Last week, after Lion’s Roar published a number of Buddhist teachers’ responses to the election of Donald Trump, Pablo Das, another Buddhist teacher, sent his own response. In his piece (“Why this gay Buddist teacher is dubious about Buddhist refuge in the Trump era”), Das keyed off of a comment made by the Zen teacher Norman Fischer. Fischer, having read Das’s comments, and others, now responds to that piece.
This is a response to Pablo Das’ piece published here on the Lion’s Roar site.
I appreciate and agree with what Pablo is saying, and thank him for taking the time to think all this through.
When, in the piece, he refers to privileged white Buddhist teachers who say “we will survive” he is quoting words from my initial response to the election on this site. He doesn’t mention me by name, I suppose out of kindness and generosity. Pablo and I have met and have many warm connections.
Pablo is not the first to have reacted this way to my words. I have learned something, as I always do when I am called out for words that have not been carefully considered and come from cultural blindness. He is right that when you have not suffered particular kinds of suffering you tend not to notice them. When this is pointed out to you, you are humbled, and, hopefully, wiser. So thanks, Pablo. I apologize for any hurt caused by my words.
But I do believe, as I wrote, that the community survives. Jews have survived the Shoah; African Americans have survived slavery and generations of systematic violence and racism; gay and transgender people have survived generations of invisibility, disrespect, and violence, as have women. Native American peoples have survived physical and cultural genocide. While, as Pablo sadly points out, many many individuals do not survive, and there is tremendous pain and brokenness that goes on for generations, the community does survive… with tremendous strength, inspiration, vision, and courage, as Pablo’s own words attest.
My point in recalling this is to inspire strength, determination, and courage, not to be casual about oppression or urge patient inaction in the face of injustice.
So far all signals from Trump’s administration-in-progress are terrible. We are going to be in for a horrendous period, on all fronts, one that must be resisted, consistently, firmly, over time.
My words were written quickly, immediately after the election, briefly, and with the intention of being a first pass at a Buddhist response to the election. Since my piece was written there have been many longer, more thoughtful, and more complete responses. Pablo’s. Taigen Leighton’s. One from the Brooklyn Zen Center. And many others.
It seems so unfair, but marginalized communities like Pablo’s can’t help but have a special role in times like these. Only they can provide real leadership and the authentic passion and anger that we need to keep up the fight. While it’s true that marginalized groups feel the pain much more, the Trump administration, by all indications, is going to be horrible for all of us, and for the planet. We have to stop this in any way we can.