Thursday, December 8, 2011

Politics, Corruption, and Buddhism

Blagojevich gets 14 years in prison for corruption


The Rod Blagojevich who once challenged a prosecutor to face him like a man, the glad-handing politician who took to celebrity TV shows to profess his innocence, was nowhere to be found Wednesday as he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption.
The Practical Buddhist Responds
The Buddha had advice for kings and princes, flowing especially from the Second Precept. 

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth. (Interpretation by Thich Naht Hanh).

Like U.S. presidents, governors have some king-like powers, like commuting death sentences or granting pardons to convicted criminals. That makes them important symbols of the state, more than simple government functionaries. Blagojevich's judge stressed that point when handing down a 14-year sentence.

So how is it that four out of the last nine Illinois governors have been sentenced to prison? Is is a culture of corruption unique to that state? Is the Illinois electorate so foolish that almost half of the governors they have recently picked are criminals? Not likely.

Right now we're looking at Romney, whose waffling on issues has been thoroughly documented, and Gingrich, whose greed and bombast and family choices seem to overshadow his brightness. We're looking at Obama, who in spite of great early promise, has not yet emerged as the leader we need. We are tired of it all, and Iowa is still weeks away.

Presidents in our country are not kings. They have no divine right to govern, and must build consensus and deal in compromise and persuasion. With a hostile congress and a weary and polarized electorate, it's an almost impossible job.

The danger is that we are so fed up and frustrated that we will vote for anyone who successfully "tickles our ears" and reinforces our prejudices by playing on our fears.