Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your Emails: Prophets, Politics, and Dharma

Some responses to emailed comments. Commenters remain anonymous, as I assume they would post their comments if they wanted attribution.

A friend writes:

I'd be interested in a column about the death threats South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have received regarding the airing of many religious Prophets in absurd outfits. One of these characters happens to be Mohammed disguised as a bear.

That being said, I certainly do not want to see any death threats of the same kind
to you or your family. Apparently the group responsible for these threats, have a website called on which they posted their threats, as well as pictures of the murdered Theo Van Gogh. They also have long arms throughout the USA.

This is not as serious as the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie, when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death sentence to the British novelist for blasphemy in The Satanic Verses. That pronouncement carried with it far more weight, and when large cash bounties were placed on Rushdie's head, he went into hiding for a decade. Compared to that event, which made a lasting impression on me (I was 18), this just seems foolish and pathetic.

On that website, which has recently been taken down, somebody posted a coy and vaguely threatening message that the satirists Stone and Parker "will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh" for depicting the prophet Mohammed on their show. Van Gogh was a Dutch documentarian who was murdered by an Islamist nut in 2004. The website posted address information for the show's production company and for the offices of the Comedy Central network, ostensibly so people could write letters of protest.

For a while, no doubt, these offices will enhance security. Having worked for a Jewish political organization in Los Angeles, I know what that's like. Most of the time, these things are just bluster; yet you prepare for the instance when someone tries something.

We push back. We refuse to be afraid. We write, speak, and think freely. Mohammed is a sacred figure to muslims; he is also an historical figure, and a few people speaking in the name of a religion don't get to declare any historical person off-limits.

Also in the e-mail bag, we have this from a long-time and respected friend:

I like your blog and I usually agreewith your opinions, but Im a little wary of saying publicly: if you practice like us and attain clear mind, you will see this, this and this. Maybe it wd be better to say, here's the rd up the mountain and if you go there you will have a really nice view. Public and private, or, as someone said : thought is shameless, speech is prudent.

So to put it starkly I wd have a blog about politics or about practicing but not both together. U probly won't like this.

I've asked my friend to provide context for this comment, but haven't heard back yet. If anything written here has implied "if you practice [Zen] like us, you will see this, this, and this," I would very much like to correct that.

In fact, on March 2, I wrote the opposite, in this post:

Buddhist practice invites us to investigate our beliefs and their source. The second noble truth of Buddhism is that our suffering is created by various kinds of craving, one of which is called bhava tanha in Pali, the craving for "becoming." We want our identity to be substantial, weighty, impressive. Defending our opinions, seeing our ideas vindicated, is one way we do this.

The post included a link to an excellent talk by Zen Master Dae Kwang about returning to "no point of view."

This is a personal blog, a repository of doodles and drivel. It includes personal reflections on practice, the community where I live, the arts, and world affairs. These things all intertwine.

This blog does not presume to speak for the Buddha or anyone else. I do not write from the perspective of enlightenment. The blog has little influence or appeal, though it may amuse my friends from time to time. (On an excellent day, 60 visitors drop by this blog.) It is the equivalent of chatting with friends at a pub. There's nothing very serious about it; and certainly no expectation that anyone necessarily agrees with me, or should.

1 comment:

Debby said...

Here's the way that I see it: we are bloggers. We give a snapshot of the world we live in as we see it. That's all. People come, and they listen, and if they see something that resonates, they are back.

And the whole Muslim outrage? I don't get that. But I sure would have loved to see the South Park clip. I think the funniest one ever was on the Christian Scientists. Well. Either that one or the one where the community is all outraged about violence. Until the kid thinks he's invisible and streaks across the stage. This so distracts the crowd that they forget about dealing w/ violence and take up the cause kids and nudity.