What’s in a name? If you’d asked the citizens of Lemig, Vermont a week ago what makes Mayor Ronald Green qualified for the job of running their fair city, you’d have gotten a host of replies: He’s “trustworthy.” He’s of “old Lemig blood.” But ask them today, and there’s a distinct change in tone: “Ronald Who?” “You must mean ‘the Buddha.’” “That guy ain’t right in the head.”
The Mayor Formerly Known as Ronald Green understands their confusion. “I remember when Kareem did it,” he says, referencing the name-change undertaken by one of professional basketball’s greatest all-time players. “People thought he was nuts. But he persevered, and he let his new name take him where he wanted to go. And that’s what my new name is all about.” That new name, made legal last week? “Shakyamuni Buddha.”
Townspeople are divided about their newly-minted Mayor Buddha, who seems to have equal numbers of detractors and supporters. “I think he calls himself ‘Buddha’ because he smokes so much of the stuff,” says twenty-one-year-old Carmen Berger. “It’s good to have someone in office I can relate to,” she giggles.
The Mayor, for his part, would like to dispel such notions. “I’m here for the people of Lemig,” he says. “I don’t see how my drug use is relevant here.”
“I like him,” says Florence Moore, a resident of Big Circle, a local housing development for retirees. “Such a gentle soul.” Moore says the Mayor can count on her vote if he runs again.
“I intend to,” says Mayor Buddha. “There’s lots to do.” Taking his cue from no less than the country of Bhutan, which emphasizes “Gross National Happiness” over product, the 43-year-old mayor hopes to instill his citizens with values he’s learned in his study of Buddhism, which he’s both discovered and become increasingly more active with in just the past three months. If he has his way, training in meditation and compassion will be compulsory, and townsfolk will be encouraged to give away most of their belongings, just like the Mayor himself right before the name change.
The Mayor, a simple man, has scaled his life down across the board, keeping only necessities. He’s even made his office a spartan (or perhaps “Zen”) setting, doing away with traditional office furnishings in lieu of floor cushions and issuing fines to anyone who dares bring wasteful water bottles into his eyesight. (“I own one single cup, and I use it all day, for water, for coffee, for whatever. I don’t see why others can’t do the same.”) His one indulgence is a new cherry-red convertible. “I like to connect with nature,” he explains.
But politics can be rough going even in sleepy little Northeastern towns, and some Lemigians aren’t convinced. “He’s what, forty? Forty-five?” asks chief mechanic Randy Caws of Caws European Motors. “Last time I checked that was, um, mid-life, if you get my drift.”