Thursday, September 25, 2008

Palin: Pro-Rape

I'll admit, I was hesitant on posting this on a blog that I wish to remain Buddhist base. I do not wish this blog to get too politically involved in the current election but, I suppose, as a woman from Palin's hometown, this is a little hard to do. I already have two or three blog mentioning Palin and my opinions about her.
This posting is different.
I am not posting this because I am against Palin.

I post this because I am Buddhist woman, one who is concerned about the suffering of the world, especially its women. And rape is definately a form of suffering, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It shouldn't have to include finacial suffering as well. I post this because I lived in Wasilla under Palin. Because Palin's pro-life stance is so extreme, it is no longer pro-life, it is pro-rape. There is no Middle Way in Palin's eyes, no room for compromise or consideration. Because I am a woman who lives in a state with one of the highest rape rates per capita. Because my sister in law was just raped last week. Because no woman should be charged $1200 after enduring a brutal rape. (Thank goodness then-governor Knowles got rid of that law.)

September 15, 2008
Life begins at rape... ask Mayor Sarah Palin
By Shannyn Moore

Can you imagine having to pay for the CSI (crime scene investigation-fingerprinting, photography, etc) if your home was robbed? What if a bill came for the breathalyzer tests if you'd been hit by a drunk driver? When Sarah Palin was mayor, the city of Wasilla had the most egregious policy against victims of rape in the state of Alaska, possibly the entire country. The rape kit, a set of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following a sexual assault, was charged to the victim. (note: step 6)

I sat with a rape victim during the "harvesting of evidence". Mascara smeared eyes stared blankly out from a cave of shame. "We've got swimmers," announced the forensic tech in the lab next door. My friend didn't look surprised. In her 60's, she was still asked if she felt the need for emergency contraception. Surviving the process would have only been compounded and made worse with an itemized bill; victimized twice courtesy of Sarah Palin and the city of Wasilla.
Much can be learned about the Palin Administration's family values from reviewing their spending priorities. Former Chief of Police Irl Stambaugh included forensic rape kits (up to $1,200 per kit) in his budget requests. He was fired by Palin in 1997. In her termination letter, Palin wrote, "…I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment. . . " Staumbaugh headed the police department since it was created in 1993. Before that, he served 22 years with the Anchorage Police Department rising to the rank of captain. Sarah Palin hired Charlie Fannon as the new Wasilla Chief of Police and said it was one of her best decisions as mayor. Fannon eliminated the forensic rape kits from the budget. Though the number of rapes weren't reported, Fannon claimed it would save Wasilla taxpayers $5,000 to $14,000 a year.

When Eric Croft, a Democrat Legislator from Anchorage, learned of Wasilla's policy, he drafted HB 270, which Governor Tony Knowles signed into law. The new law made it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims' insurance companies for the costs of examinations to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault actually occurred. Upon signing the law, Governor Knowles said, "We would never bill the victim of a burglary for the cost of gathering evidence, nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies."

Wasilla Police Chief Fannon protested the new law stating it would require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. Really? Are the true costs of sexual assault and forcible rape in a community only measured and reflected in the dollars spent on the forensic rape kit?

Alaska has the nation's highest per-capita rate of forcible rape. A disproportionate number of rape and sexual assault victims are Native Alaskan women. Alaska Native people in Anchorage were 9.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than others living in the city between 2000 and 2003. Alaska crime statistics never seemed to make a "Northern Exposure" episode. But this isn't about statistics-real lives were affected by Palin's regressive policies. One thing Alaska can't seem to export is the fundamental information around a woman's rights. Alaska "liberalized" abortion laws before Roe v. Wade. Our dirty secret had to do with a woman's right to be safe from rapists. This right to choose was not only threatened, but abolished with Sarah Palin's archaic policy as Mayor of Wasilla. The rape kit included emergency contraception. To be sure, emergency contraception is not, nor does it cause an abortion. In fact, ec prevents pregnancy and therefore reduces abortions.

