Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Friday That Felt Like A Monday (Illustrated)

What a strange Friday it was.

For a little while I have been doing some work for a large pro-Israeli lobbying organization. You see, back in 2003 I really needed a job and I was also very charmed by the local chapter's leader, this man:



...a former L.A. police commissioner, a well-liked intermediary, a lover-not-a-fighter, a man committed to dialogue and making Los Angeles a better place. I have had to come and go from Los Angeles a few times, and he has always welcomed me back and found things for me to do.
Now it is he who has gone away, and there are bumpy times in his absence. When Los Angeles County issued an award honoring the work of this man...



...the organization I work for was very unhappy. They consider this man to be a Muslim extremist. They issued a press release saying the award should be taken back. Some other people considered this a bit harsh, including many of L.A.'s top religious leaders, and they organized a press conference to rebut the statements made by this organization I work for.

Most of the organization's professional staff is far away on a staff retreat. Yet they felt they had to have someone there.

Someone decided, "Let's send the Buddhist."

So they sent me to the press conference, asking me to write down as much as I could: who was there, what was said, what press was there, etc., etc. I was to be their mole.

Arriving, I was immediately greeted by this man:



This man leads the Muslim Public Affairs Council. He had lots of questions to ask me. Why wouldn't AJC meet with him? Why were "we" issuing press releases without making any direct contact? Why were we arguing in the media instead of person-to-person? Why were we saying bad things about

?

And what was I doing there?

Speaking as the Executive Director of Me, and not any organization, I said: "I am here to listen, if you will permit me. I will listen to anything anybody wants to say to me, and I will share all of it with the organization's leadership."

He visibly relaxed and welcomed me. Then it got really interesting. You see, some time ago I served as Abbot of a local Zen Center.



Some of the work I did was with an interfaith political group with whom I made public appearances and even a few speeches, one of which was broadcast on C-Span. Among the people I worked with was a constitutional lawyer and former ACLU leader, a man whose speeches stirred me up with patriotic feelings.



Well. Guess who was there participating in the press conference - the press conference denouncing the organization I was representing?

There I sat, the least popular person in the room, regarded with astonished stares by former colleagues.

And yet, I was there to do what I have always done, what has always been my job: to pay attention, wherever I am, especially when suffering is present, and ask how I can help. I'm not on anybody's team and have no dog in any fight. My dog is Kwan Seum Bosal, the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara,



she embodies what I hope to represent.

So people thought whatever they thought (none of my business) and I listened.

A reporter, having learned who I was, smelled a story and tried to get into me for info about the organization I work for. I think he smelled my sympathies, because he asked me about dissent within the organization.

I follow politics - and I can deflect press questions as deftly as the professionals. I became



and he gave up on me.

As far as I am concerned, this man:



owes me a beer.

6 comments:

Tara said...

Imagine how it would feel if work was like that nearly every day.
-- Tara

Ji Hyang said...

spent the night in the Peace Abbey with students and our Hillel rep, drumming...

Lorianne said...

You became kitchenware? Pots? Pans? The pot who called the kettle black?

Algernon said...

Teflon! Teflon!!

Lorianne said...

Oh! (Smacks head dumbly...)

boombud said...

You get your beer yet?