Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama's sword of wisdom

Still a little feverish with flu, I stayed home today and watched Barack Obama's Columbus, Ohio rally on C-span. I was more impressed than ever, in part by the faces in the crowd. It was wonderful to see so many young black men lit up with, well, hope. Joy, perhaps mixed with amazement. Remembering events in Selma, Alabama in the mid-sixties, I too am amazed.

I found myself noticing how, again and again, Obama said things you might hear from a dharma teacher. He stepped aside from the dualism the media relentlessly propound in their forecasts: It's not about red state, blue state, he said, but about The United States.

He stepped aside from the human tendency to divide and blame.
It's not about erecting a boundary around America to stop outsourcing of jobs, he said, but about seeing to it that trade is fair and equal, and learning to make fuel-efficient automobiles right here in Ohio. That got cheers. You can't erect boundaries, really. This really is one world, as the weather keeps demonstrating. The climate is everyone's problem. Barack pointed out that energy efficiency was also everyone's responsibility.

There he made me happy, talking about individual responsibility like a true Grandma. In education, the government cannot do it all, he said; you parents have to turn off the TV and make their kids do homework. He talked about people working hard and saving, so their kids could have it better than they did - there's old-fashioned values.

The first presidential election I voted in was Goldwater-Johnson, so you can imagine how many years of political rhetoric I've heard. None of it began to make sense the way this did. Is it just me that's changed? I don't think so. I think Obama has a common-sense, problem-solving approach such as I have never seen before. It's visionary, but the vision grows right out of the common experience.

The sword of wisdom referenced in my title today is said to be held by a Buddha named Manjushri. From Wikipedia--

. . . he is depicted wielding a flaming sword in his right hand, representing his realisation of wisdom which cuts through ignorance and wrong views.
In Buddhist thought, when we cut through ignorance, we end our suffering. This is really the benefit of living in the present moment, that is, in reality. When we see clearly, we can act in useful ways. You don't have to subscribe to any particular religion to do that, though many have found meditation practice indispensable.

Recent American economic policy has favored the greedy to a devastating degree, as if we were not all connected, as if the continued exploitation of the ordinary person wouldn't ultimately bring down the house of cards. I thought of Manjushri as I watched Obama talk. I see Obama cutting through economic delusion, telling us we can be united in common pursuit of a decent life and opportunity for all, which was, after all, the stated American Dream.

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