s best chance to defeat Alzheimer’s?

Decreasing poverty through education is very Buddhist and very Christian.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.48.32 AMIn my post about Mississippi: Faith Without Works, I noted, “If we are pro-life, then we must be pro-quality of life. If we do one without the other, our works is inconsistent with our faith.” I wrote that in July 2012. And some three years later, that post lived a quiet, subdued life, archived to distant memory, maybe wasted space or rolling of the eyes.

Then came Governor Christie’s recent comments about addiction. I can’t say the following text is 100% accurate. It’s close. I tried transcribing Christie’s comments correctly:

“My mother was a smoker. She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine. She started when she was sixteen (16), which was 1948. 1964 came, the Surgeon General’s report came out and she was in her mid thirties. She knew smoking was bad for her. And I’ll tell you, watching her as a kid growing up; she tried everything she could to quit. She had the gum, the patches, and hypnosis. She tried everything. She couldn’t quit.

Now, when she turned 71, a little after that, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. No one came to me and said, “Don’t treat her, for she got what she deserved.” We know the lung cancer was caused by the smoking. We know it was. But no one came to me and said, “Your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was sixteen. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy. We’re not going to give her radiation treatment. We’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know what, she’s getting what she deserves.”

No one said that. No one said that about anyone having cancer.

Yet somehow, if it’s heroine or cocaine or alcohol, we say, “We decided they are getting what they deserved.”

I am pro-life. And I think if you’re pro-life, that means you have to be pro-life for the whole life, not just the nine months in the womb. Alright? It’s easy … It’s easy to be pro-life for the nine months in the womb, for they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there. But when they get out, that’s when it gets tough.

The sixteen year old teenage girl, on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroine … I am pro-life for her too. She has just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb. And we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people and the President needs to say those things.”

Like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, “I’m still kind of blown away by Christie’s comments.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Christie’s overall political views, his comments of being pro-life for life were genuinely real. They were the perfect “in the moment, from the heart” stuff. I wish all politicians spoke accordingly.

Christie’s comments were very Buddhist, very Christian. How beautiful! Imagine living in such a world … Pro-Life for Life?

——————————————————–

See Christie’s complete video by clicking his picture.

imageThe Daily Show skewered Casebolt’s use of force at Texas pool party. Add to that Officer’s Casebolt resignation as well as dual McKinney protests: one seeking a pound of flesh with another offering support. Civil rights leaders in McKinney said they want an investigation by the US justice department. Some McKinney parents burnt an American Flag, with a child hidden behind a Halloween mask (great lesson there).

Just about everyone wants a piece of Casebolt’s arse. All-in-all, McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt had a lousy week. More than likely, he’ll have a lot more.

There are groups who are focused on the specific incident at the pool party, there are groups who want to address broader issues of inequality. Some wanted Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt fired, others want him indicted. This isn’t an easy issue to tackle, and the protesters all brought a unique view and set of goals.

While McKinney, Texas may be listed as the number one place to live, equality issues exist everywhere. Given the fact no one was shot and that no mother or father had to be told a child died, I’m amazed at the lack of grace and dialogue.

Casebolt’s actions should be critiqued, but extracting a pound of flesh won’t transform anyone’s world into a center of peace and tranquility. This is a social justice issue. It’s not just about how a police officer handled a crowd, but it’s about everything we do as adults, how we view others and what we tach our children.

If media reports are accurate, here’s a recap of events:

  • The pool party was organized by 20-year-old Tatyana Rhodes, and her mother LaShana Burks. The event was unapproved and unauthorized, turned into a mob and cost the community thousands.
  • Tatyana Rhodes claims she’s a teenager. In reality, she’s a 20 year-old adult.
  • Ms. Rhodes hired a DJ and promoted the event to include a pool party.
  • There are numerous social media links reflecting that Ms. Rhodes organizes ‘parties’ and charges for attendance, as a profit generating business.
  • According to Rhodes and Burkes they were unable to control the growing crowd;
  • 100+ teens (and many young adults) turned into a mob of partygoers and began jumping the fence to the gated pool.
  • Police arrived after receiving calls regarding teens “actively fighting.” Reports that some teens and adults began fighting after an adult(s) made racist comments, reportedly telling the organizer to “return to Section 8 housing.
  • Police Officer gets filmed by cell phone.

