March 2016 Archives

We are all refugees

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Source: creative commons

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated,

Adown Titanic glooms of chasm├Ęd fears,

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

We are all refugees. At first, as Francis Thompson so eloquently describes, we are refugees from the Hound of Heaven, fleeing into the duality of hopes and fears from the ruthless compassion of the light of truth, from "those strong Feet that follow, follow after."

Later, when we realize what a cruel dictator our 'I illusion' is, we become another kind of refugee, taking refuge in the truth, as Trungpa Rinpoche, himself a Tibetan refugee, describes.

By taking refuge, in some sense we become homeless refugees. Taking refuge does not mean saying that we are helpless and then handing all our problems over to somebody or something else. There will be no refugee rations, nor all kinds of security and dedicated help. The point of becoming a refugee is to give up our attachment to basic security. We have to give up our sense of home ground, which is illusory anyway. We might have a sense of home ground as where we were born and the way we look, but we don't actually have any home, fundamentally speaking. There is actually no solid basis of security in one's life. And because we don't have any home ground, we are lost souls, so to speak. Basically we are completely lost and confused.

Yet even though we are refugees--whether refugees from truth or refugees from illusion, we live in some kind of comfort and convenience. We take it for granted that we will have food, shelter, light, heat, transportation--even internet. Six years ago, the people of Syria also took these things for granted. In fact, they enjoyed some of the best cuisine in the Arab world. Today, middle class Syrians are crossing the Aegean in rubber dinghies, sleeping in flimsy tents in Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border, or living without jobs, education, dignity or hope in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

We are all refugees. And if we live secure today, who can tell what will happen tomorrow? We are all refugees. Some of us, myself included, have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who themselves fled persecution for the safety of a distant and unknown land. There, they had to start life over again in a foreign language and with different customs.

We are all refugees, yet today some of us have more than others--more comfort, more safety, more security, more rights. If our rights and freedoms have meaning to us, how can we deny them to others, the desperate refugees from a war-torn land? If our spirituality means anything to us, how can we ignore those who are cold and hungry? The refugees come to challenge us to live up to the ideals of liberty and equality that we profess as the basis of Western society. To turn our backs on them is to betray our deepest-held ideals. To close our borders, our doors, our hearts to them is to refuse the challenge they bring--a call on our compassion, a cry for our human caring, a reminder of the transitory nature of our life as pilgrims and strangers in this world--for truly, we are all refugees.

You shall neither mistreat a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21

Refugees at Mecedonian Border.jpg

Refugees wait to cross into Macedonia at the Greek border station of Idomeni. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Let Love Trump Hate

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The year is 1932.The up-and-coming leader, Adolph Hitler, is drawing crowds, inflaming passions and inciting violence with his demagoguery and anti-Semitism. In the streets and meeting halls of the Weimar Republic, Hitler's Brownshirts clash with Communists and Socialists. Soon the republic will collapse into a totalitarian dicatatorship, a war-machine will be built, and European Jewry will be destroyed as war engulfs the world.

Twenty years later, I was born into a country of postwar austerity, bombsites and burgeoning hope for a brighter future. I was also born into an extended family who had lost many members in the Holocaust. My parents and grandparents lived though cataclysmic events fuelled by hatred and division. In so many ways, their story is my own. My ancestors are alive in me. Events of recent days have stirred this generational trauma that lies always just beneath the surface of my psyche. As I wrote on my Facebook page--my fascism alarm has sounded. It seems I was not alone in this, for the post got more likes, shares and comments than even the cute photo of baby deer in our backyard.

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Writing for me is certainly an act of service, a form of activism, a way to awaken hearts--but it is also a journey to innate wisdom. When the events of the world I live in leave me frightened, devastated or frustrated, I turn to my blog. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, and hope readers will journey with me from fear to courage, from despair to hope, from darkness to light.

As we consider Trump's demagoguery and incitement, his Islamophobia and denigration of Mexicans, African-Americans, women, people with disabilities and so on; as we grapple with the hatred and prejudice expressed within the group mind at Trump rallies, we can best approach the challenge by by applying the principles of prajna and upaya.

Applying prajna refers to the way we work with our own minds. If we hate and detest Donald Trump, we're really activating our inner Trump. If we despise and look down upon those who support Trump, we are becoming the very thing we dislike in others. "I cannot tolerate intolerance," as the famous saying goes. As Trump goads us, the Bernie people, the people, the Black Lives Matter people, the 'liberals' or (astonishingly enough), the 'far Left', claiming that we are 'bad people', let's not fall into the trap of deciding 'Trump people' are 'bad people.'

Hitler and his Brownshirts became what they were due to causes and conditions. While some of these causes arose from their own childhood experiences, there were many systemic causes and conditions rooted in the unjust Treaty of Versailles and the hunger and humiliation the German people were experiencing. Meanwhile,the doctrine of anti-Semitism provided a conveniently vulnerable and defenceless scapegoat for the anger of a defeated nation.

In the same way, karmic conditions gave Trump, the rich kid raised to be 'a king and a killer,' an insatiable thirst for fame, wealth and power. And the anger he rouses in his largely working class following arises from many causes embedded in our society. Trump's message of 'making America great again' (whatever that means), making America 'win' again, may appeal to people who lack a sense of worth and significance because they are always at the bottom of the pile. His bigotry gives voice to feelings many have not dared to express until now. Finally there is a target for life's dissatisfactions--undocumented immigrants, Muslims, Leftists, African-Americans, President Obama and so on. These 'bad people' should be taken from our midst to keep us safe, just as the Jews were taken from the midst of German society.

When I hear Trump speak or watch clips of the way protestors are treated at his rallies, naturally feelings of horror, disgust and aversion arise. Still, I don't want to hate Trump or despise his supporters, for given the right set of circumstances--that could be me. So I gently repeat, "May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you have ease of wellbeing", sending the energy of loving-kindness to these fellow sentient beings.

First we apply prajna and work with our own minds, so that when we come to bring upaya, skilful means, into our work in the world, we don't approach the challenge full of our own fear and aversion. Now we must meet the challenge with courage and integrity. Complacency, acquiescence, the collusion of silence--these behaviours will allow bigotry to go unchecked and our society to be divided. At first many thought Hitler was just a funny little man. Why bother to stand up to such a preposterous demagogue? And initially many of us hoped that if we ignored Trump, refusing to give him the attention he sought, the problem would go away--but it hasn't. When Pope Francis took the extraordinary step of interfering in our country's internal affairs by speaking out against Trump, he was offering us a powerful lesson. The man or woman of spirit is a voice for the voiceless.

Who will speak for our undocumented immigrants, who have no vote and no official voice, if I don't? Who will speak for the beleaguered Muslim minority? Who will speak for us, the so called Far Left, if we don't speak out for ourselves? While Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton have all raised their voices to condemn Trump's bigotry and "political arson,' we can't leave this to politicians. Each one of us needs to rise our voices loudly and insistently and make it clear that the politics of hate and division has no place in our society.

Let courage trump fear

Let unity trump division

Let peace trump violence

Let love trump hate.


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    This page is an archive of entries from March 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

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