Under Palin's Administration, "Life Begins at Rape" for women unable to pay for their forensic evidence gathering. Justice is served to women who can afford it and denied for those who can't. I live in Alaska-the wealthiest of the 50 states! Forcing rape victims to pay for their own forensic rape kits is something one would expect to find in a fundamentalist country overseas. I have outrage fatigue. I can't decide which facet of this policy is more upsetting. Is it the denial of justice for the poor? Is it the punishment of women who had been raped? Is it the political policies of a woman so entrenched in the "Pro-Life" movement she would deny justice to a victim? This is not a "Pro-Life" policy. This is a "Pro-Rapist" policy, and forced pregnancy policy.
It should be noted Joe Biden introduced legislation to fund rape kits to women in America. John McCain voted against it.

When Sarah Palin was elected Alaska's first female governor, I hoped these issues would be addressed as part of her "historic" platform. When Amnesty International published their study on rape statistics and Alaskan women, the response was pathetic. The now dismissed Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan, acknowledged the lack of law enforcement in Alaska as part of the problem. Since that time, Walt Monegan has been fired and $2.5 million dollars threatened from the budget for State Troopers. John Cyr is executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, and has been very critical of the Palin administration's commitment to keep Alaskan's safer.

Under the Palin Administration, a law was passed that specifically deals with rapists. I am not making this up. It is now illegal for Alaskans to buy or sell the "Rapist No. 1" doll. Oh, you haven't heard of it? It's an "action figure" from Quentin Tarantino's film "Grindhouse." Yes, really. So now if you're raped, you can take comfort in knowing Alaska outlawed an action figure.
For all the Alaskans who have taken the charge to protect fellow citizens from predators, this was A GIANT WASTE OF TIME. It's embarrassing to write this. Who in the hell has been prosecuted for this "outrageous" purchase. Did she think people in Alaska with the propensity to rape women were suddenly dissuaded because they couldn't buy a movie action figure?
If Alaska's sexual assault statistics were true for the rest of the country, rape would be considered an epidemic and the National Guard would be called up. As Mayor and Governor, Sarah Palin has made justice illusive to criminals and forensics a commodity that victims must purchase. Meanwhile, rape prevention sits on the backburner. Being a rape victim isn't necessary for outrage. You don't need ovaries to protect the physical sanctity of fellow citizens. Life does not begin at rape, it just gets harder.

My apologies that the links don not work. The original article can be found here:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Polar Bears

A piece written by my favorite feminist, Eve Ensler. It reflects my feelings perfectly in regards to Sarah Palin, my state's governor. Enjoy.

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God."

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Middle Way of Death.

Today is the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 event, and as I read the posts of various blogs I follow, of the editor letters in the paper, and general internet chatter, I find myself thinking about death.

Especially the topic of mourning a death of a loved one. Death, and our reaction to it, is a perfect example of the Middle Way that Buddha lived and taught. You see, when you think about it, its rather selfish to mourn the death of someone. If you believe in a life after death, either Heaven, Pure Land, reincarnation, etc, then you can be comforted by the hope that maybe they are in a better place. If you are of the opinion that death is the final end, then you can be comforted that they are no longer suffering. Either way, mourning is selfish, a way to comfort ourselves, to drown ourselves in regret, sorrow, and loss.

Yet modern psychology tells us that mourning is A) perfectly natural and B) healthy, when done properly.

In order to further understand, we must realize that the word "selfish" is free of any positive or negative connotations. To be selfish, in it's truest sense, is merely to take care of one's body and mind. Now one can be too selfish, or not selfish enough, and both of those paths lead to suffering.

