Envy, Racism & Democracy in Trump-Time

I was in a food store recently, standing next in line behind a young black woman who was checking out some items.  Her behavior was rather uncontrolled, her voice loud as she spoke to a friend seemingly, several feet away.  Her language bespoke a lack of education, and her appearance – disheveled jeans, and a simple faded shirt – added to the impression.

I had the feeling she was one of the left behinds, someone given short shrift in circumstances from the very beginning, whose opportunities had closed in and imprisoned her life ever since.

She is one of us.  I felt sorry and disturbed.  There are so many – legion – like her in our society, in our world – treasures of a life unsupported and unrevealed.

She is the mark of many long generations of exclusion, of racism overt and undercover.  We have cheated and denigrated people, we still do it.

The recent episode in Buffalo, New York, of Carl Paladino, a political ally of Donald Trump, is almost hard to believe in the America of the twenty-first century.  Paladino, a one-time Republican candidate for governor of New York, and a member of the Buffalo school board, stated he hoped “Obama (President Obama) catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford”.  He added of Mrs. Obama that “I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”  Two other members of the school board defended his remarks.

There has been a great deal of antagonism toward the Obamas, originating, quite simply, in racial hatred.  But it goes beyond that.  There is a deep segment of American society that envies the Obamas.  Who see, not only a black President – their President – and his first lady, a black woman, but a black President and his wife who are intelligent, cultured, educated and worthy of enormous respect, holding up a mirror to their own inferiority.  It cannot be tolerated. The mirror must be broken.

It is racism, yes, but it is envy that has come to the fore in America, and it is this kind of envy that could destroy America.

There was a similar story, millennia ago, in the aging democracy of Greece – Greece, which had previously reached a pinnacle of civilization unmatched until that time.

Plutarch’s “Lives of the Noble Greeks” tells the story of the the deep-seated envy and jealousy that had permeated Athenian society at that time, and the destruction that it wrought.

There was a practice called ostracism, which, in the name of constraining tyranny, allowed people to cast votes for someone they considered a potential tyrant, and the person with the greatest number of votes was then banished from the city.  During one ostracism, an illiterate man approached Aristides, one of the most exemplary citizens of the city, and asked Aristides to put the name ofAristides on a ballot naming someone he wished to banish.  Aristides asked the man if Aristides had ever done him any harm, and the man replied “None at all.  Nor do I know the man, but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called the Just.”  Aristides said nothing and returned the ballot with his name on it.  He subsequently received the greatest number of votes, and was banished from Athens.

Plutarch writes:

When someone even slightly better than the norm appeared, the citizenry would try to pull the person down out of envy.  As a result, people of the highest caliber disappeared from Athens, with only people of inferior ability remaining.  Thus began the decline of Athens.

Donald Trump is an epitome of this cowardly behavior, this deep envy.  His modus operandi is to trash anyone in his environment with superior abilities, who shows up his own natural inferiority.  He cannot tolerate this.  So he reaches out, more and more, to destroy anyone and anything that will show his own weakness.

He is leading and attracting a large following of similar people, whose basic urge is destruction.  That’s why the Obamas generated so much antipathy, and why so many of those  joined ranks with Trump and the Republican Party, which has since degenerated into a sort of frenzied, immoral mob.

To cover up his own cowardice, Trump tries to drag others down.  As he becomes more conceited and swollen with self-importance and disrespect towards others, though, his inner space inevitably shrinks.  There is no happiness to be found.  The more he pursues this path, the more miserable he will become.

The more, as a nation, we retreat into ourselves, cutting off our connections with others, trying to preserve our own safety and interests first and ignoring the plight of others, the more petty we will become, the more disrespected, leading to a deep diminishing of the actual image of America.

These are the workings of Life.

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A New Myth for AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Last Gasp of a Dying White/Christian Order

So Donald Trump comes out today vowing to unleash the shackles of  political participation on behalf of religious (aka Christian, most notably Evangelical) groups.

