|Truman displays post-election newspaper
After Truman returned victorious to Washington in the wake of a grueling whistle-stop campaign, The Washington Post, in an adult acknowledgment of how wrong it had been, posted a sign outside it's offices: "Mr. President, we are ready to eat crow whenever you are ready to serve it."
These days, of course, it is more common to camouflage or 'spin' mistakes in public. Straight out admissions that might clear the air are tucked away in self-serving closets as if being wrong were not acceptable or even conceivable in human affairs. It's as ludicrous and callous as it is common.
Today -- Valentine's Day -- the Shimano Archive published the response by Zen Studies Society to a $2 million-plus lawsuit filed by Eido Shimano, the one-time director of the society and former abbot of Dai Bosatsu Monastery and the Shobo Ji Zen temple in New York. ZSS is the umbrella agency for both centers. The response, on the face of it, is a powerful repudiation of the exalted status both claimed by Eido Shimano and acceded to by many supporters in the past.
And whatever may come of the suit, still I think it is a good time for reflection by those who have been embroiled in Shimano's longtime sociopathy. There have been arguments and vilifications and panderings and threats and tears and coverups and citings of holy texts and namby-pamby analyses galore ... for years and years and years. Not least since the Shimano Archive got off the ground in 2008. And now, at last, the matter seems to be out in the open, in the New York State Supreme Court.
The very same archive from which ZSS today draws its legal strength. ZSS ... the institution that once discounted and derided Kobutsu's efforts... with a lot of help from other organizations and individuals who had a position and status and livelihood to defend. "Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water," they wheedled winningly. "Let's keep our eyes on the unfathomable wonders of Zen Buddhism," "Let's not be distracted by attachments and other delusions." Implicitly and explicitly Kobutsu Malone was demonized as too extreme, too uncaring, too broad-brush, too willing to bring the house of elevated cards down.
And now his work is the very work on which his detractors are legally forced to rely in the New York Supreme Court.
Kobutsu did not do his work in a vacuum. He could not have done what he has done without the help of a lot of other people. Some of them were ashamed and did not want to admit their shame. Some were looking to address the decades of abuse without conceding their own complicity. Some were maneuvering to keep their good name. Robert Aitken Roshi, a man who was likewise sullied in the Shimano affairm, summoned up his courage before he died and released hundreds of documents that had previously been kept under lock and key. But there were less-visible players as well, each with a small and sometimes painful story to tell ... a story kept hidden, as often as not, for decades.
Kobutsu did not do his work alone, but he served as a lightning rod and as a collector of data. Had he not done so, would something called Zen Buddhism be better off? I sincerely doubt it. Kobutsu is my friend so I will not demean him by calling him a hero -- that namby-pamby word used by those who have never seen action -- but I see no reason not to suggest that without him, the shame that is being brought to light would be excruciatingly and exquisitely more painful.
After his election victory, Harry Truman "was invited to a banquet of political reporters, editors, pollsters, radio commentators and columnists. The main course was to consist of breast of crow glace. The Democratic National Committee offered to furnish the tooth picks."
But of course that was an earlier -- and more adult -- time.
Kobutsu is unlikely to ask anyone to eat crow. But those who deserve such a banquet could do worse than eating what's on the plate in front of them.
Given his generosity and his love of wood, Kobutsu might be willing to supply the toothpicks.