What's an American to do?

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Wizard in the Forest
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What's an American to do?

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:01 am

I felt like I was the quintessential American.

My parents were immigrants who worked their way from poverty to the middle class. They learned English, they became citizens, and I was born as one. I was raised awash in patriotism and was taught to love people regardless of ethnic, religious and social background, and I believed that this was a trait of the American people. Those people really believed it, they were not being deceitful. They really felt it, and I felt it too. It was sincere, and it was a thing I'm forever grateful for. I grew older, and as I entered the age of reason with astonishing cultural literacy I then became immersed in the Nikayas and was able to take refuge with loving and supportive parents who respected my decision.

I was lucky for so long. I had no idea my social circle was just that great that I couldn't fathom how bad it'd get after 9-11 and even worse after the Election of Donald Trump. Those same people who showed so much love to the community and who were so patriotic at a time became ashamed, and pained at the realities of the fact that theirs was not a view that was shared by an alarming number of Americans. They found many of their supposed friends had secretly been harboring views that were hateful to others, and marred in self-loathing. They began to feel as gloomy and pessimistic about who they were.

I don't blame them. I felt the same way at first. Shame and anger became common hindrances in my practice.

I felt so helpless to help them because I couldn't reinforce to them that those who were attacking their identity were on the fringes, because they suddenly weren't. They didn't know who was a friend or foe. They were scared of losing all their other friends to the wave of hate. I watched powerlessly trying to help them see into the potential future where the nightmare is over.

I ran into uncomfortable truths.

I feel sure that there is no way for the current national political climate to unify the country. There is a serious ideological divide that is completely unable to be met halfway.

The people sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and condemn any group that tries to undermine the founding documents that enshrined the values of Americans have abrogated their duty.

We can't trust that those in power will act to protect the country’s population, regardless of their social or financial circumstances.

We can't in good faith encourage people to pretend our country respects all mankind, regardless of where they came from because our country is under siege and our values are under attack by a select few groups of people who want to make our country worse.

We can't expect our government will make sensible decisions that benefit the citizenry and not the elite or rich, not even on core issues like health care, environment, economic growth or education.

I ask for Metta and Karuna for Americans like my friends and family, and I hope that others will not measure the people of America by the standards of the people in power.

No one wanted it to be this way.

Am I still a quintessential American?

I will never know.

I sure hope at least that people will remember that people like us exist in the US.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

chownah
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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by chownah » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:02 am

I think what you present is a quintessential example of the dukkha which arises when one wrongly grasps identity.....in this case it is identity as an "american".
chownah

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Upeksha » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:38 am

What you say about America is true of a lot of other places too. Perhaps most.

My advice would be to take solace in history. Not that there is anything reassuring there, but because it shows that the political conditions in most times and places are fragile, divided and constantly under the threat of falling into intense friend/enemy thinking....and from there, all the most horrible kinds of human actions.

What is remarkable, are the periods of relative peace, stability and good will - they are not common, and they disappear all to easily.

To be disillusioned about political reality is actually a good thing: wisdom dawns in this way, even though, what you see is hard to bear.

And the good hearts might be rare, but they stand out all the more when it is so easy and acceptable to hate.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by No_Mind » Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:15 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:01 am
I feel sure that there is no way for the current national political climate to unify the country. There is a serious ideological divide that is completely unable to be met halfway.
Okay. But you do not describe exactly who and what you are pointing at.
The people sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and condemn any group that tries to undermine the founding documents that enshrined the values of Americans have abrogated their duty.
From Jan 20, 2017 or before?
We can't trust that those in power will act to protect the country’s population, regardless of their social or financial circumstances.
Since when can you not trust? Who was the President when your distrust began?
We can't in good faith encourage people to pretend our country respects all mankind, regardless of where they came from because our country is under siege and our values are under attack by a select few groups of people who want to make our country worse.
Encourage whom to pretend what? No one pretends your country respects all mankind. Just see Vietnam and Iraq (2003) wars. Totally unjustifiable.

In 2004, 51 million Americans voted Bush back to power .. after it had been conclusively proven by Nov 2003 there was no WMD in Iraq to begin with. Kerry won only 19 states. How did that happen? It made most of us question if Americans are a moral race.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:32 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:01 am
I felt like I was the quintessential American.
/.../
Am I still a quintessential American?

I will never know.

I sure hope at least that people will remember that people like us exist in the US.
What seems to be the problem?

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:37 pm

Truth be told, for me it started when the people tried to elect Al Gore, and that didn't happen, but afterwards it became a downhill slump. More and more immoral people continued to get elected and President Obama was just a breath of fresh air (with his attempt to insure all Americans) but not all that different in his immorality with the common man beyond our borders (with his drone strikes). People don't really remember what happened then either though (The election was stolen then, too) . Being compressed into the moment it typically makes people blind to what happened to allow people like Bush and Trump to get into power. As for Vietnam and other previous points in history where America was a horrible bully, there was a time we got past that. There was actual peace, and not the 'cold war' kind of peace either. There was actual peace. People don't quite remember that because it's been such a long time, but I remember it. And of course it's a perfect example of dukkha and identity view, :heart: I have no delusion that this mindset is not dukkha. It clearly is, but the dukkha also comes from the feeling that there is very little recourse to recover what was lost and what continues to be a lost cause for peace in America between Americans who used to at least have love for each other and the world enough to not desire to bring war to it.

As for 'who' is to blame, I thought I made the culprit clear? It is clearly the minds that are feeling hatred for their fellow men (whether they be for ethnic minorities or religious minorities). This culprit has no particular political party because neither of the parties are willing to censure it hard enough. They weren't even willing to label nazis as terrorists just a day ago.

The problem is that I am unable to feel at ease with any form of my nationality, and that people have also slipped into this kind of trap where there is no peace between opposing political views in my country to the point where something as simple as saying 'Nazis were wrong' is a political statement that people argue about.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by seeker242 » Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:52 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:37 pm

The problem is that I am unable to feel at ease with any form of my nationality
I think a good question to ask is: Why the need to feel at ease with some particular nationality?

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:08 pm

It's not I who enforces this nationality, it's others, and it's real in its consequences even if it's not ultimately real.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by SDC » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:32 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:08 pm
It's not I who enforces this nationality, it's others, and it's real in its consequences even if it's not ultimately real.
You absolutely enforce it. You're here aren't you? What makes you so insignificant? Even if someone tells you you're insignificant, that doesn't alter the impact you make just by virtue of being in this country.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:45 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:37 pm
As for 'who' is to blame, I thought I made the culprit clear? It is clearly the minds that are feeling hatred for their fellow men (whether they be for ethnic minorities or religious minorities). This culprit has no particular political party because neither of the parties are willing to censure it hard enough. They weren't even willing to label nazis as terrorists just a day ago.
I think you are assuming that people who voted for Trump did so on race and racism grounds? That is a big assumption and there could be other reasons they voted for him, regarding economy, etc. I didn't vote for him, but rarely are there any successful one-issue candidates and I don't believe he was a one-issue candidate.

Trump won the electoral vote and the presidency, however, the popular vote shows a different story:

Hillary Clinton 65,853,516
Donald Trump 62,984,825

HRC won the popular vote by 2,868,691 votes

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:44 pm

SDC wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:32 pm
You absolutely enforce it. You're here aren't you? What makes you so insignificant? Even if someone tells you you're insignificant, that doesn't alter the impact you make just by virtue of being in this country.
You're not wrong, but the problem is that I don't enforce the nationality concept on anyone. Others do, and when they do the consequences of those things are very real.
DNS wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:45 pm
I think you are assuming that people who voted for Trump did so on race and racism grounds? That is a big assumption and there could be other reasons they voted for him, regarding economy, etc.
He opposed everything conservatives claimed to stand for, except for one thing, and that was the opposition to migrants existing in this country and hostility to Islam.
I didn't vote for him, but rarely are there any successful one-issue candidates and I don't believe he was a one-issue candidate.
of course not, that's a good point to remember, but the issues he promoted were against American interests.
Trump won the electoral vote and the presidency, however, the popular vote shows a different story:

Hillary Clinton 65,853,516
Donald Trump 62,984,825

HRC won the popular vote by 2,868,691 votes
That she did, but the divide between Americans is still as wide as can be.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Circle5 » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:09 pm

The thing that makes america stand out of the crowd today is the extreme PCness and hard living conditions caused by that. Check this topic I just started: viewtopic.php?f=54&t=31469

I agree with you that USA has an extremelly polarized society that will never like one another. And that is a huge problem to have for a country. But there is nothing you can do about it unless USA will adress the problem that has caused this huge divide: the 2 party-system. And that is not going to happen soon.