It is just the latest (and will certainly not be the last) attempt to resurrect the buried hopes and dreams of a dying, gasping segment of America that has been smouldering in ruins ever since General Sherman burned down Atlanta and marched on a path of destruction to the sea during our Civil War.

It is an America that deserves to die.  It stood for everything – slavery and white supremacy and Christian theocracy – that was opposed to the real, true dream of America.

A New Myth for AmericaThis was the dream espoused even by the author of our own Declaration of Independence, President Thomas Jefferson, who strongly opposed any mixing of the affairs of church and state, and who even then expressed his disdain for organized Christian churches and theology (though he respected the morality and humanity of Jesus, as a man, not a god).

This was the dream of America written and spoken of by the great writers and poets of our early American Renaissance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and others.

It is the dream of justice, of equality, of freedom of religion, of freedom of expression; but it is also the dream of a time when people everywhere will rise above the limitations and small mindedness and exclusivity of all brands of philosophy, religion, and discourse that fail to recognize the greatness of the individual human being, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, culture, social standing, or any other false badge of identity that seeks to wall off and divide people.

It is all like the last, dying gasp and wild thrashings of a mortally wounded corpse.  And all that it stands for is now being exposed to the world to witness – the ugliness, the pettiness, the small mindedness – all of which so perfectly Donald Trump has embraced, all of which so perfectly mirrors the daily shrinking of his own dwindling heart and mind,

It is all there on display for us to see.  The final rattling in the throat will inevitably come.

Let’s ride out the storm into a new world.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames HIlgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way – Vallejo, CA.

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way
Keisha.  Vallejo, California.
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Traveling to a New AmericaKeisha, are you from this area originally?

“I grew up in East Oakland, one of the roughest neighborhoods.  I moved my children here 16 years ago.  I raised all five of my children here.  My son just passed away from cancer a couple months ago.  He was loving.  Mother of five, grandmother of one.”

What’s your take on America right now?

“I think we all need to unite; to understand we don’t have control over what’s going on, but we have control over our own personal actions, and we have a choice to either come together or divide.  I choose to come together, because the country is already divided enough.  Politically, I would say that we are probably in a heap of trouble.  We just have to take it day by day, and hope for the best, and remember not to get caught up in the rhetoric of the world.  I’m not concerned with that.  The rhetoric is all the racism and division coming from our top leader, but I think that the rest of America, most Americans, don’t agree with him, not even Republicans.”

There’s a great deal of division in the country right now.  What’s going to solve that?

“Love, Peace, and togetherness.  Uniting in solidarity.  That’s the only way we’re going to overcome it, if it’s going to be overcome.”

How do you go about that?

“By being genuinely nice and kind to one another.  Treat people how you would like to be treated.”

What would your vision of a great America be like?

“A great America would be a country of free childcare, affordable housing, good paying jobs for everyone, stop the government from robbing us, free medical, and free college too.”

What’s your dream?

“My dream is to leave a legacy here on the Earth of love and charity.  I think we all need to help each other.

“I just hope that everyone sees what really is, and start to open their minds, so that America can be great again, truly great.  Truly great is love and peace and freedom for everyone, not just for certain privileged people, but for all people.

“I think what’s going on has awakened a lot of people, even people who thought it was going to be the right thing.  I’m not really worried about all that.  All I can do is my part, continue to be a great mother, a role model, and do what is expected of me which is charity.  That’s just me.  My nickname is Mother Theresa.    I stay positive, even if the world isn’t.”

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America”.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

The Buddha, At Last

The Buddha & The Dream of America

The Buddha & The Dream of America, by James Hilgendorf

THE BUDDHA, AT LAST

The history of humanity has not yet begun.

Innumerable pages and volumes of stories from out of the past – individuals, cities, towns and lands – but not one true revelation of all people moving unified into a new dimension of being.

This is our inescapable destiny.

A great new spiritual revolution is required to move our present world into this new dimension. It only begins with a single individual transforming his or her life and mind at the core.

Is this possible?  Until now, it has never been even remotely possible.  An individual here, a group of people there, but on the broader scale of the whole of humanity, we have never witnessed such a thing before.

This is the challenge and potential.  This is the imminent possibility.

