Donald the Human Trump Card: One Buddhist’s Perspective…

With each passing day, I find it more difficult to get away from what appears to me to be the “truth” about Donald Trump – and it is this: the man is where he is today, practically in the White House, because not only are the conditions “right,” but also because they’re damned near perfect. Donald Trump was “made in America,” but we simply don’t want to admit it.

Is it not ironic that the man who claims he wants to make America “great again,” is only great because America made him so? Every time we laughed at the “reasoning” behind his exclaiming “You’re fired!”; every time we overlooked his sexism, racism, and xenophobia; every time we called his complete disregard for ethics and human beings in his business practices simple “wheeling and dealing” instead of the hate crimes they were; we contributed to the Frankensteinian creation of the monster Trump is today. It’s vipaka, baby — the “fruit” of our karma…

Everyone is acting as if Donald Trump is some sort of violent, freak accident that “happened” to us one sunny afternoon. Not true. Donald Trump didn’t “happen” to “us”; Donald Trump is “us,” whether “us” refers to you and me, or to the [U]nited [S]tates. He is the sum total of our situational ethic; our refusal to admit to the existence of white privilege; our worship of the failing dollar; and the misinterpretation of the freedom of America as the “free dumb” in America. He was everything that a lot of us wanted to be – and still is. This is why  many of us will still vote for him, despite all of our public protestations, once the curtain closes behind us in the voting booth.

And if you are possibly upset that I used the words “white privilege,” please understand that it was not with anger or “reverse racism.” Any type of unfair advantage, no matter what color the perpetrator, always backfires. So-called “white people” suffer the effects (vipaka) of “white privilege” as much as so-called “people of color.” We cannot judge the intent of all by some, or truly believe, if we know the Dharma/Dhamma, that “evil” ever wins. The Law of Karma is the strictest, most impersonal bookkeeper ever employed. It doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It simply ensures that everything is always perfectly balanced — even when it doesn’t appear to be so…

Just remember this: “The Donald” cares about no one but himself. He doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need anyone – especially now that he has managed to do “the impossible.” And I don’t mean to imply that he’s not a nice person. If he’s a psychopath, and I mean this in the nicest, most clinical sense of the word, he simply can’t help it. Nonetheless, the man can’t manage a business, but we choose to believe that he can guide a nation, and deftly navigate the politics of one of the most complex and critical eras the world has ever known. Good luck with that.

So, please, stop it with the pissing and moaning. You’re not fooling anyone. This “crisis” pales in comparison to the one from which we are only now just recovering: nearly eight long years of an eloquent, educated, articulate, brilliant, undeniably just, albeit “Negro,” man holding the office of president of the United States. Many folks’ biggest disappointment can only be that he did not, in fact, do as they feared: He didn’t take office and treat white people as if they did not exist, or might possibly not have voted for him. He didn’t turn white privilege into “everything-but-white privilege,” he didn’t ignore the pain of the Syrian refugees because he valued the lives of Africans more… If you’re confused by this statement, let me draw an analogy: He didn’t pretend the Rwandan Genocide wasn’t happening because, well, no one who was anyone really cared anyway…

If you are voting for Mr. Trump, I truly don’t think less of you. Our conditioned existence is much too complicated to simplify into categories of any one person’s idea of “right” and “wrong.” Politicians are a special breed, and if there’s one good thing I can say about Mr. Trump, he’s honest about not giving a damn. But if we believe what the Buddha taught about a “conditioned existence,” then we understand that what is happening in the world today is the only thing that can happen, given what occurred prior to now (possibly for immeasurable past eons) and what is happening in the ever-fleeting and ever-changing “now.”

The only card game I ever learned to play was “Old Maid,” and that was in elementary school – many, many years ago. Nonetheless, I do know the meaning of the word “trump,” with regards to “grown-up” card playing. There are actually three definitions, in particular, that interest me, the last of which I only discovered today.

Trump:

  1. a playing card of the suit chosen to rank above the others, which can win a trick where a card of a different suit has been led;
  2. a sound of or as if of trumpeting (the trump of doom);
  3. a dependable and exemplary person.

“The Donald” is the personification of the eternal “trump card,” practically doing whatever he’s wanted, all his life, because he’s always been treated as if he’s of a higher suit or rank. You might call that a kind of “privilege,” with his being a white male being only incidental… And personally, I know people of all colors, ethnicities, income levels, social ranks, gender identities, religions, and political parties who do not think Mr. Trump is the best choice for this country.

We have ploughed, sown, and fertilized the crop we are about to harvest. And frankly, the only thing that truly surprises me about what is happening now is that we are surprised at all.That said, Mr. Trump is not the problem. He’s merely a symptom. Just as there is ‘personal’ karma, there is ‘national’ karma. Presidencies change just as everything else changes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last, legally-possible, four-term president, right?

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

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Are Some Lives More Sacred Than Others?

