I know that one of the subscribers I lost was because he was unhappy with what my nephew does for a living and about my opinions on Ben’s work. The others who stopped subscribing didn’t tell me anything, so I’ll never know for sure.
As you certainly must have noticed, I put links to Ben’s articles and to Liberty Writers News (the site he writes for) in the article I wrote. That’s because I wanted everything to be out in the open. I did not link to the Washington Post article calling him “fake news” because — fuck them. And besides, it takes about 28 seconds on Google to find it (that’s how I found it myself).
A bunch of people are on my Facebook page right now commenting away about this stuff. I stopped looking. It was getting real ugly in there.
The folks who stopped their subscriptions must feel the way I felt when I first heard Nishijima Roshi sound off on politics. Except that Nishijima was talking about his own politics, not those of his nephew. But anyway I found that I did not agree with my teacher’s political views after I’d been practicing with him for a few years. Like I said, he didn’t announce these political views, but he never refused to answer any question anyone asked. It took a while for it to come up.
I guess the smart move would have been to denounce my nephew publicly. I could have gained a few subscriptions that way. I’m well aware of the political leanings of most Buddhists in America these days. But I’m not going to denounce Ben. It would be dishonesty in pursuit of financial gain.
The night of the election I was not watching the results come in. I learned of Trump’s win via a text from Ben. I texted him back something like, “I don’t know if I can ever speak to you again. I mean that.” Then I turned off the phone and went to bed. I did not sleep well. In Pirooz Kalayeh’s movie Trumpometer I told a white-washed version of this story.
The next morning I switched my phone back on. I saw a text there from my sister expressing her distress at having heard from Ben, her son, that I’d sent that text to him. There were also a few really sad sounding texts from Ben.
So I called Ben and we talked. I asked him, “How could you not oppose Trump’s election? How could you support him?”
And he told me.
I won’t speak for him. You can read his articles to find out what he thinks. His “Danny Gold” persona is a somewhat exaggerated version, but his actual feelings are in there too. I don’t think he’d write anything he didn’t believe, but he’s not above exaggerating things for comic effect.
A few days after the election he told me, “Conservatives are the new progressives.” And he explained why he felt that way. He was a committed leftie for most of his teens and about half his twenties. But he watched the left slide more and more into an ideology he found repulsive and regressive. So he switched sides.
Through my conversations with him I began to see that it’s not good to live in a political bubble. It’s not good to shut yourself off from ideas that may conflict with your own beliefs.
Once, when I was intensely worried about whether or not I’d succumb to Huntington’s Disease, the illness that slowly killed my mother over a period of more than two horrific decades, I brought my fears to Nishijima. I mentioned to him that I deliberately avoided reading about HD.
He said to me that I should read up about it. He said, “You should look at hated information.” That’s how he phrased it. I’ll always remember his word choice: hated information.
So I went on Amazon and ordered a bunch of books about Huntington’s Disease. When they arrived at my apartment in Tokyo, I gritted my teeth and dove into that “hated information.”
You know what? Nothing in any of those books scared me the way I thought it would. Instead it became clear to me that doctors and researchers in genetic disorders were human beings just like me. They did more research on the subject than I had done. But in the end their conclusions were a mixture of well-reasoned science and a lot of speculation. Most of my fear of the disease went away as I read those books.
So, after talking to Ben post-election night, I dove into another area of “hated information.” I started looking at what Trump’s supporters said about him. And again I found that the monsters I feared were human beings just like me. Their research on Trump was a mixture of well-reasoned politics and a lot of speculation.
Just like me they feared for their futures, they loved their families, they worried about their country. Many of them were as much against racism, homophobia and all the rest as I was. They just saw a very different way forward than I could see.
To be quite honest, I still don’t get it sometimes. But I no longer fear it the way I did before Ben and I spoke. Sure, some of Trump’s supporters are violent idiots. But so are some of those who oppose him.
I began to feel that violence and idiocy were the problem, not ideology.
I also began to think that karma is collective. Maybe it’s our collective karma to have Trump as president. Maybe we all contributed to it. Maybe we all should own up to the role we played in making it happen. Maybe if we stopped blaming it on someone else, we might find a way to make it better.
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Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
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