Here in America.  Bring forth the Buddha, at last.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

To arrange talks, either in person or via Skype video, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – 1% and 99%

Traveling to a New America.

Keith.  Law student in Berkeley, Ca.  From Tucson AZ .
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Traveling to a New AmericaKeith, what’s your take on America right now?

“It just seems like the elites, the blue bloods, social class, seem to be controlling it for themselves, amongst their constituencies, friends, and whatnot.  The Clintons are a prime example, that whole family, people that graduate from Harvard.  Or look at Trump, what he’s doing with his administration, like the Exxon Mobile guy now the Secretary of State.  Trump is just putting his billionaire buddies into positions of government.”

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

“Definitely worse off for the 99% of us.”

What will change all of this?

“I told this to one of my professors: You gotta hack all those people, like the world’s wealth, which is probably owned by 50 people.  So what you need to do is reverse that.  You just get the best hackers, and you return that 1% to the 99%.  That’s what I would do.  You distribute wealth evenly throughout the world.  I would hack Trump and the others and then just filter it back through all who need it throughout all the world.  It would be a big thing, but that’s what has to be done.  It has to be something on a drastic level for that change to happen. “

What’s going to change the division in our society?

“You just have to be more culturally diverse, learn as much as you can from others.  Everybody has bias, but you have to integrate.  Racism is a big problem.  If you get rid of racism, I think that would really help.”

How do you do that?

“I don’t know.  It’s a good question.  It’s so hard, especially in America, it’s so diverse, everybody has their own beliefs and customs and backgrounds, and they hold on to what they grew up with and what they have experienced in life.”

What would be your dream of a great America?

“I would just say more equal rights, maybe help out the women a little bit more, definitely help with poverty.  The criminal justice system is awful.  You have to reverse that too.  I just saw a speech by Jesse Jackson, he gave a speech about it.  He said the criminal justice system is ruled by corporate greed and fear.  Private prisons are a huge business.  We have the most people incarcerated in the world.  We probably have about three million people in prison, it’s a big business.  So you get a rural town, you build a prison there, and now the farmers and the people who used to be farmers now work for the prisons, and become employees.  And then they can generate income which can build them a better community, and now they have a Walmart in their town, and you keep on building on that .  It’s all privately controlled and it’s a huge business.  Some scholars came over to the U.S. and they were shown a couple prisons, and these British scholars asked, where are all the white people?  50% are African Americans, 20% are Latinos, so there’s a huge racial difference.  If a white man goes into court, he has a way better chance than a black man does.  Sounds awful, it should be equal, but that’s how it is.

“Living here two years now, it’s the complete opposite from Arizona and what I grew up with.  So many liberals here, and conservatives in Arizona, who don’t really get outside of their world, and I come here and it’s like I’m in China, or in Chinatown in San Francisco.  All my classmates are Asian, all my instructors are Asian, a lot of the people here are Asian or Indian.  Whites are the minority.”

What’s your dream?

“When I get older, I want to be a politician, or senator, and help as many people as I can.”

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A New Myth for AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.”

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America/The Greater Self

Donald Trump is trying to steer America into a small, walled-off world.  He is rapidly shutting off all doors to the future, to connections to a greater world and its people, and retreating into a fearful shell of protectionism that can only end in disaster.

There are eternal principles at work here.  No one – not a person, an organization, a religion, or even a nation – that puts up walls and boundaries to itself, excluding all around it that appears beyond its borders, can avoid essentially destroying its own growth and greatness.

Traveling to a New AmericaThe truth is that an individual partakes of the universe itself.  To recognize that, to push through the suffering that is entailed in growth into a new and larger dimension of being, is to take the path of compassion and courage.  It is to develop and grow in profound ways.  To stay in one’s own shell is to be forever relegated to the past, a diminishing of life itself.

Life is always seeking to grow, for the self to expand to the limits of the universe itself in compassion for all, to the recognition of oneself in others.

We have taken a dangerous turn in America.  We have given in to fear and are attempting to retreat into a walled-off, smaller self.  The world is on the same trajectory also.  Deeper and darker revelations are ahead.

