All this change
About ten years ago I was in Tibet on a grant from the Durfee Foundation wandering about talking to young artists and qigong masters. While there, I came face to face with what it was like to live in a country where events—and what some might call “history”—had taken over the daily lives of the citizenry and changed the ethos and quality of life for Tibetans forever. The Chinese conquest of Tibet and the subsequent colonization and exploitation of the country seemed to threaten the very existence of the people, their religion, livelihoods, and the land itself. I was also privileged to experience many wonderful things in Tibet. For example, sitting with young artists secretly protesting the ravages of the Chinese occupation through works of art that could not be shown in public but were widely known and appreciated among loyal Tibetans.
I also witnessed the darker side of life. For example, I happened to be at a monastery when some young monks were rounded up, arrested, beaten, and taken away by the Chinese—perhaps never to be seen again. I myself spent an anxious fifteen minutes peering down the barrel of a machine pistol held on me by a Chinese soldier guarding a road on which important officials from Beijing were to travel the next day and which he was responsible for securing from “bad elements.” The Tibetans with me remained very calm, but we all broke out in perspiration and said silent prayers. After hearing our story the next day, monks made jokes about how we had just missed sky burial, the traditional Tibetan practice of “feeding” the remains of corpses to raptors in lieu of burial in the ground. There was the recognition of danger and oppression, and there was also a profound sense of humor to attempt some kind of balance in the face of it.
Most Tibetans, of course, are Buddhists and find great balance in their spiritual practices as well as in humor. One of the things Tibetans wanted me to take home with me was the message that Buddhism—and its recognition of the need to do as little harm as possible in this life—was alive and well high in the Himalayas. On numerous occasions monks and nuns told me how concerned they were for other sentient beings in America and elsewhere. They were not focusing on what many would regard as their own dire straits under Chinese rule, but on shining the light of their spirituality on the suffering of others. One day a group of very old monks at a monastery (which I do not wish to name even at this late date) greeted me—each of the forty or so octogenarian and older monks reciting mantras taking my hand and smiling into my eyes. Then the head monk presented me with a large bundle of juniper incense saying, “Please, take this back with you to all our Buddhist friends in America and tell them we are well and for them to have hope.” Later, sitting making dumplings and soup with monks I glimpsed portions of the monastery burned and desecrated by rampaging Chinese youth during the Cultural Revolution, and I could only guess at the horrors attending those events for those older monks I had just been with. I was awestruck by the resilience and happiness of the remaining monks—thousands were scattered or killed—who chatted and chanted as we worked on the evening meal.
Now, something akin to these changes in Tibetan life has come to America. We have not been occupied, but we have been invaded and viciously attacked and there is a serious threat to our diverse religious and spiritual orientations along with the panoply of freedoms so many of us had come to take for granted. We are told by our leaders that we are in a perpetual state of war against an enemy that is essentially invisible, and little hope is extended to us about when we are going to defeat this enemy. We are being shaken out of our comfortable lives and asked to alter our behaviors and our priorities in everything from travel and work to sports and politics. As Laura Bush so cogently reminds us, fear is reflected in the questions of small children she meets on the stump all over America. This fear is the new subtext of American life no matter how cleverly masked by bravado and ever more elaborate and expensive security measures. Something has to move into our individual and collective lives to balance all this change and the underlying fear created by our being party to a perpetual war.
During the Middle Ages the insane and politically undesirable were set adrift on ships of fools and not allowed to land at any port. As a French scholar put it, “these poor souls were thus placed in a state of perpetual embarkation.” Our problem is analogous, since being in a perpetual state of war we run the risk of putting our nation into a state of perpetual embarkation and thus at risk of a kind of national insanity—and possibly at risk of losing the most cherished of American democratic values.
Four things we can learn from the traumas of the Tibetan experience will stand us in good stead at a time like this. One is the need to keep seeking a sense of balance by cultivating an ecology of hope. Another is to never lose sight of the suffering of others and the importance of our role in alleviating that suffering. Then there is the need to maintain a deep sense of humor individually and collectively, or as artist Kenny Price put it, by recognizing that “you don’t have to act serious to be serious.” Lastly, we must discover how vitally important it is to try and do as little harm as possible with any and all of our actions. With these orientations all this change will not set us adrift on a twenty-first-century ship of fools.