In the American classic novel, Animal Farm, author George Orwell famously writes “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” I first encountered this novel in the 1970s. I believe it was on most high school ‘required reading’ lists at the time. It was the absurdity of the statement that struck me as a girl in my mid-teens; now, some 40 years after first reading it, I only find it absurd that I found it absurd.

I recently read a newspaper article in the July 6, 2014 New York Post by Maureen Callahan titled “Is Your Dog Mentally Ill?” The article begins by discussing world-famous Gus, the polar bear, who in 1986 was diagnosed with a “mild neurosis,” and prescribed Prozac, an [human] antidepressant. Callahan then introduces us to a new book by Laurel Braitman: Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves. Braitman’s thesis: Animals’ emotions run the full spectrum of human emotion. Callahan writes: “Increasingly, research is showing that animals – from flies to falcons, emus to elephants – have feelings, behaviors and rituals that we humans would recognize, from joy to OCD to burial rites.” So, if this is the case, could it be problematic that we treat animals… like “animals,” and other people worse than animals?

Callahan also writes about Culum Brown, a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, who published a paper on the complexities of fish culture. Not only do fish have a culture, but they also feel pain! Could it be that chomping down on a fishing hook is not truly the fish version of water skiing? But what really ‘got’ me was reading about David Foster Wallace’s 2004 essay, “Consider the Lobster,” in which he questions the ethics of boiling lobsters to death. Yes! Ethics! Callahan comments on Wallace’s “logical observation” based on comparative neuroanatomy:

The lobster, when placed in boiling water, scratches and thrashes and attempts to get out. “In other words,” Wallace wrote, “[it] behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming).”

No, I have not yet retrieved Wallace’s essay, but I plan to do so once I am able to remove this wincing grimace from my visage, so as to re-enter the world of gentlefolk less obtrusively. And the lobster being unable to scream shall be my jumping-off point.

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If dogs, cats, deer, and fish cannot speak our language, and we cannot immediately understand theirs, does it mean that we are superior to them, or that they couldn’t possibly have languages? Are poor people, who can’t afford to retain high-powered attorneys, less likely to see justice? And when a woman, who is permanently bedridden, possessed of limited speech capacity, and unable to feed, bathe, or otherwise take care of herself, is forced to engage in sexual intercourse with several men, has she been gang-raped? Yes, there’s something to be said for being able to articulate one’s needs in ways that others can easily understand.

Callahan further quotes Braitman’s book regarding our treatment of “non-human animals”:

It’s inconvenient for a lot of our daily life,” she says. “If we really internalized this idea that other animals are as complicated and individual and as quirky as we are, there are things we’d have to change that would be really uncomfortable.

Many children learn about responsibility, reciprocity, and love, by taking care of animals. Other children use the same opportunity to express their potential for becoming serial killers. If, as research has revealed, even fruit flies have emotional lives, Laurel Braitman’s assertion that we might have to change our lives in some very “uncomfortable” ways could be true. I thought about this the other day as I observed a young mother watch her 10-year-old daughter use a stick to bat some type of ‘roly-poly’ bug back and forth at the bus stop, and later stomp on it for “fun.”

Of course, we don’t all mistreat animals. I’ve seen tiny animals, riding in Gucci handbags, wearing little outfits much more fashionable and ornate than anything I’ve ever owned. I’ve seen dogs eat steak off of dinner plates, and grown men and women eat ground mystery meat from dumpsters. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong in pampering an animal we love. It’s pleasurable to have someone so ‘into’ you. They hang on our every word. They lick our faces. They rarely argue with, or contradict us. And if we run out of room to house them, or time to take care of them, we can always drop them out the car window as we truck on down the highway, or leave them locked in the garage when we move. If only wives, husbands, and children could be so… convenient.

For Buddhists, the first precept, admonishes us not to kill because  all  life is sacred. But it’s not as simple as that. It’s usually not the person with 150 cats living in her house who’s a ‘people person.’ We worry about keeping creatures, with fur, warm during winter months, while the authorities are, quite literally, recovering the frozen remains of human beings from back alleys and abandoned buildings. It’s possible to kill both people and animals by doing nothing. It’s possible to kill opportunity, hope, dreams, and visions, too.

If bugs and animals are so much more complex than what we’d imagined, or had been willing to admit, could the same be true for human beings? It’s an arbitrary and dangerous practice to deem some lives as more valuable than others. De-valuing someone, or something, is always the first step towards domination, degradation, and in some cases annihilation. This was true for the antebellum American South, Nazi Germany, and more recently, the Rwandan Genocide. The difference with animals is that once they’re near extinction, we almost always initiate some type of conservation effort.

How perplexing it is to note that when we take care of animals, we are, at once, at our best and worst. We are so much the better for taking care of helpless creatures; yet, so much the worse for not being capable of extending the same mercies to other human beings. I seriously doubt that we can fully love each other until we reconsider the value of life — from insects to pachyderms. This is not to say that should we find ourselves in a lifeboat, having to decide between saving a cockroach or a human being, that any extended period of deliberation need take place.

“All [beings] are equal, but some [beings] are more equal than others[?]”

Namaste.