It's OK When They Say It

Sharlet: CNN may be global, but it sure sounds provincial this morning. I’m watching in the breakfast room of a Holiday Inn in Salida, Colorado, along with two young families and a couple of seniors. Next up: “A Buddhist monk” is going to explain his tradition’s response to the tsunami. Filled with respect, the room falls silent as pictures of a Sri Lankan temple in rubble fill the big screen TV. Kasra Najji reports on ruined Buddhist statuary of Buddha and… Lord Vishnu? That’s what he says. Now here’s the monk: The tsunami is “man’s fault,” he says. Nature has “turned against man” because of our “antagonist nature” and “immoral” lifestyles. What is to be done? “Live according to the intentions of Lord Buddha.” Only one senior makes the call: “Wrong,” she says. Indeed. Put aside the fact that CNN didn’t bother to point out the facts that this temple is presided over by the Hindu Lord Vishnu and concerned with what Lord Buddha “intended” for our lives — unorthodox Buddhism, to say the least — and you’re still left with the network’s orientalist approval for a reductionist, wrathful message it’d never stand for from an American fundamentalist who mouthed the same terms. Remember Jerry Falwell and 9/11?

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