If you look at USA as an outsider, first thing you notice is how strange politics is there. Politics is like part of your life, is like a religion. You have 2 types of stereotipical people. You can easily tell a person political prefference, his standing on any societal question, his eating habits and even his religion just by looking at his clothes. Also, no matter what side he supports, he will be 30x more radical than his european counterpart.

This has happened because of the 2 party system. In a multi-party system, extremist views are ridiculed by the media and an extremist party would never win more than 5% of the votes. This is because if such a party were to grow, it would steal percents from the mainstream, moderate parties. In USA, you have 2 party system, so the person has nowhere to go. This has forced the media to encourage extremist as hard as they can, since encouraging extremism is the best thing you can do for the party that channel is backing. The dynamic is upside-down - instead of being advantageous to stop extremism, it's advantageous to encourage it.

The way stereotipical persons is born is also due to this 2 party system. One might agree with 60% of what a party says, but gradually start agreeing with absolutaly everything that party is backing because both parties have a complete ideology that requires every point to be agreed upon. Also, politics in USA involve all the social issues in the world. It's not simply about the economy and chosing which party is less corrupt and more efficient. It's 100% ideological and 0% pragmatic.

Giving this dynamic of the 2 party system, I do not see USA changing any times soon. This issue has been observed by experts as well and some even consider this a huge problem for USA future status as a superpower, since having an ultra-polarized and ideological population can paralize the country in foreign affairs. Though I do not agree with that since so far there has been an unwritten agreement that any foreign decision should be backed by both parties and all the media no matter what party is behind it. This agreement has been in place ever since the problems of the Vietnam war where USA was forced out because of internal politics, an incident that showed the biggest weakness of democracy. Since then, in all foreign affairs, the media has went into full blown propaganda the moment the decision has been taken by the government. So I don't think this problem is as big as people make it look when it comes to USA future superpower status.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by SDC » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:18 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:44 pm
SDC wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:32 pm
You absolutely enforce it. You're here aren't you? What makes you so insignificant? Even if someone tells you you're insignificant, that doesn't alter the impact you make just by virtue of being in this country.
You're not wrong, but the problem is that I don't enforce the nationality concept on anyone. Others do, and when they do the consequences of those things are very real.
True, but what I mean is, that just by being who you are, that is a part of the national identity. Just because people are constantly trying to define what we're supposed to be, doesn't ever change what we are. And the former can never supersede the latter. Ever.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:27 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:09 pm
The way stereotipical persons is born is also due to this 2 party system. One might agree with 60% of what a party says, but gradually start agreeing with absolutaly everything that party is backing because both parties have a complete ideology that requires every point to be agreed upon. Also, politics in USA involve all the social issues in the world. It's not simply about the economy and chosing which party is less corrupt and more efficient. It's 100% ideological and 0% pragmatic.
Yes, I agree, this 2 party system in the U.S. is a mess. The candidates start out catering to the extremes to get the nomination, then they try and get the independents and centrists like me, so move more toward the middle; then after they win they go back to their extreme base.

A multi-party system is much better. I often vote for 3rd party candidates and people tell me I'm wasting my vote; which is probably true, but I like to vote on principle and hope to make a small dent in the process so that some day in the future it might change. Bernie Sanders supports a great idea which I always liked: 'Instant run-off voting' -- when you vote you list your first choice and then a second-choice in case your candidate does not get some pre-determined percentage of the vote or higher. If people know their vote won't be "wasted" with Instant run-off voting, more might vote for 3rd or even 4th party candidates, crushing the 2 party system (hopefully).

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:49 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:37 pm
The problem is that I am unable to feel at ease with any form of my nationality,
Wizard in the Forest wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:08 pm
It's not I who enforces this nationality, it's others, and it's real in its consequences even if it's not ultimately real.
I realize this isn't much of a consolation, but: Welcome to the club!
and that people have also slipped into this kind of trap where there is no peace between opposing political views in my country to the point where something as simple as saying 'Nazis were wrong' is a political statement that people argue about.
Such seems to be the trend globally anyway.
I suspect though that the issue is only nominally political, when in fact it is economical -- the old struggle for survival. Many people just try to present this struggle in more palatable ways, so they put a political spin on it.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:51 pm

SDC wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:18 pm
True, but what I mean is, that just by being who you are, that is a part of the national identity. Just because people are constantly trying to define what we're supposed to be, doesn't ever change what we are. And the former can never supersede the latter. Ever.
Of course. It's just tough when one is actually being discriminated against because of one's (original) nationality or race. Being discriminated against like that can bring up one's deepest existential fears, and it's those that are so difficult to deal with.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Circle5 » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:58 pm

and people tell me I'm wasting my vote
You are wasting your vote...

I am no political expert and don't know weather this system can ever be changed. European democracy has never been tried in a huge superpower. The system USA has is a compromise between dictatorship and european democracy. You have 2 parties + a dictator elected every 5 years. (president is also prime minister, is unchangable and names an unchangable government) This would be considered straight up idiotic in any other country. USA itself is not promoting this presidential system when they are building democracies in other countries. They actually oppose it as hard as they can, cause it always leads to military coups. Even recently USA has vehemently protested against Turkey switching to presidential system, making Erdogan into a dictator.

Real democracies, like it or not, are extremely weak. The dynamic is very different in such countries. All the energy is spent on the internal battle. All decisions, including foreign policy ones, are guided by the short term goals of this internal battle. How this transates in practice is not that politicians will try to exploit foreign policy for internal votes. The opposite is what actually happens. They will simply ignore foreign policy because most of the time it either brings zero benefits either causes one loses in the internal battle. This is why european countries are insignificant on foreign policy. The current status quo is with USA dictating it and the weak european countries following it.

If USA were to renounce the 2-party system, that would probably destroy the whole ballance that they have right now, a ballance that allows them to be almost as strong as a dictatorship in foreign policy issues. And the whole world depends on USA foreign policy. Other players are infinitelly worse than USA, promoting nothing but corruption, poverty and dictatorship. Not to mention USA is a fading power, having only 300 million people. It is bound to disappear into obscurity a couple hundred years from now, since the economic gap between the western world and the rest is fastly dissappearing.

If I had the power, I would never do such a huge decision myself. I would never risk disturbing this ballance between democracy and dictatorship that USA has going on right now. The suffering that is caused to USA people doe to internal inefficiency of this system is more than compensated by the great benefits the whole world has thanks to it. It's a price people living in USA have to pay for the greater good. And that includes living in extreme PCness :mrgreen:

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:14 pm

Greetings Wizard,
I was raised awash in patriotism and was taught to love people regardless of ethnic, religious and social background, and I believed that this was a trait of the American people. Those people really believed it, they were not being deceitful. They really felt it, and I felt it too. It was sincere, and it was a thing I'm forever grateful for.
Do not lose faith... it will be that way again, soon.

In fact, these good people do still exist... they're just perpetually slandered, shunned, and mischaracterised by elites and the mainstream media as ignorant, low-information, low-intelligence, backwards, back-water, redneck "basket of deplorables", living in "flyover country".

And they're ready to take their country back. :guns:
The people sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and condemn any group that tries to undermine the founding documents that enshrined the values of Americans have abrogated their duty.

We can't trust that those in power will act to protect the country’s population, regardless of their social or financial circumstances.
You are heard.



Patriot
1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.


Traitor
1. a person who betrays another, a cause, or any trust.
2. a person who commits treason by betraying his or her country.


Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by dharmacorps » Mon Mar 19, 2018 12:22 am

I get where you are coming from. I'm an American, and used to have similar feelings to you about politics. I've come to realize that our entire political system is sick. From the electoral system down to campaign finance, and the morals of the politicians-- it is truly depressing. And it is getting worse. The lies and shamelessness is pervasive, and it isn't just republicans as you may argue. it is the whole system. There are occasional leaders who are good people and try to do well, but it is by far the exception.

What's moreover helpful is to see, this is the inherent nature of politics. It will always be imperfect. That's samsara. You can't put your faith in human institutions to make life better. That's why we practice the dhamma-- to find something reliable inside us, not dependent on outside factors.

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Re: What's an American to do?

Post by Zom » Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:27 am

That's samsara.
Yes, this is better not to identify yourself with any nation. Once you die - there is a high probability you'll change your nation -)

(As this notice says, if you behave yourself bad, you'll be born in Russia :D )

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