Make America Great Again!

It is the morning before the US elections. I put my morning cup of tea down on a sturdy wooden crate next to me. The printing on the side of the crate reads:

W.B.R.
Welfare Biscuits
W.G.C & S (1929) L
Packed 10/44
Net Weight 35 LBS

This crate was parachuted out near the town of Gorinchem in the Netherlands at the end of the hungerwinter of 1945. It was found by a little boy, nearly 14 years old, who carried it home with his brother. His father had been arrested in September 1943, tortured and sent to a concentration camp, because he was a member of the resistence.
That little boy always kept that crate and later passed it on to his daughter, which is me.

(An American B-17 drops food supplies during operation Chowhound in may 1945.)

To me, this crate is a symbol of the kindness and compassion that the British and American people showed us here in Europe, where people were dying of hunger. They did not know the people here, there was no internet, no telephone. These were people on the other side of the world, who they had never met. It was America, that welcomed thousands of European refugees with open arms. And it was America, that initiated the Marshall Plan, which gave rise to a speedy economic recovery in Western European countries.

Back then, people said that this had been the war to end all wars. That this should never happen again. But memories fade and the people that lived through the war are dying out.
There is one thing we can learn from history and that is that humanity has never learned from history. With the forces of fear, greed, hatred and delusion on the rise again, and extremist parties gaining more ground all over the world, I cannot help but to compare it to pre-war Europe.
But each of us has a choice on how to react to the world we see around us. We can allow the fear to overwhelm us, we can react with hatred towards those who are different, or we can look inside our own hearts and find that kindness and compassion that shatters all fear and hatred. With the Dhamma as our guide, with meditation, we can face that fear and find the courage in ourselves to overcome the negative forces of Mara.

When I put my cup down on that crate every morning, I remember that there is kindness and compassion in the hearts of people. It was that same kindness and compassion of the American people that has fed my father when he was starving and it was that kindness and compassion that made America great. Tomorrow you have a choice. Use it with kindness and compassion. Your choice will affect the world.

Much metta,
Ayya Vimala

(Marshall Plan poster)

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Thanks for the beautiful story, Ayya. We read about about the Marshall plan in History, but this makes it very real.

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Do you have a picture of it?

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(Dhamma books inside now, I guess some kind of “welfare biscuits” too)

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This is beautiful thanks so much for sharing :anjal:

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I just want to post here some of the comments I received from German friends on my blog at www.samita.eu:

This is the image of America I grew up with: The Americans, the friends who have been kind to our parents! Would be nice to look at such an America again……
Maria (Germany)

From my good friend Ayya Anopama:

Just a few days before the end of the war, the tiny village of my parents in South Germany was attacked by bombs, half of the village burned down. My mother was 7 years old at the time, my father 9. American soldiers entered the village, searching for German soldiers to take them hostage, yet what they found were the wives and children of those. Some of the soldiers were .Afro-American. As they approached the children, including my mother, they trembled in fear – still under the shock of the attack, but moreover because they have never seen a black man before.

Standing in front, prepared for anything terrible to happen, the black soldier opened his pocket and out came a bar of chocolate which he kindly offered the children – to their amazement as chocolate was a rarity, moreover in times of war. A moment in time, of kindness and compassion – in midst the despair of a devastating war -. a moment of friendship and of hope. My mother remembered the kind black man ever since and chocolate became a very special thing for all of us.

As I’m writing these lines, I’m carrying stacks of chocolates in my hand luggage to India and Burma – to offer to traumatized Tibetan nuns and children who have managed to escape from the Chinese to Northern India and to the the countless little nuns living in poverty in under-resourced nunneries in Upper Burma -to offer a moment of joy, of friendship and care.

Ayya Anopama

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Ahh, chocolate, the universal language! No really, it’s the word found most widely in the world’s languages.

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Awesome heartwarming post. Fascism must never return, yet it seems too possible. And we will have no choice but to send the fascist love and compassion. Whew, that’s gonna be a tough one!

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I believe tuvok was replying to Mr. Ruhe’s comments.

I would also politely suggest that this is a good time to recall Bhante Sujato’s request of a few days ago in a different but related thread:

Hopefully unnecessary message: Please don’t argue about politics in the comments. There are many other places for that. This thread is for reaching out & helping people deal with the stress, not adding to it. Thanks!

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Thanks for that. I really appreciated the stories from @Vimala. It’s always heartening to hear positive ways that people approach adversity.

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Dear friends,

Unfortunately a known Nazi sympathizer and anti-semite joined our site this morning and posted on this thread. His post, together with a number of related posts, have been removed, and he has been permanently banned. Thank you for those of you who supported our policy of right speech and remained calm!

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I accidentally deleted @DKervick’s post and had to revive it, which removed all of their likes. Go send this Right Speech-warrior some love! :heart:

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It’s wonderful to read Ayya Vimala’s essay. I am glad that my country of birth has shown through the years, at times, its better nature. I was fortunate to travel some years ago in Russia and Ukraine, and my friends told me of past times when American frozen chicken parts and other foodstuffs would arrive in the Soviet markets during periods of food insecurity, and people would queue up for a chance to receive some of this surplus food. Russians still hold very good feelings for Americans (not so much America), surprisingly, for the help that was given during those times.