The purpose of mourning is simply a way to deal with death, to recognize our attachment to that person, and to learn to let go of that attachment. Sounds healthy enough, and usually it is. Sometimes though we take that sorrow and loss and wrap it around us, letting it overwhelm us, drowning in the despair like an angsty teenager without a prom date, shaking a fist at the sky and saying "Oh, woe is me!"
When we do that, we are not mourning for that person, but for what we've personally lost, and in doing so, I think, is rather disrespectful of the deceased. We are supposed to be mourning for them, reflecting and acknowledging their life, not obsessing over what we have lost and forgetting the present moments passing us by. Its rather ironic when you think about it; we lose present moments by obsessing over what we have lost. By obsessing over the loss of a life, we lose part of ours.

Another way people try to deal with death is to be strong, not letting their natural emotions affect them at all, and go back to their daily lives. They may throw themselves into their work, or keep as busy as possible so they won't have to deal with the person's death. Psychologically speaking this is unhealthy because the person is not confronting the death and their feelings connected to the loss, and because they do so, they are denying reality, thus creating dukka (dissatisfaction).

Thus we have the middle way of death and mourning, to acknowledge the death, deal with our feelings surrounding the death, honoring the dead by reflecting on their life, and not using their death as an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves, or denying the affect their death has on us altogether. Letting go of our attachment to their lives and moving on with ours.

Yoga Nidra

Last night we had a relaxing yoga nidra class and before hand did a 108 mala chant of "Om Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu" (may all beings everywhere be free and happy), in honor of the anniversary of 9/11. It was my first time actually using a mala and now has cemented my desire to purchase one. I had been curious about them for a while.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Momentary Bliss

The most peculiar thing happened to me this morning. The exact instant I woke up, I had it.

For a split second, I had it.

For a split second, everything made sense.

The well known phrase "Emptiness is form, form is emptiness" (heart sutra) had been on my mind a lot lately. I haven't been trying to make sense of it so much as just becoming familiar with it and the concept, especially the definition of emptiness. The more I get into this, the more I realize that "emptiness" doesn't seem to be the exact right word, but it's the closest we have in our language. It feels as if something is lost in translation, and we use to word emptiness to describe whatever it is, for lack of a better word. It works well enough, especially when you remove the negative connotation emptiness has been associated with in the Western world.

Anyways, when I woke up this morning, it flashed through my thoughts, applied itself perfectly to the concepts of the eight-fold path, and for a split second, everything made sense and the biggest smilespread on my face. I was happy before I even realized why I was happy. I don't think even now I fully realize/understand why I was so happy. It felt like a release.

For a split second.

It died as qucikly as it appeared, probably because my brain, although understanding it, was trying to apply it in a logical fasion, and I lost it.

But it was a cool feeling.

I'm not making any claims to enlightenment, all I'm saying is that today, for the briefest of moments, I understood something better then I had before, and it was nifty.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Clinging to Suffering

As I've been practicing Buddhism and applying its teachings in my life, I've made an observation that never fails to surprise me.
Peopl, often don't want to let go of our suffering. Some things that cause suffering are easy to let go of. But once and a while, we encounter something, a point of suffering we don't want let go of. We tend to wrap it around ourselves like a comforting blanket.
I've noticed several examples of this within myself as I practice, but the latest (and most extreme) example of this that I've noticed is a loss of a relationship. A friend of mine is still in love with a man, even though it's been over a year since they broke up. They still hang out a lot, so she has never had any time to get closure, let go, and move on with her life. She constantly clings to the notion that their getting back together would make her life better. By doing this she rejects the reality around her, and creates her own reality where she and him are back together, and life is perfect because of it, and because of this, she constantly suffers. It breaks my heart every time I hear her mention it, every time she calls me crying. She needs to let go, accept the reality of the situation, and move on so she can enjoy her life. She knows this, has admitted to knowing this, and yet she refuses to let go, or even attempt to let go. She keeps him close, a constant reminder of what she had, and what she wants.
I want to help her let go and relieve her suffering, but I don't know how. The only thing I can do is let her learn to let go, and comfort her every way I can until then.
I've done this too, I think most everyone has at some point in time, no matter how long or brief. Humans are social creatures, and we crave comfort, we crave companionship and closeness. To have someone to love and trust is is invaluable in a society where everyone puts their needs first.

