Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fort Wayne: Buddhist Hotspot

I love learning new facts about my diverse country. Who would have guessed that Ft. Wayne, Indiana has the largest concentration of Burmese refugees in the country? Interesting.

Fort Wayne, a city of 248,000 people and 606 Christian churches, is in the midst of a Buddhist temple boom. Southeast Asians have opened six temples here in the last seven years, including one for Laotians, two for Burmese and two for Mon, another Burmese ethnic group.

As you might expect, this being America and all, things are going to take a turn for the worse.

On religious holidays, hundreds of Buddhists park on two-lane Sylvia Street, blocking driveways and ripping up yards with their tires. A neighbor, Anna MacDougal, has complained to the police and zoning inspectors, to no avail, she said. At times she has paid tow truck drivers to take cars away.

Temple leaders, acutely aware of the parking problem but oblivious to Americans’ love for grass, converted the front lawn into a parking lot and covered it with gravel.

I wouldn't be real happy if one of my neighbors starting holding religious services in a home -- particularly if it involved dozens of cars blocking access to my garage, or leaving ruts in my yard.

However, this person takes it a bit too far:

“I was appalled,” said Donna Davis, 56, a medical assistant who lives next door. “If they want to live here, why can’t they start acting like Americans?”

Perhaps Ms. Davis would like to come see the American who lives behind me and has turned his yard into a junk collection facility, and plays his stereo so loud I can hear it in my house. I really wish he'd start acting more Buddhist. But whatever..

“I can’t stand them,” said another neighbor, Kelli Lawson, 33, who says she is uncomfortable with many aspects of Buddhist life. “It’s strange to us, so we don’t like it.”


Lay Buddhists say they generally feel comfortable in Fort Wayne. But Venerable Devananda says he gets nervous eating breakfast at the Golden Corral, his favorite restaurant. “I don’t feel comfortable going out in public in my robes because people point and laugh at me,” he said.

Why must Americans behave like 7-year-old children? (I'm trying really hard not to use the term "stupid" here.)

Jesus wore robes, didn't he?

Perhaps it's time for America to have a new national motto:

If it's strange, we hate it.

No comments: