- You can read the back and forth with Rev. Fisher and in comments on the Rev. Fisher's blog. I think I overstated it by at least implying that Amnesty International's works are symbolic only. But not by much. The response I got was interesting to me; I'd think it'd be easy for Buddhists to get the gist of Christopher Hitchens' polemics against Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, even if some of Hitchens' other words and behavior were contemptible. Or at least some Buddhists would have read Nietzche. That is they'd read that there's often unskillful selfish motives behind what we like to call charity. In the case of the death penalty, far more mileage has gone to ending it in the US by lawyers and legislators cleverly chipping away at the way in which it's enacted than by people with stickers. And I completely stand by what I wrote about Amnesty International and Stalin. To be caught up with the case of the single individual as a series of "victories" without support of a strategy to extinguish the death penalty is not too far, metaphorically speaking, from sctraching one's foot through one's shoe. In short, I'd cut a check to the ACLU before I'd cut one to Amnesty, but I could see people of good will doing both. Just don't confuse one with the other and consider both "effective" at ending the death penalty. One, remember, is demonized by the right wing in this country for a reason. The other is not, also for a reason.
- I don't get certain things in the new improved "Western" Buddhist world. The generally friendly Twitter exchange with Hokai Sobol (here, here, here, and here) still reverberates in my head. I'm sorry Hokai; the Asian forms are like musical instruments or musical arrangements. Moreover, "Asian" and "Western," as I noted as well (and the link that Hokai re-propagated), are not separate categories. Geez, "Thank" and "Zen" share the same proto-Indo-European root as far as I know based on at least some relatively recent linguistic work somebody's done. Now naturally styles of forms evolve and adapt culturally and regionally. Nobody would say that Cajun cuisine is a maladaption of (a) French cuisine, though. And I didn't even begin to get into the points of: what about Asian immigrants to the West? Their children? The mixed children of Asians and Westerners? Admittedly Sobol's coming from the Shingon tradition, one in which I know less about than Zen. But I do know this: with the exceptions of the Pure Land - derived (and to a lesser extent Nichiren and Zen) schools, most Japanese Buddhists know very little about these other sects of Buddhism. The temples in Nara are all related to sects that have very little presence in Japan today. The idea that forms and concepts of these older schools are "Asian" today doesn't even work in Asia.
Some wise guy or gal once wrote or said "Things are not as they seem. And just the opposite is true." I admit I'm in a somewhat strange situation in that my contact with "Asia" - whatever that means - is far greater than most Westerners. All of us are improvising as we go along. Cultural categories are fluid. If one doesn't get it, one may become unintentionally funny, especially in regards to Buddhism.