Time flies. It’s been almost two months since my brother James died, and almost two months since my last post. Birthdays remind me of the passage of time, and today is Laura’s birthday, the eighth since she died. She would have been 66 today. I have a hard time imagining her retiring.
Despite my silence here, I have been very busy in retirement—tutoring, troublemaking, and writing. My Muslim student from West Africa, who was so phlegmatic about Trump’s election, has received an order to leave the country. We’ve spent a lot of time these past two months driving around New Jersey to find a lawyer. We both wish my daughter Justine lived closer, but one of the members of his Masjid has helped him find a lawyer in Philadelphia to work on his appeal.
By “troublemaking,” I’m mean working with Indivisible Princeton, the Fair & Welcoming Coalition of Mercer County, and the Central Jersey Coalition for Justice, which organized a very successful event in Trenton this past weekend as a sister to the national March for Racial Justice. My research for writing intersected with last week’s Indivisible Princeton meeting, where two speakers talked about the roots of Charlottesville. Later in the week I studied the Buddhist sutta on “the root of all things.” According to ancient commentaries on the sutta, the same processes that the speakers saw at work in Charlottesville are at work in how we conceive things: grasping for what’s mine, pride, and wrong-headed views.
Tragically we see these same factors at work today among Buddhists in Burma. Five years ago I was arguing with my fellow American Buddhists that we should be ashamed of the persecution of the Rohingya and of the silence of Buddhist leaders at that time. Some argued that these nationalist monks are not really Buddhist. Yet, some of them continued to post, sign petitions and write letters with me to protest what has been going on. In practice we do not differ. But those who used the not-really-Buddhist line to look the other way and to stay silent should be ashamed. The recent appeals from the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist leaders follow on previous statements and letters to Burmese authorities. I’m afraid that their pleas will continue to fall on deaf ears until the leading monks in Burma speak up. Right now they are acting too much like Pope Pius XII.
I had only intended to write a few lines to cover the gap since my last post, but this obviously went on longer than that. In my next post I will get back to how my discovery of a book led to reflecting on how much my writing has been influenced by women writers.