Monday, January 30, 2017

The Story of Fred Korematsu

An inspirational story of a civil rights leader: 

JANUARY 27, 2016

Challenger of World War II exclusion and confinement, Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu (1919-2005) dedicated his life to the civil rights crusade that would eventually earn him a Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is best known for his fight against the mass removal of Japanese Americans that resulted in a landmark Supreme Court case. But until his death in 2005, he also advocated for the civil liberties of other marginalized groups, including prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay after 9/11.

Fred Korematsu, c. 1940s.

Korematsu was born on January 30, 1919, to Japanese parents who ran a plant nursery in Oakland, California. He worked as a shipyard welder after graduating from high school until he lost his job after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was 22 when the U.S. plunged into war. On May 9, 1942, his parents and three brothers reported to the Tanforan Assembly Center, but Korematsu stayed behind with his Italian-American girlfriend. By then, the army had issued a series of exclusion orders that prohibited Japanese Americans from being inside Military Area No. 1. In an attempt to disguise his racial identity, he changed his name and had minor plastic surgery on his eyes to appear European American. His refusal to comply with the evacuation order led to his arrest on May 30, 1942.

While in jail, he was visited by Ernest Besig, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Korematsu agreed to become the subject of a test case to challenge the constitutionality of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 along with fellow resisters Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi. Although Besig paid Korematsu’s $5,000 bail, Korematsu was sent to Tanforan immediately after his release. After the federal district court in San Francisco found him guilty of violating military orders, his court case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944. The high court upheld the lower court’s ruling in a 6-3 vote. (See Korematsu vs. U.S.)

In the 1980s, legal historian and author Peter Irons filed a petition to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco to have Korematsu’s conviction overturned on the grounds that the Supreme Court had made its decision based on false information. Korematsu spoke at the courtroom and said, “As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing.” In November 1983, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel vacated Korematsu’s conviction and argued that the Korematsu case serves as a “caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability….”[1]

After the successful coram nobis petition, Korematsu continued to advocate for civil rights at countless colleges and law schools. In 1999, he received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honoBANENDr. After 9/11, he filed an amicus—or “friend of the court”—brief with the Supreme Court for two cases on behalf of Muslim inmates being held at Guantanamo Bay. He filed another amicus brief in 2004, citing similarities between the wrongful imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II and Muslims following 9/11. He passed away of respiratory illness on March 30, 2005.

On January 30, 2011, California held its first Fred Korematsu Day, the first day in the U.S. to be named after an Asian American, commemorating his lifetime of service defending the constitutional rights of Americans.

Fred’s legacy continues to live on through the work of his daughter, Karen, and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. Through educational programs and annual Fred Korematsu Day events, the Institute increases awareness of “one of the most blatant forms of racial profiling in U.S. history, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.” Karen Korematsu carries on her father’s legacy through continued engagement with contemporary civil rights issues. This year’s Korematsu Day celebration addresses the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment through the theme, Re(ad)dressing Racial Injustice: From Japanese American Incarceration to Anti-Muslim Bigotry. In the future, the Institute plans to lobby for a national commemorative holiday recognizing Fred Korematsu, who would be the first Asian American to have a national holiday, and to create a museum/library learning center.

In 2015, Lorraine K. Bannai, a member of the legal team that successfully challenged Fred Korematsu’s conviction, published Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice. George Takei endorsed the book—and Fred—saying, “A remarkable story of a man who stood up and spoke out in the same tradition of others in this country who have spoken out against oppression and discrimination…Fred Korematsu was an ordinary man who did extraordinary deeds and with that he made history.”

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Holy Friendship - Perspectives from Gautam Buddha and Guru Nanak

Buddha on the importance of friendship:

On one occasion the Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, came to the Buddha and said that in his view half the spiritual life revolves around spiritual friendship. The Buddha immediately corrected him and said, “Do not say this, Ananda! Do not say this, Ananda! Spiritual friendship is not half the spiritual life. It’s the entire spiritual life!” Then, with reference to himself, the Buddha added, “In this whole world, I am the supreme spiritual friend of living beings, because it is in dependence upon me, by relying upon me, that those who are subject to birth, old age, and death become liberated from birth, old age, and death.”

