Religion, politics, and income are three unspeakable subjects in America. We do not discuss them unless we share the same views with the person with whom we are speaking, or we are ready for an argument.
But what happens when politics degenerates into racism and hatred? Do we keep silent then? It seems that every time I check the news I hear some new vile, racist and sexist statement uttered by Presidential candidate Donald Trump. And yet, he and his racist supporters are somehow immune to condemnation because they shelter themselves under the pretense of politics. This is rubbish.
For me, politics refers to people's position on the role of government, like how we should protect the environment or people's rights. It's a question of how not if. Racism, sexism, or and kind of prejudice disguised as political positions is still racist, sexist, and prejudice; we do not need to respect people's hatred simply because it's their political views. Some views are better than others, and racism or sexism are abhorrent ones to hold.
The U.S. is in the grips of a divisive election, fueled by an enormous amount of anger, resentment, and outright hatred. I respect people's positions on how to govern--more government involvement or less--but I do not and will not tolerate discrimination or hatred.
Buddhism takes a very clear stance on discrimination: don't do it. The Buddha accepted people from all walks of life into the sangha--from the highest to the lowest caste, men, women, and even criminals. As an American, I extend the Buddha's position to all classes of people. All people are worthy of dignity and respect.
Currently, we have a candidate for President who is openly racist and prejudice against Muslims, Latinos, and the poor. This type of person, position, and behavior must be recognized for what it is--hateful. Disguising one's hatred under the wings of a political party, be it Republican or Democrat, does not absolve one from criticism. Racism is still racism, even if a political party condones or justifies it with political rhetoric.
The Five Mountain Zen Order, of which I am a member and monk, and the Original Mind Zen Sangha that I lead, do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. This is not a political position; it's an ethical one.
Challenge prejudice, racism, and sexism wherever and whenever you see them.