But this is also the most promising of times.  This is a time of great awakening.  A new America is being born.

A new spiritual civilization, beyond even age-old dreams, beyond anything we have yet imagined, is struggling to be born.  It is here and now.  It grows from the wreckage of despair, of lost hope, of pollution, greed, injustice, hatred and war.

It is the compassionate heart of the universe itself coming to fruition and bloom.

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A New Myth for AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening a way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America”.  To follow his journey, follow his Facebook Page.

To arrange talks, contact the author.


Foreshadowings of Doomsday

An article appeared in the New Yorker magazine this week, focusing on the number of super-rich who are preparing themselves for a coming Armageddon or Doomsday, or simply a total meltdown in the social and political fabric of America.

Some of the wealthiest people in America, it writes – in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond – are getting ready for the crackup of civilization by buying into properties abroad or even multi-million dollar bunker-like condo projects in reconverted atomic warhead silos.

Actually, hoards of people preparing for the end-time are nothing new.  The “Left Behind” series of evangelical books have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.  Millions are expecting to be lifted out of their shoes at the end-moment of history.  Since Christianity began, and for the two millennia hence, people have pined for and prayed for the glorious denouement of our world.  For many Muslims, and indeed for the Islamic State arm of ISIS, Armageddon is something to be devoutly wished for, the end-time, with Jesus riding the clouds in glory and victory to dispense final justice to this sordid world.

And still, people are waiting.  They are still waiting.  This world does not seem to want to go away.

Things are certainly fracturing, growing more divided, hostile and angry.

A New Myth for AmericaOne statement by one of the super-rich interviewed in the New Yorker, struck me as insightful:

“When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos.”

Myths, or stories, are what sustain us.  What is the founding myth of America?

Evangelical Christians would have us believe it was Christianity, the vision of a City upon a Hill; but actually, this was never true.  Even President Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, held the institution of Christianity in some disdain.

No, if there was a vision and dream of this country, it was articulated most clearly and beautifully during the early American Renaissance, in the lives and writings of such people as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman.  The America they spoke of and dreamed of was still to be realized.  It was an America that reached far beyond the growing tide of commercialism and expansion that was even then beginning to dominate the life of the Republic.  It was a dream of great individuals, but of individuals as part of a larger spiritual reality, expressed in day-to-day living, yet connected to the cosmos, and to eternity itself.  It was a dream struggling for expression, struggling for revelation, a dream of justice.

Who are we?  Why are we here?

We want to know; but the old answers, the old myths are dying; and we find ourselves alone in a universe that continues to expand exponentially before our very eyes into inconceivable stretches of space and time.

The old America is dying.  Our President wants to make America great again, but the old America he envisions no longer exists; and to attempt to advance down a path towards a dead dream will lead only to disaster in the end.

But the greatest days of America are still ahead.

A new spiritual civilization, beyond even age-old dreams, beyond anything we have yet imagined, is struggling to be born.  It is here and now.  It grows from the wreckage of despair, of lost hope, of pollution, greed, injustice, hatred and war.

It is the compassionate heart of the universe itself coming to fruition and bloom.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact him directly.


The Dawning of a New America

Traveling to a New AmericaToday, Donald Trump is sworn in as the next President of the United States.  He has campaigned on the slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The America he, and millions of other Americans, are looking forward to is already buried deep and irrevocably in the past.  It is nowhere to be found.  It was a tarnished dream to begin with, born out of a false American dream, a dream, above all, of money and a false identity, of greed and the pursuit of unlimited, unbounded desires, that have polluted the air and oceans and rivers of our world, and sullied the serenity and pure waters of Walden Pond.

This is a great day.  This is a day for waking up, and stretching arms aloft into the morning sky.

Now the battle commences, the struggle for a truly great America. Not Trumpism, not twisted politics, not personal hubris, but the true dream of America, an awakening.

Let wisdom flow out upon this land.  Wisdom to fill the minds and hearts of the young people of America.

