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Surviving Bush: Kill the Buddha
by Rachel Olivieri
August 12, 2004

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A fascinating analogy originates from a Zen Buddhist Tradition. Everything starts with a story. This is a simple tale of a devout monk who spent his life in deep meditation. Along this journey, he experienced a profound revelation: A vision of nirvana. Enthralled by its insight, he believed he had achieved absolute enlightenment.

He shared his revelation with his master. His master was unimpressed yet compassionate. “Indeed,” the master intoned, “this is not a singular event among men.” He told the monk that his vision of enlightenment would draw him away from his spiritual journey. The monk became greatly distressed. Then the master told the monk that if he should meet the Buddha, he should slay him. “Why kill the Buddha?” asked the monk in disbelief. “Because that Buddha will not be the true Buddha,” replied the master. “He will merely be an expression of your longing for what it is you seek. If you do not kill the Buddha, he will only stand in your way.”

One can interpret this story many ways. For the purpose of humanity, the metaphor succinctly speaks to moving past the complacency of deeply held progressive principles and moral views. Morals and principles that Mark Twain might say bind us to “prejudice.”

Does prejudice of tightly bound principles produce a close election? A world vote would crush Bush and all that he represents in November. Why would our view vary so greatly with the rest of the worlds'? Could we be detracted by the outrage of our enlightenment and our sense of defeat of progressive views?

Incensed by the prospect of either Bush, the megalomaniac messianic prophet of world doom, or John Kerry, the corporate lacquered militaristic manager of American imperialism, how does one not feel damned, compromised and defeated? How does one resolve what appears irresolvable by an election? When does principle and moral view take a bleacher seat to immoral unprincipled crimes against humanity? This is the question of our time.

Three hundred million must decide this fate for six billion. Where we go from here is clearly unknown. Planet earth is but one large spider web. No matter where it is touched, it resonates clearly throughout. The web stretches across a fragile planet threatened by man’s disregard for its gift of life. Humankind is subjugated in one form or another by a power too awesome and too terrible to be determined by the interest of the narrow minded elite. The current scale of injustice, disease, hunger and death is forming a critical mass of world wide dissent.

The Bush Dynasty fueled by endless war economies and a selectively inattentive media is that power. Never in history has hegemony ruled supreme over the destiny of the planet and humanity. These are perilous times yet there is beauty in our struggle for world balance. We must decide well about what to do with the time that is ours to shape.

We hold in each hand a Bush and a Kerry rattlesnake. Which is cast off and which does one attempt to hold? Their deceptive language opposes the well-being of the planet and humanity. In either, Bush or Kerry offer framed violence as a means to promise violent freedom for some and certain annihilation for countless others. How does one find that acceptable under any circumstance?

It speaks clearly to the center of progressive consciousness. They are defiant of either party. Most progressive’s are fiercely independent and rarely follow party lines. Progressive’s frustration with the right-washed Dem party is severe. They cannot support a platform that does not express opposition to the occupation of either Afghanistan or Iraq. Nor can they support Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian’s. That is the dilemma.

Those firmly planted on moral high ground to either vote Nader or not vote at all face this dilemma. A burden many feel they should not have to bear and rightly so. The domination of off-centered ideologies of both Bush and Kerry is compelling evidence that our struggle to center our politics will continue. The question is which offers the best opportunity to continue the struggle through our system of government?

Gandhi said, “A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.” Thus, they believe a vote for Kerry is a compromise of progressive principles. A no vote, a Nader vote, is the only viable option of resistance to a system they abhor. Is this so?

I am a progressive and share these values to my core. I want to say none of the above as well and do it over until we get it right. After all, what kind of victory is it when progressive ideals are left behind like soiled laundry?

Yet, life is on the edge of death, perhaps the question begs one to step back and revisit the duality of the temporal world struggling endlessly to find balance within itself. Throughout humankind’s time on earth, the ground swells of collective consciousness have set the stage for change. This is not new to human history. This is that time.

“There are only two or three human stories. And they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

-- Willa Cather, American Author, 1873-1947

By most accounts, the disenfranchised of either stripe, will likely determine the outcome of this election. Less than ninety days from election, we are mentally frozen in time. For fear of seeming intolerant or uncertain, or just for lack of thinking, we long for progressive hopes and aspirations of candidates long since wilted on the political vine. Mark Twain wrote, “We all live in the protection of certain cowardice’s which we call our principles.”

Is this symbolic of the Buddha that draws us away from what we seek. Is this to say our principles and moral views which appear to have basis for support, has no advantage over that from which it originates? That somehow the progressive nirvana shorted by the political power structure is compromised by the notion of its intrinsic ideals.

The Bush strategists are counting on it. They play this notion as their down card. In view of all their transparency, their greatest weapon for reelection is our uncontrolled outrage. Indeed, they are a bold and clever bunch. Having mastered the art of framing the question, they have stolen the message out of the bottle leaving its label to deceive all too outraged by the transparency to see the theft. Kill the Buddha. Let the devotion to progressive candidates go as Kucinich suggests. We are the players and the force behind change, not the candidates.

We need to retire our outrage until after the election. After Bush has played his hand and lost. To fail is to endanger democracy and free elections in a way that has never been challenged. To succeed awards a slight shift in the balance of power. We need to buy time for our collective outrage to engage on a more level playing field. Short of an armed insurrection, Kerry is the only option in spite of how disgusting that proposition may be to our progressive values.

John Kerry is not the leader who will guide us to the Promised Land. He is simply a mortal man with a weakness. A weakness well documented throughout his political career. He bends to power. Until now, he has only recognized the power of wealth and greed. He has yet to meet the true power of the individual who acts collectively with others. He will bend.

We all share an inner power and moral center from which all things originate and seek balance. We choose to either manifest it or ignore it. The nature of life itself must be realized in the acts of life. A vote for Kerry does not compromise this moral center. A vote for Kerry is a bridge to the other side. Their greatest lie and their greatest strength is that we need them. We do not. Kill the Buddha and continue the struggle.

Rachel Olivieri is “not a writer, just a pissed off progressive.” She can be reached at:

Other Articles by Rachel Olivieri

* John Kerry Ain’t No Democrat