Primary Election Voting Information
Absentee Voting in Person: Through June 1.
Absentee Voting by Mail: Must be received by the county by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
- June 4, 2002: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- General Election:
- November 5, 2002
For questions about voting and the election, please call the Sandoval County Bureau of
Elections at 867-7574, 867-7511, or 1-800-989-2124.
Candidates in June 4 primary
Rudy E. Casaus,
Lewis M. Gonzales,
Harry James Holbrook,
Henry P. Pacelli
Tom Garcia, Jr.
Arthur H. Montoya
Richard A. Sisneros
John Paul Trujillo
Karl R. Wiese
Robert L. Allen
Bert W. DeLara
Pete David Salazar
Terry E. Kopcak
Donald B. Lemm
David L. Bency
Eliot P. Gould
Fred Kenneth Eichwald
Dwight E. Thompson
Thomas E. Swisstack
Marsha C. Atkin
JoAnn B. Anders
Thomas A. Anderson
Richard Lee Faulkner
William W. Fuller
James Roger Madalena
Susan Pauline Anaya
Miguel P. Garcia
Clara A. Pena
Jerry J. Sanchez
Steven P. Archibeque
Thomas C. Montoya
Bill B. O’Neil
Teresa A. Zanetti
Edward C. Sandoval
Robert S. McGuire
Randy D. Dabbs
For further voting information, please call 867-7511, 867-7574, or 1-800-898-2124
The election process—convenient and simple
Sandoval County Commission Chairman
Take a look right here at home for convincing reminders of the power of individual votes. Just a few weeks ago, separate city and town council elections in Sandoval County’s newest and oldest communities were so tight that ultimate outcomes were decided by mere handfuls of voters.
Voting is a right and an obligation. It is one of the most effective and easiest ways we can make a difference in our communities and nation. Voting also is one of the most convenient ways for residents to take part in their government.
But time is short. If you haven’t registered to vote, act before the May 7 deadline to register in time to vote in the June 4 primary election. The registration process is quick and simple. Call the county’s bureau of elections at 867-7577 for more information. Once registered, you can cast your ballot for a variety of candidates for congressional, state, and county offices.
This year, Sandoval County residents can select from a range of user-friendly options to make selections on the ballot and still avoid Election Day lines. In fact, you can now make your voice heard without leaving home.
Even though the actual primary election is still weeks away, Sandoval County has begun both absentee and early voting to make the election process more convenient and, hopefully, attract larger numbers of voters. Absentee and early voting, both by mail and in person, began on April 25. The processes will continue by mail through May 30 or in person at the county courthouse in Bernalillo through June 1.
To request an absentee ballot, call the county’s Bureau of Elections at 867-7577 or stop by the office on the second floor of the courthouse and an application will be mailed to you. Once an application is completed and returned to the office, a ballot will be provided on which voters can mark their selections and return to the county.
The process is so simple that residents wishing to vote by absentee ballot can make their request, sign the application, and then cast their ballots all in a matter of minutes, or, if they wish, return the ballot by mail. In order to be counted, however, the mail-in ballot must be received by the county no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, June 4.
If you wish to vote absentee or early in person, convenient electronic voting machines will be located in the county courthouse through June 1. Paper ballots also will be available for you to mark if you prefer the more traditional, written approach.
The final option favored by many voters is to wait until Election Day and go to neighborhood polling places. If you wish to wait until Election Day, remember that polls will be open on June 4 from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Sandoval County’s senior and community centers will be organizing field trips to the county courthouse to assist residents who wish to personally apply for early or absentee ballots, rather than request an absentee ballot by mail. The organized field trips are fun and practical outings that voters have enjoyed using in past elections.
The freedom to vote is a privilege assured by our democratic form of government. As citizens, it is not only our privilege but also our responsibility to make certain our voices are heard by means of the election process. Take the time to study the issues and candidates. Then vote—either by early or absentee ballot or on Election Day, Tuesday, June 4.
Questions and comments for Commissioner Johnson may be mailed to her in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P. O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.