Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vote for the Mumps or the Measles

I got a great email from mi cumpanero, Trente Centavos today and it was a perfect segue between my blogs this week and what I want to write about today. Thanks, Thirty Cent!

So, what are we supposed to do? We know that the government in office and that which is to come sucks. Vote or don't vote, you still have to choose between two people that don't represent you. So why vote? One thing that America, thus far, has yet to be at its core is fatalistic. As a nation, we still tend to act as though we are always just moments away from being a hero to someone. You can see it in the wake of every tragedy that has befallen Americans in America: there is always a glut of people trying to do good.

And of course, as was the case in response to Katrina, there are plenty of "leaders" that create a situation where those capable of giving help are actually denied access to providing that resource.

So what are we to do? I'm going to share a link hereand I want you to really ruminate on this one. It's a story about a Green Beret that leads military school cadets to the Himalayas to meet the Dalai Lama.


I'm sure there are many who will read just the headline and have a cynical response, like, "Why? So they can be better killers?" Or, "Just goes to show what an opportunist that Dalai Lama guy is," as though everyone understands already that being the world's most visible Actively-Engaged Buddhist means being so anti-military that the two are antithetical.

It reminds me of a story my wife, Karen, related to me after she went to last year's Mind and Life Conference. There was a woman representing the Military present who was interested in sharing mindfulness and meditation techniques with people in the military. Once this was identified, people began raising a stink saying things like, "Why? So they can be better killers?!" And it's sad to hear that. If you think that teaching people in the military about how to be more mindful of the interconnectedness of all things and that we ourselves are the roots of all suffering in this world is a bad thing, then you, are missing the point.

We are all equally capable of making the world a better place, and so we are all equally culpable. To the largest extent, that change in the world will not come from changing what is "out there," but rather changing from within. I'm not advocating self-abnegation (one more source of illusion and suffering in this world), I am instead putting forward a notion of hyperbolic responsibility for the situations we find ourselves in. We must be the change we want to see in the world.

I am saying that the lesser of two evils is less evil. We must move forward from somewhere, and it will always be from the point at which we find ourselves aware of the need to change. I do think that McCain is a worse choice at this moment in American history. I am fairly confident that his administration will make America weaker, not stronger. I would suggest to those of you that care, that you amplify that message. Do I think that Obama's going to underwhelm those people that think he will change politics in America? Yes I do.

But I do believe that it is time that America had an articulate leader. I think that the virtue of the Obama campaign has been precisely because it has activated so many people. The supporters of Obama's campaign made it clear that today, America will seriously consider a Woman and a Black man for President.

That's mind-blowing. It wasn't only by force of personality, or a gazillion dollars, or that his dad was the head of the CIA, Vice President, and former President, that Obama was put into this position. He was put there by the hard work of campaigners that had never been involved in a political campaign before.

Let me tell you something: I worked under a guy who was the SAME AGE as me and was not only the Executive Director of the Georgia Region office of the largest microlender in the United States, he was also the Commissioner of Clayton County in Atlanta. He was 29 years old.

I asked him how he decided to run for office and he said it was because he helped with one campaign. From that he learned how to assist in another campaign. And from that he realized that he, himself, could be that guy running for office. And now he's out there making the changes he believes in.

That's what Obama's come to represent - people saying that they want to be a part of the solution. There are so many problems with how America is running right now that it if you are not getting involved, it's more than a shame.

Yes: you can and will change how things work in this country if you are willing to learn about how it's happening and are willing to engage those people that are critical to changing how it is done. It's that simple. You simply have to be the hands and feet: walk the talk and do the work.

If you think that you have a better way of making that change then please, join the Americorps*VISTA program or the Peace Corps because those are two of the best ways to begin walking that talk.

I trust you.

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