Sunday Sermon

Today we celebrate the creation of our little Greco-Roman political experiment with the traditional rituals of grilling, drinking, and making stuff explode in different colors. Wouldn't Thucydides be proud?

These past few Independence days have been tough for me. I have never been overly patriotic - the most powerful "American Pride" experience I've ever had was back in '80 when Herb Brooks and the boys beat the Russians at Lake Placid. Jim Craig skating around draped in the flag was powerful, tear-producing stuff, but I was in jr. high at the time. A lot of things have happened since - like 12 consecutive years of warmongering Republican rule during my teens and twenties - that soured me on any kind of national pride. I prefer to think of myself as a citizen of the planet, not any country. We are all in this together, and what we have in common is much greater than our differences.

In the past, when I would share this view with others it was generally well received. Even the most staunch flag-wavers would grudgingly admit that humanity should unite, national borders not withstanding. That all changed on 9/11. Since that terrible tragedy, flag-waving and the attitudes that attend it have become a national passion for many. The problem with this is that inherently, Patriotism is a great big case of "Us, not You." Simply put, we collectively dance around and chant like little kids, "I'm American and you're not! We rock and You don't!"

What exactly are we proud of? Unless you are a naturalized immigrant, being proud of being an American is like being proud of having blue eyes. You are American through no effort or choice of your own - in short, by an accident of birth. Citizenship for most is a simple matter of geography and heredity, and we long ago decided that hereditary claims have little worth - that's why we have no titled nobles in America.

The driving force behind the human tendency to make these arbitrary divisions is shadowy, but Buddhists see it as an outgrowth of the basic problem of self. The Buddha taught that as long as we belive that we are seperate from everything else, we are living in the world of samsara (delusion). As you may have heard me say, "You, I, and the lampost are one." Divisions are inherently illusory, as they indicate a distinction between ourselves and the whole.

I'll grill some bratwurst and watch the fireworks... but I'll try to think of it as a celebration of freedom, and not a commemoration of any political separation.

Grill in Peace.


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