Q: How is it possible for anyone to be grateful to the U.S. administration for what they are doing to our sisters and brothers in Iraq? Every side of this confused equation believes that some god or other is with them in their struggle, even our Australian prime minister summons his god to assist with what he calls a just outcome; where is the justice in taking another nation’s land and resources, when one is already so materially rich, and yet so apparently spiritually bereft? — BFM, Australia

A: It is probably not possible to be grateful to the U.S. administration, unless you agree with its policies and really believe that these policies will result in more peace and security, and less harm and violence. There are some who do believe this, probably many. I suppose it is possible they are right. The world is complicated, the sum total of wrong actions pile up over centuries, and sometimes life pushes you into a corner, and you are forced to choose between several horrible alternatives.

But if you are like me and cannot see how violence will lead to anything other than violence, then no, you cannot be grateful for the U.S. administration. But you can be grateful for life. You can be grateful for courage; you can be grateful for the peace that remains in your own heart and in the hearts of others even in the midst of war. You can be grateful for your own kind heart and discriminating mind, that yearns for peace and justice.

Even though it may not be possible or even reasonable to be grateful to the U.S. administration, it is probably not a good idea to hate its members, to diagnose their ills and pathologies, to impute motives for their actions. Suppose they were just wrong; that they were human beings acting according to their best understanding, based on their own goals and views, who were, in relation to your values and goals, just wrong. You can speak out vigorously against a person’s actions, goals, and decisions without demonizing that person. That is the challenge here. Gratefulness is probably going too far.

Yours,
Zoketsu Norman Fischer

American Soto Zen roshi, poet and Buddhist author and founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation

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