Don't Tread on Me

With respect,

When I returned from Vietnam, recovering from a bullet to my head, my Aunt said to me that my injury brought the war home to her. Yesterday I learned that the morning after the election a swastika was scrawled on the kitchen door of my son's restaurant in Georgetown, Tx. This made the catastrophe of Donald Trump's presidential win very real.  It brought it home to me. In the news of late many stories of racism and hate crimes seem to have increased.  It's as though a group of people (who always existed, but in the dark) now felt emboldened to take themselves into the light of day. I believe our now president-elect's campaign and post-campaign rhetoric has given tacit approval to such people.  He has fanned the flames and now we burn as he distances himself from the hate groups who so rabidly supported him.

Funny thing about hate, it spreads and it hurts. The Buddha argued that the antidote to hate is love. As a Zen priest I ought to practice loving my enemies.  I try.  Yet, we also vow not to kill and to me that vow also includes saving lives and preventing injury. So, a dilemma: to defend or not to defend.  The sort of hate being more and more openly expressed and the fear driving it is so similar to that in pre-WWII Germany that its actually scary and helps us resolve the dilemma. This is a hate that, left unchecked, will grow to include registering those we are afraid of: Muslims, Gays, Liberals, Intellectuals.  If you are a student of history you will recognize this tactic.

In Germany the Final Solution was facilitated both by fear and the fact that registration of undesirables had already been in place.  It was no problem to locate and round them all up. They were put behind walls away from sight as they were systematically murdered.  And we want to build a wall.  We want to vilify the press.  We insert false news stories and people begin to distrust the news outlets.  A propagandic tactic also used in Germany. Are we there yet?

We are headed in that direction.

Confronting hate with love is a good thing, yet those loved must be willing to receive it.  Often instead, the loved hater builds a wall around himself, creates mythic stories to make his hate OK and, at the same time, accuse their opponents of weakness at best, and of being co-conspirators at worst.  For me, the danger here is that many of us, like the Jews in Germany, believe good people would surely not harm us.  Fear and carefully crafted messages of hate will make good people chose to do bad things and one day, then, those good people come knocking on our door and they aren't bringing cookies.

I refuse to answer the door and welcome those who might hate me, and do me harm, entry. No, I will not. What I will do is address the hate directly, as in messages like this, and at the same time prepare for the worst.  What does that mean? Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson, and over here meet Mr. Taurus, oh, and let's not forget Mr. Colt. All of these fellows are near the door and are willing and able to put you away if you come to through the door with a deadly threat. All the while, I will chant the Heart Sutra for you as they are doing it.

Some say that isn't very Buddhist.  I really wonder where they get that idea.  Monks have for millennia defended themselves with deadly force. Even Tibet had an Army under the command of the Dalai Lama. Monks train with bow, sword, knife, cane, and other Martial Arts weapons.  I train with  9 mm and .380 semi-automatic handguns, as well as a M-4 Tactical Carbine. The Zen of it is this: defending life is based in the precepts and more, an obligation of everyone wishing to live in an open society.

So, hate-mongers, I welcome you to try to take away my life and those of others around me. I will first offer you my love, but failing in that, I will prevent you from harming me or others. Don't tread on me.


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