Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


So I guess the way I've been feeling lately is kind of how you ordinary Christians probably feel when somebody like the alleged Reverend Robert Jeffries gets on TV with some Fox News pundit and says it's totally irrelevant if Donald Trump cheated on his wife with a porn actress but that all gay people need to die.  There's sort of a collective cognitive dissonance, a wanting to jump up and down and yell, "But we're not really like that!  The church isn't really like that!" to anyone who will listen and at the same time wanting to hide under a rock rather than attract any more attention.  Or to use another example, maybe the way you might feel when you see the Westboro Babtist folks picketing some soldier's funeral with signs that say "God Loves Dead Soldiers."  You want to throw rocks at them, and at the same time you notice they're wearing the same t-shirt as you are and so when the TV reporters show up you want to deny that you're wearing a shirt at all.  Three times.  Before the cock crows for the dawn.

After which you eventually what?  Go home, watch TV?  Or maybe pray over it.  Maybe hold focus groups, meetings at which a lot of church ladies with clipboards twist their pearls into a knot and look concerned. But how do you DO anything about it?  You can't, right?  I mean, you can make sure everybody at church and in your community knows that cheating on your wife with a porn star is verboten and you're totally cool with gays and lesbians, but it's not like Fox News is going to come over there and film you because people being nice to each other don't get any air time.  Basically, to attract any media attention at all, you have to be an asshole.  And people wonder why my doc has repeatedly told me to stop watching the news.

Anyway, that's sort of how I'm feeling about this whole Rohingya refugee crisis.  What?  You haven't heard of the Rohingya refugee crisis?  Well, I can't hardly blame you.  Even with our blood-hungry news media, the Rohingya are getting like two inches under Dear Abby. Time Magazine ran a pretty decent article about it this week, but it didn't even run on Page One; in fact, the only time Time ever covered this story as a lead article, it ran in the international edition, so we U.S.ians didn't even get to see it.  Maybe the wire services have had a few stories about it, so you might vaguely know that there's something going on in Myanmar that involves Buddhists and Muslims.  Well, there is, Blanche.  There is.

Most Rohingya are Muslim, though some are Hindu.  Unfortunately, Muslims and Buddhists have a very uneasy history over many hundreds of years, and usually the Muslims won.  Well, yeah; if your religion tells you not to touch weapons and to run away rather than fight, you will probably lose most geopolitical confrontations.  That's just the way it is.  This time around, though, the Buddhists are winning.  And by "winning," I mean they've managed to chase at least 700,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar and into Bangladesh.  And kill about 300,000.  And burn the villages of many of the survivors, and rape them and torture them and cut off their sources of food.  Meanwhile, the rest of us Buddhists are wanting to jump up and down and yell, "But we're not really like that!" and...yeah.

(It reminds me a little of when a cult of otherwise ordinary Japanese citizens declared their willingness to die for Buddhism by launching a sarin gas attack on the Toyko subway during rush hour, killing 13 and injuring hundreds.  Die for Buddhism?  I mean, that's so--so unBuddhist-y.)

Let's back up a little here.  Who are the Rohingya, anyway, and how did all this get started?  Well; they are a group of people who speak their own distinct language, and they're an ethnic minority that has lived in Myanmar since at least the 1800s (documented) and possibly as much as a thousand years before that (myth, legend, family stories).  For much of that time, their presence in Myanmar has been a thorn in the side of certain "ultranationalist Buddhists" (and that's another contradiction in terms; I've never even met a nationalist Buddhist, much more an ultranationalist one).  The Myanmar government's official position is that the Rohingya are invaders from the Bengali region of India that crossed into Myanmar from Bangladesh; illegal immigrants, in other words, who shouldn't be there. They cannot be citizens or hold civil service jobs, and their kids are legally kept out of state-run schools.  Tensions between the Rohingya and the Buddhist majority rose up in 1978, 1991-ish, 2012, 2015 and of course just recently (interesting observation; two of those dates coincide pretty neatly with global recessions. Hmm.)  This time around, though, it's not just arguments over whose land is whose and who married whose daughter; this time it's out and out ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar govermnent looks like it's ready to kill, chase out or forcibly remove every single Rohingya in Myamnar. The military is leading these attacks on Rohingya villages, and stirring up anti-Rohingya sentiment though officially, the government denies involvement (where have we heard that before?).  Aung San Suu Kyi, who's sort of the leader of Myanmar and who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle for peace and democracy, hasn't done a thing to stop the violence or even spoken up against it. The government of Bangladesh's official position is that Myanmar has to take the Rohingya back, because it can't handle an influx of so many refugees. Nobody else has spoken up to say, "Send them over here, we have plenty of room," so the crisis continues. 

As a bad Buddhist myself (I eat meat, I meditate with music, I'm pro-abortion, I make mala beads out of pricey gemstones), I dunno why I'm so surprised that this is happening, but I am, Blanche, I am.  You would think (or anyway, I would think) that the Buddhists would be the first ones to hold up their hands and say, "Can't we all just get along?" Certainly, burning out your neighbors, or killing them, is about as un-Buddhist-y as you can get.  And over here I'm crawling under a rock, waiting for the first person to say "Oh, you're a Buddhist, right?  Isn't that you guys killing all those people in Myanmar?"

Which, I guess, may never happen, since hardly anybody seems to know about Myanmar anyway.  But it could.  And when it's all over and all the Rohingya are dead, I really don't wanna be the one answering the questions.  Especially if I have to follow it up with, "But we're not really like that."  Because if one of you is, then all of you is, especially if the one of you is the only one who can get any attention from Fox News.

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