Selections (3)

A periodic roundup of selected political opinion and social commentary, reflecting the political values of liberalism and the ethical values of Buddhism.

Vol 2, No 3 ……… February 1st, 2021

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FEATURED SELECTION:

In a recent newsletter to his email subscribers, New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni marveled at what he described as Joe Biden’s “generous” comments about his predecessor Donald Trump. Since generosity is one of the three core ethical virtues espoused by Buddhism (the other two being compassion and wisdom), and since the primary theme of this occasional feature on The Liberal Buddhist blog is the common values promoted by liberalism and Buddhism, Bruni’s comments are offered in their entirety as this issue’s featured selection …

“Today I’m going to reach back to the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. How good it feels to write that! President Joe Biden. We needed a change, and now we have it, and the rightness of this particular one was captured not just in his excellent inauguration speech but also in other words and gestures of his in the hours just before and after that address.

I’ll focus on three unscripted sentences shortly after 5 p.m., when a small group of journalists were on hand for his signing of several executive orders in the Oval Office. One of them asked about the content of a letter that President Donald Trump — who actually followed tradition in this instance — left Biden. There’d been doubt that Trump would do so. “The president wrote a very generous letter,” Biden said. “Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous.”

Generous. The word grabbed me, and not because Biden used it twice. For starters, “generous” perfectly describes Biden’s response to the question he was asked. He could simply have declined to characterize the letter, citing etiquette and discretion. He certainly wasn’t under any obligation to compliment and essentially thank Trump, not after Trump refused to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s election, spread conspiracy theories and fomented violence. Trump was intent on making Biden’s transition into the presidency as rocky as possible and bequeathing him a country almost impossible to govern.

Biden nonetheless went out of his way to be big. To be kind. He placed Trump, of all people, in proximity to “generous,” when our former president (it feels good to write that phrase, too!) is anything but. Ever since Election Day, Biden hasn’t merely been urging civility. He’s been modeling it, despite a magnitude of ugliness and absurdity from Trump and his Republican enablers that has tested it at every turn. It’s a monumental feat of discipline. It’s the epitome of grace.

And it’s the definition of, well, generosity, which is as good a one-word summary of what America and Americans need right now as any other. We need it from our president. We need it from other political leaders. We need it most of all from ourselves.

I don’t chiefly mean material generosity, though there’s a strong argument right now for government spending well beyond the norm and there’s a call for those Americans who have not been financially hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic to lift up those who have. I mean emotional generosity, spiritual generosity, the kind that puts proper value on the public interest and the common good; the kind that recognizes the trap of endless, boundless rancor; the kind that acknowledges human flaw while rooting hard for human redemption. It doesn’t downgrade the importance of accountability, punishment, justice. It integrates that into the mapping of a place where we can most successfully fix all that needs fixing.

Generously, President Joe Biden is trying to point us there.”

You can sign up for Frank Bruni’s weekly email newsletter here.

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ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS:

#1 – Joe Biden’s uplifting inaugural address …

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2021/jan/20/unity-is-the-path-forward-joe-bidens-inaugural-address-in-full-video

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#2 – Amanda Gorman’s inspirational inaugural poem …

https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007561374/poet-amanda-gorman-inauguration.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210121&instance_id=26239&nl=the-morning&regi_id=1518433&segment_id=49887&te=1&user_id=d5db21857560d585c919832c1b387ecd

Selections (2)

A periodic roundup of selected political opinion and social commentary, reflecting the political values of liberalism and the ethical values of Buddhism.

Vol 2, No 2 ……… January 18th, 2021

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FEATURED SELECTION:

New Yorker editor David Remnick argues convincingly that Donald Trump and his many enablers bear full responsibility for the disgraceful and unlawful assault on the nation’s Capitol …

“Once the Capitol was cleared, the solemn assurances that ‘this is not who we are’ began. The attempt at self-soothing after such a traumatic event is understandable, but it is delusional. Was Charlottesville not who we are? Did more than seventy million people not vote for the Inciter-in-Chief? Surely, these events are part of who we are, part of the American picture. To ignore those parts, those features of our national landscape, is to fail to confront them. The millions of Americans who understood this Presidency from its first day as a national emergency, a threat to domestic and global security, can be excused for finding it curious that so many are now taking the exit ramp for the road to Damascus three years and fifty weeks later. How surprising can Trump’s recent provocation be when for years he has served as an inspiration to bigots everywhere, to damaged souls plotting to mail pipe bombs to journalists and to kidnap the governor of Michigan? This dawning of conscience is as bewitching as it is belated.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/18/the-inciter-in-chief?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker&utm_social-type=earned

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ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS:

#1 – New York Times opinion columnist Jennifer Senior describes the predictably disastrous end to Trump’s presidency …

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#2 – New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg describes the inevitable violent ending to Trump’s presidency …

Selections (1) … formerly “Current Comment”

A periodic roundup of selected political opinion and social commentary, reflecting the political values of liberalism and the ethical values of Buddhism.

Vol 2, No 1 ……… January 2nd, 2021

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FEATURED SELECTION:

New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik contends that we should focus less attention on the question of why democracies fail, and more on understanding why autocracies flourish …

“We are told again and again that American democracy is in peril and may even be on its deathbed. Today, after all, a defeated yet deranged President bunkers in the White House contemplating crazy conspiracy theories and perhaps even martial law, with the uneasy consent of his party and the rabid support of his base. We are then told, with equal urgency, that what is wrong, ultimately, is deep [and] systemic. Lurking behind all of this is a faulty premise—that the descent into authoritarianism is what needs to be explained, when the reality is that . . . it always happens. The default condition of humankind is not to thrive in broadly egalitarian and stable democratic arrangements that get unsettled only when something happens to unsettle them. The default condition of humankind, traced across thousands of years of history, is some sort of autocracy.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/04/what-we-get-wrong-about-americas-crisis-of-democracy?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker&utm_social-type=earned

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ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS:

#1 – New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg examines Donald Trump’s legacy of destruction …

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#2 – An insightful panel discussion on “How the pandemic has exposed America’s deep divide” from the PBS NewsHour …

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-the-pandemic-has-exposed-americas-deep-divide

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#3 – New Yorker staff writer John Cassidy with some thoughts on how we might avoid another dangerous and disastrous presidency like Trump’s …

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-next-big-challenge-trump-proofing-the-presidency

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