Martin Luther King Jr has always had a powerful spot in my personal “lineage,” which is a crucial concept in Buddhism. Having attended a school founded directly on MLK‘s beliefs —Manhattan Country School, a small amazing “private school with a public mission,” as school founder Gus Trowbridge put it–my early childhood and middle school education was all about living the dream of compassion, equality, and interdependence.
The Buddhist idea of lineage is that one draws both confidence and humility from the past, while at the same time grounding attention firmly in the present moment, thus creating powerful aspirations to benefit ourselves and others in the future.
Obama’s was a great speech, worth sitting with in entirety (below), and it reminded me personally that despite my growing disappointment with many of his actions, I do indeed admire and respect our 44th President as a person.
However, he gave his speech at a time when it looks like his political party is in a load of trouble. In the Massachusetts Senate special election (Scott Brown vs Martha Coakley) to be held tomorrow, signs point to huge trouble for Democrats in a hugely democratic state (even if Coakley somehow wins), and therefore big trouble for a health care bill that many conservatives do not support, and many interdependistas and progressives believe is too watered down to actually provide health care more easily to those in need.
I think one reason there is so much anger from both sides at the Democratic majority is more psychological and spiritual than anything policy-based. It occurs to me that Dr. King’s main inspiration on a visceral, intuitive level comes from an unwavering belief in the compassionate principles he professed, and a life lived without faltering on those principals. It is this unwavering quality which truly inspires.
It may be a deeply unpopular belief among Buddhists, but I believe that George W. Bush achieved success because he also projected an unwavering gut-level strength in his principles, carried through in actions, which is what gave him the power to be elected twice.
Perhaps I am naive. In fact, I’m sure I am. But I can’t shake the feeling that if we who profess interdependence as a guiding principle (whatever your personal politics) had a bit more of Dr. King’s indestructible satyagraha (truth force), and a bit less of a politician’s waffling rhetoric, our political system would be a much more inspiring thing to behold.