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Seventh-Inning Koan

The small mountainous state of Tibet was invaded by China in 1950 and remains occupied by its more powerful neighbor. Led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetan refugees have maintained a government in exile based in India for nearly 60 years. Now, with the 2008 Olympic Games set for Beijing, Tibetans are urging  that China be forced to comply with a pledge it made to the International Olympic Committee to improve its record on human rights. They’ve also assembled a group of Tibetan athletes in exile and have asked the International Olympic Committee to allow “Team Tibet” to participate in the 2008 games. In the United States, Tibetans are taking their message to where sports fans reside during these sweltering summer months: America’s baseball stadiums.

On Aug. 4, Tibetan protesters attended Major League Baseball games in 11 cities to urge fans to help “make the 2008 Games a catalyst for change in China and Tibet.” But these were no ordinary demonstrations. They were planned deliberately in advance to accord with Buddhist values of “compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.” This is spelled out in an 11-page training and procedures manual written by event organizers (see below and on the following 10 pages).

The manual instructs protesters to interact “respectfully” with excitable baseball fans (Page 6): “Most of us … have been confronted with someone who seems to be perpetually negative … here are eight ways to deal.”  Rudeness in the bleachers? “[I]nstead of zinging off the first thing that comes to mind … count saliently to ten … step back mentally and create some space between you and your angry/negative person” (Page 6). It also helps to explain in advance what you’re up to: “We are going to be holding up a banner, but out of respect for your enjoyment of the game, we will only be doing it between innings” (Page 11). And try not to abet littering. On its “Magical List of ‘Do Not’ ” (Page 5), the training booklet instructs, “DO NOT leave literature strewn about the ground. (People will probably throw it on the ground after you hand it to them. Please kindly pick up as much as possible before you leave!)”

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