Anyways, this is something I've noticed again and again. As I've practiced the Middle Way and applying Buddha's teachings to my life, I have come across causes of suffering that I can deal with easily, and causes of suffering that I don't wish to let go of, even though I know I must in order to relieve the suffering they cause. People will sometimes come to a source of suffering that they don't want to let go of, even though they know it will cause suffering.

She is one of my dearest friends, even though I've only seen her a handful of times since college started, we have survived much together, from a grueling chemistry course to being chased by Italians across the Florence plaza, to experiencing the top of the Effeil Tower together. I hope she gets through this.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

That Dirty Little A-word

Recently on the Buddhist Channel website, I read a very interesting article dealing with abortion.
Ahhh, abortion.
The nifty thing about the topic of abortion is that everyone has something to say about it, everyone wants to put in their 2 cents, and those who remain quiet while the debate rages on around them have an opinion, but are too busy, polite, or shy to say anything.
Normally this is something I would be posting in my personal blog, and I may copy and paste it there later on. But since this is the blog that I receive actual comments from actual people who use that vital little organ known as a brain, I figured I would post it here first, simply because I wish to state my opinion, and then hear your thoughts and opinions, no matter how similar or different.

Reproductive rights is something I have been passionate about for a long time, and right now the issue has become a big issue in our local gossip because our governor has just been chosen to be McCain's Vice President.
Sarah Palin, an evangelical who opposes abortion, even in cases of incest and rape, who has vowed to work with McCain to overtunr Roe v. Wade, who opposes pre-marital sex, who has refusd funding for comprehensive sex education and pushed for abstinece-only education.
Sarah Palin, whose 17 year old unwed daughter is pregnant.

I have tried to go on as long as I can without saying anything, but it has caused such a controversy that I can't help myself, so please forgive me as I put in my 2 cents and get a little political. (Disclaimer: If I say something here that offends you as the reader, please note that this isn't personal, just merely my opinion. I hope you will respect it, even if you don't agree with it, just as I would respect your opinion regardless of my personal beliefs)

And now, for my political opinion regarding reproductive rights, our governor Sarah Palin, her pregnant daughter Bristol, and this whole politcial election:

In regards to Bristol Palin, everybody just fucking STOP!
Put away your thoughts, your opinins, your holier-then-thou attitudes, your comments, your sympathies.
Take a deep breath and look at the big picture of the situation.
Bristol Palin is a 17 year old GIRL! A mere girl, yet our media is putting so much attention on her because she made a choice, and is facing a consequense of that choice, a consequence she knew beforehand was possible, but she made that choice anyways.
Respect that choice. Regardless of your opinion, please, I am begging you, respect a choice that she made, one that she cannot unmake because it is in the past. It is done with, move on.
Her pregnancy is not in anyway a judgement of her character, or an indication of her mother's parenting skills. The age of consent in this state is 16, so there is no under-age controversy. She is considered an adult in the eyes of the law.
Her pregnancy is not in any way an indicator of her mother's ability to govern or do her job, and therefore the political community should drop the entire matter and focus on Governor Palin's beliefs, opinions, and record.
As I mentioned above, Bristol Palin, for all that she is capable of making adult decisions, is still young. An unexpected pregnancy, especially in an evangelical home where pre-marital sex is one of the biggest sins, is hard, and all this media and political coverage is certainly not making it any easier. Her pregnancy is nobody's business but her own, and whoever she choses to include, such as her mother, or boy who got her pregnant. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of pressure and ridicule this girl is facing, started by people who really have no place in this matter, who just want to bitch and moan and complain.
It is none of my business, and as a person who is adamently pro-choice, I know Bristol has chosen to keep the baby, and I respect that. She made a choice. It is not a matter of whether or not I agree with it, merely that I respect it. (If the family's finacial situation was less-fortunate, then I would go off on a tangent on the matter welfare, but fortunately this is not the case. The Palin family is more then able to support another child.)
Giggle if you want at the irony of a pregnancy happening in a family that condems comprehensive sex education. But as far as politics goes, this is a personal matter, and should stay that way.
So back. the fuck. OFF.

