UPDATE I: Dig this!! (via Tricycle Blog)
UPDATE V: His Holiness sent a personal message of congratulations to Obama. Excerpt:
UPDATE II: And sure, Obama's election was awesome, but is it as cool as being crowned king of Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, Asia's last independent Himalayan Buddhist monarchy? According to the BBC, Oxford-educated Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, 28, will receive three modern titles at his coronation today, all of which I would bestow on Obama too, if I could, especially the third one!
UPDATE III: Click coronation pix for more
UPDATE IV: Wow. Read what I wrote below if you like, but Roger Cohen in the NYT really nails it.
Original Text: Burnt out from endless clicking between election and commentary websites throughout the day, late this afternoon I napped for an hour. When I awoke, I sat up, blinked a couple times, and thought to myself, “Did my country truly just elect a brilliant, inspirational black constitutional scholar named Barack Hussein Obama as its 44th president?”
Yes we did.
As an American, and as a Buddhist, I’ve been wondering what has moved me so profoundly today. I soaked a half dozen Living Tissues (scroll to the bottom) with my tears during Obama’s acceptance speech in Grant Park. Why?
When I was in the States this summer, I rented “John Adams,” the HBO series about the birth of America. So well done, and it drove home for me how the idea of America, its political framework, was wrought by men of such expansive intellect and deep humanity as to beggar belief that they all appeared in the world at once to accomplish what they did. As a result, Americans, at their best, are compassionate, generous, optimistic, inventive, hardworking, and peculiarly preoccupied with fairness, honesty, and equal opportunity.
The past eight years (ten, if you fold in the Lewinsky circus) have not seen Americans at their best, to say the least. The two overriding qualities of our recent leadership – arrogance and ignorance, ugly separately but hideous in combination, especially when lashed together with fear – were specifically cited by America’s founders again and again as the very antithesis to a healthy democracy, and a global actor. Education begets wiser decisions, from below and above, and there is little more dangerous than too much power concentrated in the hands of too few.
As a Buddhist, I see the truth of the Buddha’s observation that nothing is ever inherently good or bad. Everything has as its nature the capacity for change (including, if not especially, beings’ perceptions), and therefore there’s always hope. And so much depends on the intention one has before one acts. Given the right supporting conditions, good seeds produce good fruit, every time.
I was not an Obama supporter early on. I felt, as many did, that he was not adequately seasoned to handle the domestic and international complexities and dangers made so much worse by the abominable Bush/Cheney policies (may they rest in peace forever). I voted for Hillary in the primaries. But then, of course, Obama won the nomination. I took a closer look and when he took the stage at the Denver convention, I thought, “Huh. He’s different somehow, better. He’s learned, and adapted, and grown. Imagine that.” I found his words inspiring, and my BS meter didn’t go off at all; he felt authentic. I heard a man who really cared, and had the gift to move others not just to care as well, but to believe in their capacity to act in the service of a greater good.
Then it struck me further: the very fact of this stable, smart, loving family – who just happen to be black – in the White House, will create a seismic shift in the way Americans see themselves and the way the world sees America.
Before I was a monk, I was a huge music fan and worked as a concert producer, mostly avant-garde jazz. As such, I had to push against the stubborn currents of racism in the music industry all the time (in a perfect world, Charles Mingus, Amina Claudine Meyers, and Henry Threadgill would be household names in America). With this election, we may not have overcome altogether, but man we took some giant steps.
After Denver, it was awfully hard not to notice and be impressed by the steady elegance of the Obama campaign in the face of the GOP smear machine. Again, it was like you saw him grow into President Obama before your very eyes, at the same time as the diminishing of the nastier politics of John McCain (who made up for a lot with his gracious concession speech) and that insufferable gnat from Alaska.
Thus, I happily mailed in my vote for Obama from Mongolia a couple weeks ago. One might think this is a little odd for a monk, church and state and all that. But a Buddhist’s prime directive is to do all he or she can to reduce suffering for others. I’ve been mortified by how much suffering my nation’s policies have inflicted recently, and have been aching for change. A Buddhist's choices are guided by our sense of whether or not what we do will help move things in more positive directions. I had no doubt, finally, that helping get Obama elected would accomplish just that.
As an American, I want to urge other nations’ citizens who might read this to reconsider one thing I know about my people – no matter what, in most of our hearts, we really want to do the right thing, and we want to be good guys in the world. I swear. This is deep in the American character, and it’s why Obama’s extraordinary victory, and his towering acceptance speech (if you haven’t seen or heard it, you simply must), were so uplifting and emotional today. He exemplified America at its best, and I feel such relief after so many years of frustration and tension, and have a greater sense of hope for this world.
It seems I have so much more to say about this, but maybe that’s enough for now, because I really want to hear from DODR readers. In the comments, please share with us your observations, stories, and feelings about this remarkable turn of events. We’ll get back to our Mongolian themes soon enough, but I couldn’t let this historic moment pass without offering a few thoughts, however awkwardly expressed.