Guru Nanak on how to recognize a "holy person" (MacAuliffe's Chapter 11)

The Guru replied to a man called Kalu who had asked him for a definition of a holy man: 'Recognize him as holy in whom are to be found friend ship, sympathy, pleasure at the welfare of others, and dislike of evil company. In the first place, the intentions of holy men are pure. Secondly, they are pleased on hearing the praises of others. Thirdly, holy men serve the virtuous. Fourthly, they honour those who can impart to them learning and good counsel. Fifthly, as there is a periodical craving for food or intoxicants, so they feel a craving for the Guru's word and for divine knowledge. Sixthly, they love their wives, and renounce other women. Seventhly, they avoid subjects from which quarrels may arise. Eighthly, they serve those who are superior to themselves in intelligence or devotion. Ninthly, even if strong, they are not arrogant, and trample not on others. Tenthly, they abandon the society of the evil, and only associate with the holy.'

Alternative meaning for "Saranjaam Laag Bhavjal Taran Kai"

I'm researching "Sar-anjaam" which is used by Guru Arjan Dev in a poem, "Sar-anjaam Laag Bhavjal Taran Kai." While most translations say it means "getting ready," based on its classical usage the meaning is closer to end result/complete.  So the meaning of the line goes from "Get ready to cross the ocean of life" to "Complete Ocean Swim to" -- and so in addition with the first meaning, an alternative meaning of the line is "Complete yourself to swim the ocean of life."  And then "Saranjaam Laag" - "complete yourself" becomes a mantra by itself that can be meditated upon. This makes sense because it rhymes with several other phrases in the poem.  

Usage of Sar-Anjaam in Urdu poetry

I found this persian word was used by all the poets of Bahadur Shah Zafar's time: 

Usage of Saranjaam by Ghalib:

Har zarra-e-khaak-am ze to raqsaan ba-hawaa'e ast
Deewanagi-e-shauq sar anjaam na-daarad.

[Meri khaak ka har zarra tere ishq men raqsaan (naachtaa) hai.
Deewanagi-e-shauq ka sar anjaam (end) nahin hota.]

Usage of Saranjaam by Insha (Insha Allah Khan from Lucknow):

nādāñ kahāñ tarab kā sar-anjām aur ishq
kuchh bhī tujhe shu.ūr hai ārām aur ishq

Usage of Saranjaam by Meer Taqi Meer
Jo yeh dil hai to kya sar anjaam hoga

Also see Alternative meaning for "Saranjaam Laag Bhavjal Taran Kai"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I'm not disloyal enough to forget you - Jagjit Singh Rare Ghazal Translation

Aap ko bhool jaye hum, itne to hum bewafa nahin,
Aap se kya gila kare, Aap se kuch gila nahin

That I forget you, I am not that disloyal
What should I say, I don't have a complaint

Sheesha e dil todna, unka to ek khel hai
hum se hi bhool ho gayi, unki koi khata nahin.

To break the glass of heart is their play
It must be my mistake, I don't blame you

Kaash woh apne gum mujhe de de to kuch sukoon mile
woh kitna bad naseeb hai gum bhi jise gila nahin

Give me your woes so I am at peace
Those people are so unfortunate who don't have sorrows

Jurm hai agar wafa to kya, kyun main bewafa ko chod do
Kehte hai is gunah ki, hoti koi saza nahin

If loyalty is a crime, why should I leave the unfaithful
They say that there is no punishment for this crime

Hum to samajh rahe the ye, tum mile pyaar mil gayaa
Ik tere dard ke sivaa, humko to kuchh mila nahin

I thought if I found you I must have found love
Except your pain, I didn't get anything