Now that I've gotten that out (and I feel much better), let us move on.
I will not be voting for Sarah Palin, for the reasons stated above, mostly in regards to her opinions of sex education and abortion. I cannot ethically vote for a woman who would take away the choice of reproduction from American women. Just as Bristol's pregnancy and choices regarding that pregnancy isn't any of my business, the choices concerning my body and choices I make for it aren't any of hers.

Moving on...
Finally, to the article I mentioned about a thousand words ago. If you wish to read it in it's entirety, you can find it here:,7060,0,0,1,0

It's very good because it forces to reader to step back for the whole issue and look at the larger picture. The entire abortion right's debate is indeed a very good example of what happens when we set moral absolutes, something that fundamentalists of certain religions are quite fond of doing. Buddhists, as a general rule, tend to shy away from absolutes of any kind. From a Buddhist persepctive, yes, an abortion could easily be seen as the taking of a life (let's not get into the whole "Is an zygot/embryo/fetus really alive/human" questions). But Buddhists also realize the reality of life and death. All things die, and all the dies, at one time, has lived. Our thinking tends to transcend the life vs. death upon this realization, and our focus on the present moment and it's realities.
In other words, when you think about it, abortion isn't that big of a deal, especially when you compare it to the violent politics surrounding the issue. The article pretty much concludes that while Buddhists (in general) are reluctent to support an abortion, they won't out-right deny it either. This is my opinion as well. Rarely will you ever hear me actually encourage abortion as the best choice, but should a person make that choice, I will accept it, respect it, and not think any less of them. I would rather the child be wanted then unwanted.

Annnnnyways, there you go. It's a great article if you are interested in the subject, so check it out. I would love to hear any oppinions, whether they agree or oppose.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Taking my time

My classes started last week. It's going to be a very busy semester, 18 credits, but I think I can manage it. At least, I hope I can.

By far, my favorite class it Japanese 290, Zen Buddhism.

I consider myself an independent Buddhist, not bound to any particular tradition. I do this not because I fear elitism or feel that no branch is the right one for me. On the contrary, I believe that a Buddhist should explore several branches and traditions, and once they find a path that suits them, they should "zero in" and dedicate themselves to their path.

I consider myself independent for several reasons. I am still exploring Buddhism, and myself, and I don't want to rush into a specific style of Buddhism without exploring all other possibilities and paths.
I also take the title of independent because I take bits and pieces from several different traditions as I walk my path. I research chants and mantras to recite, from all different traditions, from Tibetian to Japanese. I even write my own mantras to contemplate and recite (also a great excuse for me to practice my French). I do yoga, I meditate as well as practice zazen. I read books, blogs, and articles written by Buddhists of various traditions, as well as Buddha's teachings. I try to practice mindfulness, kindness, peacefulness, and the eightfold path. I want to explore and learn all I can, even after I find a sangha and focus on a specific tradition.

Another reason is that I want to be free to go join a sangha based not only on traditions of a specific style of Buddhism, but the people who make up the sangha as well. (I was, as a Christian, a non-denominational one, and it worked well for me because I could comfortably attend different churches when I moved or traveled around.) If I joined the Zen community here, and then moved to a different state after graduation to a place where there was no nearby Zen community, I would comfortably find another sangha of a different tradition to continue my practice.

All that being said (whew), I am particularly fond of the Zen community up here. The head priest of the Soto Zen community here is a wonderful and funny man, and I feel that I have a lot to learn from not only him, but the rest of the sangha as well. I am glad I decided to take the class. Our homework: 10 minutes of zazen every day.
Best. Homework. Ever.