When I first went to Thailand to ordain temporarily as a samanera, my friends there were Australians, Scots, Thais and British. We never discussed politics, but one day on a long ride to the Hill Tribes, we were in a bus talking about global issues, and I mentioned that I was deeply ashamed of the conflicts fueled by the US (Vietnam, et al) , and the cruel and misguided policies of the recent Bush government. I felt a collective sigh on the bus, as it seemed my friends were being careful to not voice their true feelings about the US with an American on board. My point is that while I was born in America, and recognize the good that the US has done and still contributes, there is much to be ashamed of and regretful for.

The election season has been something of a barometer of the demographics and psychology of this country, and I am deeply concerned. Literally nearly half of the country has seemed willing to support the candidacy of someone that is openly narcissistic and possibly sociopathic, a misogynist, a demagogue, and frankly, a craven person possibly less competent and less intellectually gifted than our former Pres. GW Bush. The candidate for the “ugly American” demographic.

For America to be great again, I submit that it need only have some sense of the Dhamma. Now, no one is going to be able to openly market the Dhamma in a culture that is so brazenly theist, but there may be some way to bring to bear the qualities of wisdom, compassion, moral courage and nonharming that are so inherent in the Dhamma and were once so much a part of the American sensibility. What made America great once upon a time was, in part, what makes the Dhamma so compelling. Compassion. Kindness. Effort. Wisdom.

The US once offered food sustenance to the world. Now, the US needs to take the sustenance that Ayya is offering. The US needs these monastic and lay Buddhist voices that can remind us of our better nature, and deliver us from the recent malignant forces that have threatened the political and cultural health of this country. Or, if that doesn’t work, we can live in Canada…

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For those deeply anxious about tomorrow’s election, meditation is recommended. Or, place faith in the prognostications of Boots, the Scottish Goat.

And the goat has now predicted that Hillary Clinton will finish ahead of Donald Trump in the US presidential race.

His prediction method is rather simple for a goat; he simply chooses from two pieces of paper with each answer on them.

image

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Reading the beautiful story by Ayya Vimala made me think of the poet Galway Kinnel’s words

though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

Tell me about it! Yet at times when things are so desperately polarized and every group instinct in me pushes towards the ‘Good vs Evil’ scenario, the flight/fight response, the shame and guilt when we pick up the burden of someone else’s actions (“after all we were there, and we could not stop it”) , even the sins of our fathers - it is just then that the Buddha mercifully stops that line of thinking, pointing my heart and mind towards a different perspective.
Yes, there is no ‘group kamma’ in a Buddhist sense of moral responsibility (as Bhante Sujato reminded us in another thread) but there are social dynamics and group basic assumptions (and picking up a sociopath as a leader is a well-recognized and studied response to certain challenges). And you’ll agree it’s a hell of a lot of work for the mind to dis-identify, resist mass-thinking and emotion, stand one’s ground, accept one’s own realistic responsibilities. The ‘We’ sense can be a blessing, or a curse.
So my heart goes out to ALL Americans. Including the ‘theistic’ (or whatever) that are out there doing the good hard job. Some will stumble and fail (perhaps like our Nazi-lover friend), some will succed and give a hand. Whatever happens, we won’t give up on you guys!

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The one thing I really like about this picture is that the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber! But in this picture it is not dropping bombs but food-parcels. The same thing that can bring death can also bring life.

I went for my walk yesterday and sat in the forest, leaning with my back against a tree in between two large bomb-craters, now covered with a carpet of red and yellow autumn leaves. In the dying autumn sun, the bright carpet of leaves looked almost idyllic. As if nature wants to cover up the horrors that once happened here … maybe due to that same bomber in the picture.
I come here often and chant the Karaṇīyamettā Sutta.

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Sadhu Ayya!
Please kindly consider sharing a photo of this spot with us too! All this is very meaningful and powerful.

I remember once hearing from a monk we should have a few simple but powerful portraits hanging on the walls of our mind and hearts just to remind ourselves of the goodness found in this world and inspire right thought into ourselves. I think he called it pasadika or something like that…

I have a few of those hanging in my mind space and I will definitely bring to mind the photo of the crate whenever I end up wandering into the desert of pessimistic mind sstate after hearing of bad news of war, death etc.

:slight_smile:

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I’m afraid you won’t see much on a picture … it is in the middle of the forest so with many trees all around.

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With the forces of fear, greed, hatred and delusion on the rise again

when did greed, hatred, and delusion ever diminish in the first place?

Btw as someone who grew up around the greatest generation, I have great appreciation for this story, but I have to make a point regarding this comment, which i’ve heard multiple times in the past few days in various buddhist communities.

I find it disconcerting because it is using a universal Buddhist principle as a weapon of divisiveness, of conceit, and insinuating that groups of people some how are the cause of universal greed , hatred, and delusion because of their political views or you don’t agree with them. No one here certainly needs a buddhist lecture, most especially people who have practiced the dhamma far longer then myself, but a reminder is always good for all of us caught up in turbulent times.

Fear and emotion are basic tools for those who wish to divide, on both sides of any contest. It is very easy to make someone fear, because when you control someone’s perception you control their reality, but it is a lot harder to help someone who wants to rise above it, which is what we as monastics and dhamma practitioners can have a part in. Sure we are human, and we are prone to the same fear baiting as anyone, but the practice, and the dhamma, should be our anchor in these storms.

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