on the inauguration

During his inaugural address, now-President Obama said:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.  We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Tricycle picked up on this rather quickly, quoting just the second sentence, and remarked simply, “Left out of the inaugural address.” No one seemed particularly put off by the remark. I certainly didn’t. When I heard him begin to list various religions, I wondered to myself if he was going to list “my people” among them. But when he didn’t, I didn’t feel particularly put off. Especially considering the rest of that paragraph. I consider myself, Buddhist or otherwise, believer or otherwise, in pretty good company — with folks who overcame civil war and segregation, part of a common humanity, working toward ushering in this new era of peace he’s on about. What difference does it make what’s on my altar?

Then, this morning, good ol’ Tricycle posted an interesting bit of hearsay about Richard Blum. They didn’t quote the source, but a quick Google search found a better article over on elephant journal. Apparently the husband of Diane Feinstein and founder of the American Himalyan Foundation offered a Tibetan khata to soon-to-be President Obama and, according to Mr. Blum, he kept it in his pocket while being sworn in. If we take this story to be true, the khata, a silk scarf symbolizing good will and compassion, in Pres. Obama’s pocket makes for a much better Buddhist representative on stage than his mere passing reference in a speech. In my opinion, anyway.

(I’d also like to point out that when I originally saw this piece over on Tricycle, they had a short and somewhat pithy statement after Mr. Blum’s quote saying that he’s an investment banker. The statement seemed to imply that his Buddhist cred is suspect. I commented on the piece, reminding them of Mr. Blum’s charitable work. They’ve since edited the post. Interesting.)

On a side note, my in-laws’ neighbor works for the American Himalayan Foundation and of course knows Mr. Blum. I’ll be sure to bring up this story next time we’re over for dinner, and hopefully without too much digging or politicking I can find out how true it is.

3 thoughts on “on the inauguration

  1. I noticed that, despite your stinging predictions, Tricycle did print the editorial letter you sent them–in fact, they printed two different critical letters about the same piece. Is it fair to ask whether _some_ degree of the faults you see in Tricycle is due to your own perceptions and expectations, not just nefarious motives or ignorance on the part of the people at the magazine?

  2. It is fair to ask. Ask away.

    And the answer is, yes, of course, some (all?) of the faults I see in Tricycle are due to my own perceptions and expectations. But in the end, can’t the same be said of just about everything? I find schmaltzy, patriotic music to be sentimental and irritating — because I’m a cynical bastard, not because the music is, in some sense, inherently schmaltzy.

    To be clear, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to make the claim that the good folks who work at Tricycle are nefarious or ignorant. They’re people. They have all the failings and imperfections that we all have, that I have. My one concern, critique, of Tricycle, the one that I will stand by, is that they want to represent all Buddhists, and sometimes they don’t. In the past, they didn’t a lot. Today, they’re getting better. And I do not believe that they do this intentionally, and I am always happy to see them leap into the midst of controversy — like they did recently when they interviewed the head of SGI — because this speaks to their willingness to live up to that ideal of representing all Buddhists. This is good work and I’m happy that they’re doing it.

    I did see that they published my letter and was pleasantly surprised that they did.

    I’m somewhat surprised that you’re commenting on this here, in this post. I tried very hard to balance my sarcasm with introspection and avoid being too critical of Tricycle or to read too much into the two blog posts I’ve linked to. Guess I failed on that one. Ah well. Better luck next time!

  3. Actually, your post here is pretty balanced, I agree–it was your (somewhat tongue in cheek) description of it that went out over the blogging readers (something about “bashing on Tricycle again” or something similar) that caught my eye originally.

    I agree 100% with your points on Tricycle here in your reply to my original comment.

Comments are closed.