As a queer guy who recalls the days when the idea of “morality” was used by the religious right against queer folks starting with Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”. This ownership of the ideas of morality by the religious right continues to this day. At least it use to be so. Thanks to Dr. William Barber and his reinvigoration of the MLK Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign and adding the label of “A National Call for a Moral Revival”. Dr. Barber includes us queer folks as part of the owners of the revived morality.
This got me contemplating what this morality means for me as a queer, white, disabled, poor, educated US citizen? What is it to be committed to the morality of liberation? What does it mean in light of “saving all beings”?
I started with a list of what it is, I believe, a moral obligation in no particular order:
- Housing, Healthcare, Food and clean water are rights that must be protected and provided on a federal level. They should always be free of profit making.
- Access to and equality of every level of education is a right that must be provided for and protected on a federal level. Everyone should have access to higher education without the burden of unending debt.
- No one needs or should have billions of dollars if anyone is homeless, or living in poverty.
- We live on stolen land gained through genocide. No one is illegal on Stolen Land. Immigration and citizenship must be available to everyone.
- Racism is real and reverse racism is not. We must end systems of oppression and dehumanization
- No citizen should be bared from voting for any reason.
- Sexism and the patriarchy are real. Women are in charge of their bodies always. Body autonomy extends to freedom from harrasement, body shaming, slut shaming, and other forms of violence against women
- Gender is a construct, and decided by the person, not government. All beings deserve to be affirmed in their gender expression. Proper pronoun usage is merely a start.
- Sensible Gun laws are necessary to keep everyone safe.
- Criminal Justice and Judicial reform begins with ending profit making on the backs of others and ends when true justice is achieved for all. An end to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
- True drug law, addiction and mental health services reform that provides the right services for all regardless or circumstance to be protected, safe and cared for.
- Corporations are not people. Workers must be protected with living wages and reasonable accommodations.
- True political and election reform must include an end to hidden money, influences and/or lobbying. All laws must apply to leaders as well as constituents and we must guard the ability for anyone regardless of financial resources should be able to run for and be elected to office based on their ideas and not on resources. Term limits for all congressional members equal to no more than 3 terms.
- Everyone is free to form relationships and families in whatever ways work for them. An end to government involvement in personal relationship and body autonomy.
I feel that this is the start of a much needed conversation. The opening of truly living up to what it is we mean when we say American Dream. It is not a matter of political difference or even a difference of opinion. This is a moral necessity. We are currently living in a time not of difference of opinions or difference of policies but difference in morality. I am done arguing about, or defending morality. If you want to claim the moral high ground, then actually stand on the moral high ground. Your religion does not get to decide morality, nor anyone’s humanity. If we really want to find liberation, we must begin to understand that it only is experienced by moral activity.
Buddhism defines three parts of liberatory practice, Sila (moral activity), Samadhi (mindfulness) and Prajna (wisdom). We in the United States often focus on mindfulness practice and give only glancing blows at Sila and Prajna. This is of course not true of all lineages/traditions, nor is it not changing. I see more teachings regarding what it means to engage in moral activity, and it’s not just “engaged” Buddhisms, but more broadly. I can only encourage this action. Sitting meditation for 30 years, doesn’t have the transformative power of sitting 30 years, while also spending 30 years studying Buddhism, and also practicing moral activity. Being successful navigating institutional systems, doesn’t make you a teacher. Particularly if those institutional systems are perpetuating systems of oppression.
When we take our time on the cushion, our search for moral activity, and include the study of Dharma practically and academically; mixing it all into our lives… Hopefully we start to learn how to stand in our embodied location. We stand in our place, at each moment, and respond to what arrives appropriately. Liberation (enlightenment) becomes a verb that is practiced in each moment, from our being-timeness.