Letter to Danny Nagashima

 
  3/20/00  
 

Danny,

I have hesitated to write to you since you called my home and spoke to my wife in December. However, now I've decided to do so. What was the purpose of your call? You knew that I had been dismissed prior to calling my home. What was going through your mind when you said to my wife something like: "Phil and Alma, so wonderful, such a happy life". You called both Stan and myself during the daytime while we both were at work, at the request of some other concerned members, not out of your own volition. Did you think I would suddenly forget about all that has been happening to us over the last few years, now that you are the new General Director and you announced a new departure? Well, Danny, I must speak up candidly to you about your behavior. I might just as well have said you are charlatan or some other expression and leave it at that. But in any case I'll elaborate and say it in words that are not as terse.

It was about 2 or 3 years ago when you met with Stan and Mary and you conveniently turned your back on your "brother" when he was being attacked, that I lost my respect for you. I was enraged. Stan and I have protected the organization and the members for 30 years. We rebuilt the organization and fought behind the scenes against slander and abuse together with you and Mr. Kasahara during the 1980's. Stan was stabbed in the chest protecting the members from a drug addict. He almost lost his life. For how many years did we risk our lives visiting friends in dangerous neighborhoods nightly, where even police refused to go? We did it not to boast our own greatness, but to score a victory for the Law and the people, showing that nothing could stop us from supporting a friend in need. We took an oath together as Sensei's Justice TCD. Have you forgotten your pledge? We would have stood up for you or Mr. Kasahara or anyone else if they were unjustly attacked or mistreated by anyone. In fact we've done exactly that in the past.

Now it's the other way around. In our case where lies and malicious rumors were being spread simply because Stan and myself stood up to protect the members against such irresponsible and despicable behavior of some of our leaders, you all turned your backs on us. The only thing you did was to politely ask Jim to please make Stan a leader, while his reputation was being ruined by lies. You stood by while he was being unfairly treated and you didn't even try to clear his name. Hasn't Sensei continuously admonished us to speak out for our comrades when they are being abused? What about his guidance using the example of the Dreyfus affair where an innocent man was falsely accused and imprisoned and people just looked the other way? Didn't Sensei say that it is spiritual death if we can no longer speak out and defend someone who is falsely accused? But you did not even try to speak out and defend Stan. You weren't even outraged. And when it happened to me, you never even called to hear my perspective on what was happening. For the past 3 years that Stan and Mary had been suffering such outrageous indignities, you never even called. Even after Mr. Kasahara and Jim Corwin made a public apology to Stan and Mary at the Culture Center in front of all the members, still you didn't call. The next time you came to New York, you had someone else call Stan. And then when Jim and Mr. Kasahara broke their promises, again you did not call to find out what was going on. Don't pretend you didn't know. We're not fools. Then when Alma was having dinner with Mr. Kasahara and she said to him that a friend is someone who you stand up for if he is being abused, with that he got up and stormed out of the restaurant in the middle of the meal. Later that night, I got a call dismissing me from my position. You never even had the consideration to call to find out what was happening to us. You haven't called me for years. So recently, right after you were appointed General Director you called and spoke to Alma. She tried to mention to you something about the current injustices in New York. You just acted dumbfounded and were totally unreceptive. The next week she was dismissed from her position by certified letter. 

The way you treated me and Stan was lower than dogs, like we had the plague. Are we just a bunch of stupid American rabble to you, dispensable fools? Imagine all that we went through, you calling us your comrades and brother. You are a man of big words with an empty heart, for it is obvious if you would have stood up for us, this would have caused you great problems and probably that conflict would have cost you your current position as General Director, for you would have had to fight against many of your fellow top leaders who are supporting you now. But you made your choice based on the perception of the greatness of your mission. How arrogant of you to sell out your friends to the principle of self-protection. You forgot about Sensei's principle of standing up for a person of justice and standing beside your friends first. Putting the organization and its leaders above such a principle means that you hold human life cheap. It's your choice. But you should have trusted this principle for this is the basis of your humanity and the test of those who truly stand alone no matter what the odds. Sensei said: "Friendship is strong. Friendship, camaraderie and unity in faith lie at the heart of the SGI. They come before the organization. We must never make the mistake of thinking that it is the other way around. The organization serves as a means for deepening friendship, comradeship and faith. To confuse the means and the end is a terrible mistake."

Now you have the nerve to deliver all these fine sounding guidance's where you tell us to build a new SGI, apologizing for the mistakes of the past in your New Years message, as if they occurred long ago. Your statements about addressing authoritarian and abusive behavior in the organization amounts to mere lip service when it's happening today and being swept under the rug. When pure hearted people are dismissed and their reputations are shattered by lies, your apology and your words have no substance. Who are you apologizing for, when you yourself step over the bodies of sincere people, apologize and expect all to be forgotten.You let us look like traitors when we are fighting for kosen-rufu on our own soil. Such behavior of yours is treacherous and against the very founding documents of America which cherishes the rights of the individual first and foremost as the basis of unity, not the other way around. What kind of a new SGI are you building when you would have people who fought for justice and protected this organization with their lives be trashed, ruined and demonized. You have taken supporting the central figure out of context to maintain unity. What you are talking about is face saving behavior of the leaders, which is just another name for authoritarianism. It is keeping the people subservient through fear and censorship, which is the Japanese cultural mentality, which has nothing to do with True Buddhism or America. It would be best if you step down and become a member again and learn about how we cherish the individual. But the only thing for a leader of your status and influence to do now is to reform these unhealthy face saving organizational structures right away as we wrote about in our "Victorious America" paper. That is the reason that we are being persecuted today. You have an opportunity to help make the change to a true "checks and balances" system where the people are empowered to hold their leaders directly accountable for their actions as outlined in the last 4 pages of our paper. Whether you choose to pursue this path or not, its outcome is inevitable. The people will ultimately be empowered and these injustices will be exposed. How can we call the SGI a true people's movement when sincere people are discarded, leaders actions are covered up and the members are not empowered to remove their leaders or inquire into their actions when necessary? In any system that works like this and distorts the concepts of unity, supporting the central figure etc, to accomplish its ends, the individual is always sacrificed. When we look at the Nikken sect, the Roman Catholic Church (even they are changing) or other hierarchical mind controlling cults that suppress the people and the leaders are made omnipotent, we can see the same type of system in effect. Why does the SGI have to follow the lead of these authoritarian organizations when we protect the teachings of the True Buddha? As people realize the truth, their cries for justice and change will grow louder. It's up to you whether you choose to hear their voices or continue to protect and uphold an antiquated and harmful structure. But if you do not take action to directly empower the people to make the leaders accountable, then the future honor of the SGI rests upon your shoulders.

Finally, you mentioned in your new years message that we should speak up in a respectful way. But your actions of ostracizing, demonizing and turning your back on friends is not even worthy of respect. Therefore you do not have the right do tell us or judge how we should respond. We will not stop until these actions have been uncovered and the necessary changes are made to protect the organization from corruption within.

Phil Orenstein

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