Donald Trump, Bin Laden, and Buddhism

I’ve mentioned Buddhism several times on this sit before, and here is the most relevant post, but I’ve also talked about it here and here.

Buddhism has a commitment to the idea of observation and non-intervention. It’s not a doctrine (I don’t know about formal doctrines of the religion) but I’ve read some Buddhist writers who are contemporary and also talked to some, and they place a lot of emphasis on the idea of stepping back from one’s feelings and merely observing them, and NOT judging them.

In fact, the book I’m reading right now (short little thing, hardly worth calling a book, though not trivial in its argument) talks about aggression and war come from RIGHTEOUSNESS. One feels anger toward an enemy, but then judges that one can take action. Pronounce someone to be wrong or bad, and the possibility of action is opened, and in fact, stronger, sometimes one’s judgments command action themselves, “this act of aggression cannot stand.”

Buddhist believe that no society or order (even a just one) can survive on judgment and retaliation. Instead, the proper relation to other people and things is love, though that word is kind of loaded, and finds more fuller expressions in the admittedly somewhat Buddhist philosophies of someone like Martin Luther King. More pointedly, the proper relation to other people is acceptance as a kind of non-intervention policy combined with a desire to see their suffering alleviated. So, the Buddhist does not seek to shame the wayward husband, chastise the alcoholic, or execute a murderer. Instead, the philosophy being proposed here advocates a concerned inaction; an attitude directed toward the misguided person that does not TAKE ON an attitude of superiority, from which conflict and evil flow.

Notice what this says about celebrating about Bin Laden. Let me be clear, I don’t think Buddhism is always right and I think its claims about inaction are likely to be wrong in such cases. But notice that this philosophy would condemn (or rather take an attitude of sympathetic inaction toward) people celebrating Bin Laden’s death. The view takes very seriously the idea of a cycle of violence and hatred. The proper response would be to respectfully note his death and go forward. When confronted by living incarnations of evil similar to him, the idea would be to adopt a non-violent approach and to work for change through the expression of one’s lament at the person’s wrong action. Lament without judgment. One never takes the moral high ground, because there is no such thing (Christianity, in a completely different way, has this view. Though like I said, the language is in terms of love and deistism — love as god’s love and all that).

Where Buddhism really does seem to be on to something though is regarding the media. In trying to talk about Donald Trump, we continually reinvent him and empower him. If we try to mock him, he shows up on youtube. If take jabs at his hair, pictures of it explode into the internet, and if we say that he is a poor candidate for president and an outright charlatan, then he comes into our lives through TV’s, iphones, and articles.

The best solution to Donald Trump is to ignore him, and this can be maddeningly hard to do, just like when you were getting bullied at school and your parents said “just ignore him; he’s not worth your time.” This seemed like hard advice to take, but notice that it was, in a way, very Buddhist (parents never known when they’re parroting eastern religions).

So rather than telling you about Trump and the silliness of it all, I’m going to try and meditate him away; to serenely accept him into nothingness, by encouraging you to simply observe and accept, and by ending this post with no further words.


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