In summary, parents and or adults created this shit. Residents then called police to clean up their shit. But residents claimed police mishandled their shit…that their shit has to be treated better…have the courtesy to handle their shit with care. Residents then had the gall to film and skewer a police officer for dealing with their shit, in essence saying, “Don’t look at me, but let me tell you about that officer. Holy Shit

As a Buddhist, I agree the officer should have been disciplined. But grace was the prudent course of action.

You can’t talk your way out of problems that you behaved yourself into (S. Covey).

In the end, Social Justice cannot be the excuse for personal failure.

That’s what Jon Stewart missed.

YenSidhouseofmouseLike a bad dream, Yen Sid, the powerful sorcerer, called in approximately 250 Disney IT workers and said, “Your job has been eliminated. And oh! We need you to train your replacement – from India.”

The New Times reported this week that Walt Disney World fired 250 employees, hired Indian workers on a temporary visa and then made the outgoing Americans train their replacements.

The Times story reported Disney used a temporary visa known as the H-1B to hire new workers from an Indian based outsourcing firm. The H-1B program was designed to allow American companies to import highly skilled foreigners for jobs they cannot find Americans to perform, but as always, the program is rife with loopholes and abuses.

Companies claim to use H-1B visas so they can attract the “best and brightest people in the world.” However, if you squint really hard, you’ll be able to read “…for less money than they have to pay U.S. workers.

An excellent article by Martin Kaste for NPR’s All Tech Considered, talks about what many believe is possibly really behind all the kumbayah all-hands-across-the-water, increase-the-cap movements:

“For the past decade, he’s [Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology] been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.”

Kaste further noted that H-1B consultancies are especially big in banking, insurance and pretty much any industry that runs on big computer systems maintained by aging, increasingly expensive American tech workers.

Think about this the next time you visit Disney. All hail Yen Sid!

imageCNN reported the family of Michael Brown filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Ferguson under Missouri’s “wrongful death statute.” The family suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, in addition to attorney fees. My guess? The family will get millions.

The Brown family lawsuit raised an interesting question that I’ve pondered for several hours: “Once there’s a settlement, can the Brown family be sued by a destroyed Ferguson business owner?

Recollecting, as Louis Head (Michael Brown’s stepfather) consoled Brown’s distraught mother after the grand jury announcement, he turned to the crowd of demonstrators and said, ‘Burn this motherfucker down’ and ‘Burn this bitch down.’ While Mr. Head apologized the following day, riots left parts of Ferguson a burning wreck.

In a subsequent police investigation, Mr. Head issued a statement saying that while sorry for screaming ‘Burn this bitch down!‘, to arrest and charge him ‘goes way too far and is as wrong as the decision (of the grand jury) itself.‘ Granted, that stance may be good against criminal prosecution, but how about civil court, where the burden of proof is only a preponderance of evidence?

Should mobs get a free pass to riot and steal in response to unwelcome political outcome? Remember, approximately 25 structures in Ferguson were burned, damaged, or destroyed during riots following the grand jury verdict. Has any of the protesters paid for damage sustained? Sam Chow, an immigrant opened a Ferguson restaurant in 2009. His restaurant practically whipped. Where’s the outrage for the death of Zemir Begic? Begic, a young immigrant who fled violence in Bosnia, was driving home with his fiancée 20 miles away from Ferguson when black teens beat him to death. I don’t recall a single protester speaking for him.

I ponder the outcome of a black business owner’s civil suit against Louis Head and the Brown family for punitive and compensatory damages, especially when statements “Burn this bitch down” contributed to inciting the riots. From prima facia value, if we honor the choice to not prosecute Mr. Head based upon Head’s claim that prosecuting him ‘goes way too far and is as wrong as the decision (of the grand jury) itself,‘ then should business owners completely ignore the option to litigate civily?

At the end of the day, no one can stand in the court of public opinion and shout ‘Look over yonder, but don’t look here (at me).’ Responsibility applies everyone equally – to you, me and Mr. Head.

imageI’ve not heard as much about ‘Earth Day’ as previous years. Either I’m in a cloud or there isn’t much demand for Earth Day anymore. That doesn’t mean I’ve totally forgotten either.

