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Lions Roar : September 2019
Silence filled our hearts, our homes, our community so... * We came back to let you know that we will not forget you. We came back to drum our message loud and clear. We came back to hang paper cranes of hope and caring. * We didn’t know there would be a healing for us. We didn’t know that you would cry listening to our stories. We didn’t know that the power of our shared voices would be like shards ripping away the scabs of silence. We didn’t know that the small act of folding a paper crane would speak to so many people in our community. * In protest we chanted, we raised our fists, we sang in Spanish, “De colores.” We held hands, we sang in Japanese, “Kutsu ga Naru.” We sang for our grandmothers and grandfathers, We sang for our mothers and fathers, And we sang for you. And in return you reached into your brown paper bag and tied a string bracelet to my wrist, You pushed a tortilla through the chain-link fence, You welcomed us wearing ties and hats, You even saved a rock from the old swimming pool, placed it in my hand, saying You had been waiting years for me to come back. Your big brown eyes stared up at me as tears welled up in mine. Little child, you are me. I am you. We will not forget you. We will not be silent. We will come back for you. And we will bring others until you are free! Confessions of a Marxist Buddhist For a long time, DOROTEA MENDOZA hid her Marxism from her fellow Buddhists and her Buddhism from her activist comrades. Finally, as the dialecticians say, she resolved the contradiction. “I’M A MARXIST,” I blurted out in front of a group of Buddhists. We were gathered one Monday evening in New York for the Buddhist Action Coalition’s monthly meeting. I don’t remember the specific context. It may have been a discussion on finding a sustainable direction in our work, or maybe a deliberation on a dharma–political theory study group. After the meeting, one of the Buddhist teachers in atten- dance came up to me and said, “That was the best part of the meeting.” We both chuckled. He and I have had spontaneous dialogues on socioeconomic theories, Marxism in particular, but those had been one-on-one conversations. This declaration was public, and was my first amidst fellow Buddhists. It was a significant moment. I was out of the closet. I’d kept my Marxism hidden from my fellow Buddhists, as I’d kept my Buddhism hidden from my fellow activists. In the 1990s and early 2000s, in my political and organizing work, in the activist circles I traveled in, I’d kept my Zen prac- tice secret. The ideas of compassion, openness, loving-kindness seemed incompatible with the revolutionary, radical, materialist ideological foundation I’d been cultivating with my comrades. Not to mention sitting meditation, walking meditation, and silence. Are you kidding me? We speak with a bullhorn. We move hard and fast, with might. There is urgency. People are dying... Once, when I signed off “Peace and love” in a correspon- dence to an organization working with political prisoners in the U.S., the reply came with a corrected salutation of “Peace, love, and IN RAGE” (yes, in caps). In the handful of times I managed to go on silent retreats in Upstate New York, I stuck to the idea of silence and kept mum about it. One time I missed several phone calls (email wasn’t en vogue yet) about critical international mobilizations against then- Philippine president Fidel Ramos. Two college students in the Philippines had just been killed in a counter-insurgency raid by the military. A human rights lawyer shot and killed. A journalist shot and killed. Take to the streets. Lightning rallies in front of the Philippine Consulate on 5th Avenue. “Where were you?” I was on a weekend silent retreat, I confided to a friend. “Why?” she said. “Woman, you’ve been silenced long enough.” Obviously, she and I were talking about two different kinds of silence. Hers was the silence of oppres- sion. Mine was a silence that allowed for deep listening. I couldn’t explain this to her. Back then I had neither the words nor the courage to articulate any of this. Don’t get me wrong—these comrades were not cold-hearted, loveless people incapable of gentleness. Nor were they ignorant of Zen Buddhism. They were magnanimous and well-studied in Eastern, Western, and Indigenous philosophies and histories. My base organization back then was a Philippine–U.S. women’s CELEBRATING YEARS LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 71