November 09, 2012
As we all know, President Barack Obama was re-elected for another four years on Tuesday. Our commander-in-chief may not have changed, but the Senate and the House of Representatives did get shuffled around, making way for a whole host of firsts:
The first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin, a democrat from Wisconsin.
The first Hindu congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, a democrat from Hawaii. (She'll be taking her oath over the Bhagavad Gita.)
And the first Buddhist senator, Mazie Hirono, a democrat from Hawaii! She is also the first Asian American female senator and the first person who was born in Japan to be elected to the Senate.
Hirono, 65, was born in Fukushima and moved to Hawaii when she was 8. She will be replacing Daniel Akaka, Hawaii's 88-year-old junior senator who was the Senate's only Chinese American. Although there have been five Asian American senators in the past—four have been from Hawaii, and one from California—Hirono is the first representative to have been born in Asia. Hirono was raised in the Jodo Shinshu school of Pure Land Buddhism, but does not identify herself as a daily practitioner.
Our two other Buddhist congressional representatives, Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, and Colleen Hanabusa, a democrat from Hawaii, both won re-election on Tuesday. Johnson is a member of Soka Gakkai and Hanabusa practices Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Congratulations to all of our new and returning dharma Congresspeople!
As the dharma slowly trickles into American politics, it's making speedier rounds in American pop culture. The latest Buddhist reference was in the preview clip of the third season of Portlandia, a sketch comedy show that proudly mocks the indie/hipster/vegan/spiritual/artsy culture best exemplified by Portland's own population. You'll enjoy this if you've ever been sitting on a cushion pretending to follow your breath while what you're really doing is planning your wedding with the cute stranger on the adjacent cushion. C'mon, we've all done it...
In other Buddhist news this week, radical Buddhist groups in Burma are still preventing aid from reaching the Rohingya, who are living in camps with widespread malnutrition and malaria. The Dalai Lama was also recently interviewed by NBC's Ann Curry about the self-immolations that continue to occur across Tibet.