I still remember a little known truth about the self-described founder of a Earth Day: He murdered and composted his girlfriend. Yes. Yes. Self-proclaimed Earth Day co-founder Ira Einhorn had a dark side. In 2011, NBC News reported Einhorn was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend and stuffing her “composted” body inside a trunk.

Earth Day was created in the spring of 1970 to raise awareness of and take action on the pressing environmental issues of the time. Einhorn was master of ceremonies at the first Earth Day celebration at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on April 22, 1970. He still maintains the holiday was his idea and he was responsible for launching it, though most activists credit Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson.

So all nonsense aside, what’s continually captured my imagination has been an often neglected story of water … or lack thereof. Five years ago, while working with the government, I ran across an odd U.S. Report detailing high-level plans to relocate millions from the Southwest to the North/Northeast. The water lifeline to the Southwest, the Colorado River, has been divided according to the 1922 Colorado River Compac. Subsequently, more water has been apportioned than exists. Water flow in the Colorado River — which supplies water to more than 30 million people in the Southwest including Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas — has declined. Water shortage numbers grow worse with each succeeding drought.

As a result, water is the #1 global risk impact to society (as a measure of devastation) and #8 global risk based on likelihood of occurring within 10 years (as announced by the World Economic Forum). There are 358 million people with little to no access to water in Africa. In developed countries such as the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and Russia, that number totals 9 million. To combat drought in it’s own state, California announced sweeping statewide water restrictions for the first time in history.

Since today is Earth Day, I rounded up a few easily researched items about water. Compare the water footprint for a variety of products.

  • 9 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of soy milk;
  • 23 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of almond milk;
  • 30 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of regular milk;
  • 35 gallons of water to produce 1 regular yogurt;
  • 41 gallons of water to produce 1 regular size scoop of ice cream;
  • 50 gallons of water to produce 2 slices of cheese;
  • 90 gallons of water to produce 1 regular size Greek yogurt;
  • 109 gallons of water to produce 1 stick of butter;
  • 1,500 gallons of water are needed to manufacture a desktop computer;
  • 32,000 gallons of water is needed to make the steel for one automobile; and
  • 1,700,000 gallons of water per day is required to cool NSA’s Bluffdale, Utah datacenter, with only a third being recycled.

In 2011, The Buddha Blog noted the Buddha’s teaching on walking the middle ground between extremes of over-consumption and austerity fits perfectly into the modern, environmental practice of living in balance with nature. It’s what we speak of today as “sustainability” or living within our means. It’s not necessary to live like a cave man to be an environmentalist in the Buddhist sense, as that would be living out of balance in austerity. It’s structuring our lives, so that when we utilize nature’s resources, we do it in a balanced and sustainable way.

The environment is on loan to us from future generations. Let’s not ruin it for them–and us. Happy Earth Day!

Free Stacey Addison

naPHCluJjXoeaul-580x326-noPadI heard Dr. Stacey Addison’s plight during a flight this past weekend.  I personally do not know Dr. Addison nor do I know of those trying to assist her.  I am reposting much of the Petition – Free Dr. Addison! website and a Facebook page. Even CNN picked Addison’s plight as well.

—————————————————————————

Dr. Stacey Addison, a Portland, Oregon veterinarian is unjustly imprisoned in the South East Asian country of East Timor. While living her dream of an around the world trip Dr. Addison had the extremely bad luck to share a hired vehicle with a stranger who committed a crime. She has been imprisoned, denied due process and can be held with no charge against her for one year. Our government and the government of East Timor must take action immediately to release Dr. Stacey Addison from her illegal imprisonment.

Stacey planned and saved for two years for her dream trip around the world. What should have been a trip of a lifetime has turned into a nightmare.  On September 5th Stacey entered East Timor because her Indonesian visa was expiring and to tour the country. She took a shared hired taxi ( a common practice in developing countries) from the border to the capitol city of Dili. The other passenger, a stranger to her, asked the driver to stop so he could pick up a package. The police had been tipped that the package contained illegal drugs and surrounded the car and arrested everyone. Stacey, her belongings and Ipad were searched and she was given a drug test, all of which were negative.