Youth!  Dream dreams that go beyond anything we have imagined up until now, dreams that rock the world, upend conventional wisdom, destroy the limits of possibility.  This is the mission of America.   It is a mission that has been buried in the muck and mud of nitty-gritty reality, divisions, self-centeredness, brutal politics and uncaring economics.

It is a mission that lies in our deepest collective self.  It is why we are here.

To bring this out, to express things never before given expression, to create a new world, a new civilization, to go beyond what it has meant to be a human being on this planet – this is our task.

It is awakening to a new myth of America – a great epic written each day by millions upon millions of simple lives, a chorus of overcoming, a rising paean to the human heart.

Inauguration Day, come and gone.  The dross of our Republic, the shadowy, false dream of America, come now to the fore, for all to see and witness, one final, ignoble time, to be finally swept away.

The new, true Dream now emerging.

The People are everything.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are paving the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  Currently, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.”

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – Santa Barbara, Ca. IANDS Talk

Santa Barbara IANDS Talk by James HilgendorfOn the evening of January 11, James Hilgendorf presented a one-hour talk to about 100 attendees at Unity of Santa Barbara, presented by the Santa Barbara Chapter of IANDS, the International Association of Near Death Studies.

The talk was titled “Waking Up To Who You Really Are”.  During the talk, he presented ideas from his own Buddhist background, as well as ideas and commentary from a wide array of famous people, including Arnold Toynbee, Joseph Campbell, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Kenneth Ring, Daisaku Ikeda, John Wheeler and others, in an attempt to stimulate reflection upon the nature of all our lives and our relationship to the universe around us, and to provide insights into the nature of happiness and of life and death itself.

The talk was one of many, on different subjects, in different venues, given along the way of “Traveling to a New America“, Hilgendorf’s travels and talks across the country, promoting a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books and a book of poetry.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way – Eduard

Traveling to a New America – People Along The Way
Eduard.  From Calexico, California.
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Traveling to a New AmericaEduard, you started by talking about common people.

“For the most part, I believe most working class people, for that matter even people who come from middle income background, have the same wants and needs in life, and that supersedes anything that goes on in politics or what we believe our divisions are here in the United States.

“Unfortunately politics gets in our heads way too easily, and it definitely clouds us from what’s real and what’s happening to us or the real problems in our community.  Sometimes, we, as Americans, try to see far away, try to look at other countries, but we have to self-reflect as well, really look at ourselves and really see where we’re at and from that moment how can we really advance and help everyone else as a community.”

There’s a lot of division in the country, what’s going to change that?

“Honestly, what would change it is people, people actually trying to talk to each other and help each other.  Creating a sense of community.  Unfortunately people today lack a sense of community.  Because of technology, or maybe because of the times, we’ve lost a sense of community, and that’s what we really need to advance I think. Ultimately, we’re a large community, that’s what the United States is, and that supercedes politics and anything else.”

What causes all this division?  What’s at the heart of it?

“Honestly – and I’ve been thinking about this for a very, very long time – for me the heart of it is putting our needs before our wants.  Not really seeing what we need as a person or a society, and seeing only what we want in the short term, not looking at the long term.  We can have wants, we can have desires and dreams and goals, but ultimately we have to look at what we really need as a human being, as our core selves, as a person, as a society, and once we fulfill that we can fulfill any other wants and desires. If we really had the long term view of how things work and everything else, we would really be respectful of ourselves and others around us.  Ultimately it really comes down to more self-reflection and caring for your fellow man.”

What would be your picture of a great America?

“We wouldn’t feel afraid to go and reach out to somebody else.  If we saw somebody on the street, and we just happen to want to strike a conversation, then there’s nothing that holds us back.  Another thing I would love is cleaner politics. I don’t know if that’s a realistic goal – politics that actually derives its opinions from the people, not from their representatives.”

What’s your dream?

“I just want everyone to be happy, honestly.  If I could have anything, it would be happiness for everybody.  Everybody has their ups and downs, everybody has their lows, everybody has their highs, but ultimately I just want everybody to be happy overall.”

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting and people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.”

To arrange talks, contact the author.