During his inaugural address, now-President Obama said:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.Â We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.Â 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.