Both the stranger who picked up the package and the driver testified that they did not know Dr. Addison. Still, she was held in jail for 5 days prior to being taken before a judge. At that time she was given a conditional release but told that her passport could be held for up to one year pending investigation.  Stacey asked to be questioned and cooperated in any way she could.  She obtained a local attorney.  She was never even contacted by authorities in nearly 2 months and yet on October 28th she was rearrested without a charge and taken to Gleno women’s prison.  She was told that the prosecutor had filed an appeal to have her conditional release rescinded without notifying Stacey or her lawyer.  This is a violation of her Human Rights and illegal under Timorese and International law.

Stacey is a dedicated and caring veterinarian.  Her passions are travel and animals and she has volunteered as a vet both in Peru and Ecuador during her around the world trip.  She has never been in any sort of trouble in her life.

—————————————————————————

Please feel free to review Dr. Addison’s information and sign the petition if so inclined. Also, pass the links on to those who may support her.

Do Lives Matter

10092014_Shaw-thumb-295xauto-11734On Saturday, a few thousand protesters participated in a “Justice for All” march in St. Louis, one of the largest and most diverse gatherings since the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. Unions, religious groups and student organizations gathered behind banners as flags and posters bobbed down the street while drums thundered above a loud din of chants of “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!

More than 1,000 peaceful protesters shut down an intersection by playing jump rope and silently marched through Saint Louis before staging a sit-in at Saint Louis University early Monday morning. Why Saint Louis University was chosen is beyond me. However, protest leaders addressing the crowd said their demonstration was about ending white supremacy and addressing systemic problems people face regardless of race.

Watching scenes protrayed in social media and news outlets, I ask with all honesty, do black lives matter? Do any of our lives really matter? Placing thoughts into perspective, I repeat part of a previous post:

27-year-old Quinnell Stanciel, was pronounced dead at the scene while the second victim was rushed to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm. Also, a week ago today, Jonathan Saddler, 24, and James Lane, 22, were killed in a shoot out in downtown St. Louis. Police said that shooting was drug-related, and officers recovered suspected marijuana and heroin at the shooting scene. Surviving victims were not cooperating with the investigation.

Researching news wires, readers learned James Lane was the uncle of Latasha Williams, a 14 year-old shot in the left eye September 12th. Latasha was buying snacks at a corner store when bullets were sprayed from a passing vehicle into the store. Latasha’s father, Marvin Williams, also died violently. Willliams was fatally shot on March 21, 2005 at the age of 21. Police said then they believed the shooting was gang-related.

Neither Quinnell Stanciel, Jonathan Saddler, James Lane, Latasha Williams nor Marvin Williams had signs erected on their behalf. And why not? Do any of their lives really count? Or does the community at large largely ignore their lives, while focusing upon only a select few?

From a Buddhist perspective, I ponder whether protests work. In June 1963, a Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc sat down in a busy intersection of Saigon set himself on fire. However, the monk’s friends ensured foreign reporters were on the scene; thus ensuring photos would quickly spread around the world.

In spite of significant media reporting, Ferguson protesters appear to have a message looking for a cause, as statistics clearly support, that in total, police shootings of unarmed men are rare. If black lives matter, then all black lives have to matter, not just those cherry-picked for this version of ‘activism weekly.’ This doesn’t mean Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers don’t matter. But while protesting provides a profound “moral shock,” almost all causes fade in waning years. Look no further than Trayvon Martin, where nationwide protests remain unanswered years later.

As a Buddhist, if we’re going to achieve transformation, we must focus upon the lives of all people, not just black people. I do believe our lives can speak to the future, if all of us become involved to provide solutions. But warning signs are ominous. The interfaith service meant to bring the St. Louis community together exposed fissures between protest leaders and the youth. Still, if the lives of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers matter; Quinnell Stanciel, Jonathan Saddler, James Lane, Latasha Williams and Marvin Williams must equally matter as well. Yet few, if any, speak for them.

Everyone has to matter.

If every single life doesn’t matter, the protest won’t last.

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

The Seeds 4 Life

Seeds of Inspiration, Wisdom, and Positivity

Oscar Relentos

Welcome to my catharsis

%d bloggers like this: