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As the wonderful Richard Söderberg said while he was on the Guldbagge awards, (Swedish Oscars) In order for women to take a step forward, men need to take a step back. It was a wonderful, true and very aware statement from one of Swedens coolest people. I thought about that statement, and about #metoo which he was, of course, referring too when I read this poem written by Syrian born Palestinian and now Stockholm resident poet Ghayath Almadhoun. It’s a beautiful poem of sadness and repentance for his part in the oppression of women everywhere, even in countries in which he has never set foot, in centuries long past and yet to come, for crimes against women he has never seen committed by men he has never met. If we are to grow past this oppression, men everywhere need to stand up and acknowledge their part in it, and take a step back so that women can take that so very important step forward.
 
Confession – Poem by Ghayath Almadhoun
 
You;
women who have trampled grapes
with bare feet
since the beginning of history
who were locked in chastity belts
in Europe
who were burnt to death
in the Middle Ages
who wrote novels
under male pseudonyms
in order to get published
who harvested tea
in Ceylon
who rebuilt Berlin
after the war
who grew the cotton
in Egypt
who covered your bodies with excrement
to avoid rape by French soldiers
in Algeria
virgins
in Cuba
who rolled cigars
on their naked thighs
members of the Black Diamond guerillas
in Liberia
samba dancers
in Brazil
women who have had faces destroyed
by acid
in Afghanistan
my mother …
 
Forgive me.
 
Translation from Swedish: James Blake
Ghayath Almadhoun
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An interesting look at Buddhists doing something one might not expect. Well, okay, maybe doing 2 things one might not expect; Protesting and using social media in ways other than teaching Buddhism or reaching followers. But then, perhaps it’s not as unexpected as one might think on first glance. The issues that are presented by the Trump administration are plentiful indeed, depending on your individual politics. The travel ban, or whatever he might wish to call in on any given day, is obviously the most contested so far. I’m sure that his policies and my own philosophies will clash many times.

Do have a read, dear reader. I hope you find it interesting.

Buddhist teachers, on social media, respond to “Muslim travel ban” (Updated)

 

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I see my father sleeping

The only peace he knows is sleep

Should we wake him?

I see him sleeping

And recall my youthful dreams of him.

All dreams, I suppose, begin in youth.

The young can afford to dream.

Smokestacks become cathedral spires,

Then our aspirations, fueled by the noble half of our nature,

Grow higher, less noble, less precise,

And ultimately, out of reach.

Shall we tease him, throwing stones at his front door

And then run away like children?

Or shall we seek out others,

Who blindly rest, secure in his bosom,

Enticing them to fight our fights against him,

By tempting their fears and prejudices,

Knowing all the while that he will protect us?

But our father sleeps

Wishing to share the dreams

Of the children he has lost

But in his slumber, he cannot protect

Those who die in the streets everyday.

 

I see the other dreams vanishing also,

I see them vanishing on the faces of children who cannot eat,

Of adults who cannot read,

In the despair of a nation that cannot hope

I see America dazed and I don’t know why
I see America sleeping

Weeping, angry, I look upon that which I once called Father

And I see the blissful ignorance that only sleep can provide

A noble, slumbering, drunken giant such as him,

Asleep  on an ashen bed that once was our hopes,

But I cannot forget, I cannot forgive,

And I want to whisper into his good ear the words

“WAKE UP”

I wrote this a number of years ago. I believe it might have been during George Bush “the lessers” administration. I suppose the text more or less speaks for itself as to my intent and thought at the time. But when I read it now, it seems  to be still naive, still wanting America to be something like a Rockwell painting, or in the spirit of Whitman s’ poem “I Hear America Singing” where, to quote the cliffs notes review;

“The poet thinks of America as the “centre of equal daughters, equal sons,” who are “strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable,” and who identify themselves with “Freedom, Law and Love.” He salutes America as the “grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,” who is “chair’d in the adamant of Time.”

This short poem is a reassertion of the poet’s faith in the destiny of the American nation. It demonstrates his love of the masses, his devotion to democracy, and his belief that in responding to the call of a democratic process, America is fulfilling a spiritual need of her people.”  ( Link is here; https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/l/leaves-of-grass/summary-and-analysis-calamus/america)

Perhaps I still saw my homeland with the blinders of white privilege. Perhaps I still hadn’t thought far enough ahead to foresee the possibility that America could ever elect such a nepotist, such a fascist, a racist, and a disgustingly misogynist president. I hadn’t foreseen at that time the divisions that are ripping our nation apart or that such enormous division could even take place in this country with such high ideals to the point where one candidate could ever call the supporters of the other “deplorable”.

I’m not disagreeing with Hillary about that point, to be frank. I was and still am, in total agreement with that perception and was more than a bit disappointed when she apologized for saying it, although I understood completely.

I suppose what makes me sad when i reread this poem now, is that I don’t see America ever getting back to what the founding fathers had in mind.I don’t see our racial divides closing. I don’t see prejudice of any kind dwindling out of our consciousness. I don’t see the poor being fed, the illiterate being taught,I don’t see the immigrants being welcomed and given a new beginning. I don’t see poverty ending. I don’t see the homeless camps in the cities coming down. I remember being so disappointed when I heard a family member saying how much he hated them, how he would get almost violently angry when he drove by them. I don’t see America ever again telling immigrants to “give us your poor, your tired, your hungry” or at least if they did say it, i couldn’t believe in the earnestness of it without being very afraid of what those who have struggled might face upon arrival.What persecution they will face, what  hatred which was once unthinkable but now so commonplace will they face. Sadly, even the handicapped are not immune to ridicule, as the now infamous video clip proves. As Meryl Streep pointed out so well, whether or not it was the “Orangemans” intent to ridicule is secondary to the fact that by doing what he did, it now became acceptable to the rest of his deplorables.Bullying was immediately changed from something we were trying to eliminate to acceptable in one thoughtless moment. He has been shown numerous times publicly inciting his followers to violence against those who disagree with him, He has shown in simple terms the most vile contempt against any who have the courage to point to his many “mistakes of judgement”.

If America is to have any chance of returning to it’s ideals, or should I say finding them for the first time, it cannot sit idly by. It needs all of us to be watchful and alert. It needs all of us to refute and refuse to accept Trumps ideals as our own. It needs idols. It needs statespeople. It needs to find the strength to stand up. It needs, more than ever, to WAKE UP!!

 

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A fascinating look at White Privilege, Buddhism and teaching. The authour, Tara Brach, is the daughter of ” an attorney who practiced a lot of civil rights law, and he had a very racially mixed group of friends, which was quite unusual at the time. In grammar school, I was one of five white kids in an otherwise African American school. I’ve also lived for extended periods of time as an outsider, including wearing religious garb—all-white clothing and a turban—for ten years. So I assumed that I was somewhat awake to these issues, but I got the rug pulled out from under me thanks to some friends of mine in the D.C. area who started letting me know what life was really like for people of color, beyond my bubble of experience.”

The article continues to describe how she learned from her non-white friends about white privilege, about racial profiling, about a decision by a black mother not to raise her children on the thought of hope, but instead, “I want to give my son fear. I want him to be afraid, because I am scared to death that he’s going to either get arrested or killed every time he leaves the house.” She didn’t want her son being cocky or oblivious to the risks he faced as a young African American male—she’d rather he be scared and alive. I had assumed that doors would open for my son, that he’d have opportunities and that he could take advantage of those opportunities if he trusted himself. I realized that my assumption was white privilege.”

This is a truly thoughtful article, well written and provoking in a very informative way. White privilege is a construct that is so deeply embedded in our society that it will take perhaps generations to dislodge, but the truth is that we have to start somewhere. The best place perhaps to start is within us. By educating ourselves, we can then help with the education process to raise awareness and erode centuries of damage, distrust and prejudice, but we need to be self-aware first. We need to know how it affects us individually and as a member of a racist society.

I truly urge all to read this article, reflect on her experience and ask yourselves about your own perspective. How can you use this to grow?

 

Here is the link..;When Tara Brach came to recognize her own white privilege, it revealed painful blind spots. That changed her as a dharma teacher and leader. Artwork by Hildy Maze.

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This is also a fascinating article from Guernica online magazine, a superb source well worth your own perusal, dear reader. This paticular one deals with the rise to power of Donald Trump as seen through Shakespeares Coriolanus. The comparisons are there to be drawn, and as such are very intriguing and scary. To quote the article

Coriolanus has been seen as an antidemocratic play, but it’s better read as a warning against treating democracy as a popularity contest, and the people themselves as a mob who can be bought with flattery.”

Sadly, this could, in some way describe precisely what happened in and TO America, as it was and is the doing of the voting public themselves, either by not voting, not being active or by simply voting for the strongest personage regardless of what may follow, or perhaps and this may be the unkindest cut of all,, because they agree with the minotaur.

Here is the link, do read it!

https://www.guernicamag.com/tana-wojczuk-the-vanity-of-crowds/

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Taken from the introduction on the original website;

“Lion’s Roar spoke with Wendy Egyoku Nakao, abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, about her work to thwart the Dakota Access Pipeline, in order to – as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies have put it – “protect our water, our sacred places, and all living beings.” Following news of use of increased force against protestors at Standing Rock, her message is particularly urgent.”

As one who has tried to come to grips with the continued cruelty on the part of the US Government, American corporate greed and the almost constant racism faced by Native Americans, the situation in South Dakota comes sadly as no surprise. Of course I wish that it would resolve it’s self honorably, but I have deep doubts. Do have a read at this interview. it’s very interesting and informative;

 

http://www.lionsroar.com/among-the-bodhisattvas-at-standing-rock/

 

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The article below was taken from The New Yorker,  follow this link for more..  Mourning for Whiteness

Mourning for Whiteness

By Toni Morrison

This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know (and knew) that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness. Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.

Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.

In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.

It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause.

The comfort of being “naturally better than,” of not having to struggle or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished.

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

William Faulkner understood this better than almost any other American writer. In “Absalom, Absalom,” incest is less of a taboo for an upper-class Southern family than acknowledging the one drop of black blood that would clearly soil the family line. Rather than lose its “whiteness” (once again), the family chooses murder.

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