STAN ZIR'S EXPERIENCE
PAGE OF COURAGE BACK
THE REASON FOR INSISTING ON THE FORMATION OF THE GRASSROOTS AS PART OF THE PUBLIC APOLOGY
My thoughts the night before going into the meeting:
The formation of the grassroots committee was inevitable. To understand why there was no alternative to forming this committee and to clear the names of the people who were instrumental in its implementation, it is unfortunately necessary to give a short review the events that eventually culminated in a conference in the kaikan. So there can be no mistake why we insisted upon a formation of the grassroots committee along with an apology public apologies at the kiakon to the members in general to be more open especially after they go to Japan to see President Ikeda or after he comes to New York. With great determination but they always return to the same pattern of behavior over and over Now for the first time that I remember they had to make a public apology to tow members directly in public and admit there wrong doing. This is how serious the situation had become. Now was the chance to put something in place that was more than just a show of their great humility. We needed it to happen in public at the cultural center so are names would be cleared in front of all the members and if they broke their promise again it would be on record for it was made in public not behind so closed doors where we would have never been believed especially]y after our experience with Jim Corwim.
Among those that would attend were Mr. Kasahara, Jim Corwin, Stan Zir, Frank Kearney and Mrs. Mary Zir to discuss the conditions that would not only clear the name of Stan Zir, whose Mary Zir who’s reputations was tarnished by a vicious rumors that was spread and what was worse was not stopped because the leader gave no credence to a sincere member’s report to the contrary. This member who witnessed the event was greeted with the humiliating response, “If that’s how you feel”, and even paid no heed to other senior leaders who told him that it wasn’t true. He did not have anyone to hold him accountable. a behavior he displayed throughout the past two years I dealt with him as was reported prior in the report Jim Corwin cleared himself from any sense of responsibility by not verifying the facts. But he took the liberty of believing the report when he first heard it, from his senior and chose not to check out reports of any subordinate leaders or members when they had the nerve to request it, and when he denied them this request and they protested, he labeled them as troublemakers this is how he interpreted his position and authority as a leader.
Now this rumor spread throughout the territory making members and leaders alike believe it to be true. They all gained credence and now other rumors were spreading. When Mary Zir protested, she was portrayed as a crazed woman and her reputation was ruined. Then members started writing letters and calling on the phone to protest. They were told, “This is not your business, and we will take care of it.” Finally, in an attempt to restore Mr. Zir’s good reputation, Mary and other friends who believed her, started to speak up. They were all met with a wall of dogma and denial. Now she was painted as not only as a mad woman because she protested so vehemently against such injustice. but breaking unity When the members found out because they wanted to know why Stan was not being appointed. It could not be hidden any longer and when some member try to find out and were from the leaders and were stonewalled they protested they and were Told to stay out of it or they the members would be causing disunity of the believers can you believe HOW OUTRAGEOUS THIS IS and the members bought into it except for a courageous few. Eventually all were told stay out of it and Stan and Mary and we were branded troublemakers.
Then finally, the last desperate effort to crush Stan and Mary’s character, as well as to cover up their irresponsible behavior, they claimed our actions of protest were causing disunity among the members. The leaders used unity to now demonize us as evil. Now the members naturally just believed the leaders for all were united in this story. They turned against Stan and Mary and joined in the belief that they were causing disunity and also protested some self-serving interest because of Stan’s dismissal. Now unity was used as a tool to crush the individual if they dare speak out ~ something was wrong. Now the individual members could justify their inaction to stand by a fellow member because it would cause disunity. Is this really the ideal of Buddhist unity? Is it possible that the gosho can be used to accuse people who demand their fundamental right to hold leaders accountable when they act irresponsibly and immorally towards the members to persecute them and claim they are breaking unity That was the tactic the leaders used to cover up there actions they used the gosho saying we were attacking leaders who practiced the law therefore we were slanders Yet it was it was ok for those leaders to slander us through giving false information and lying to the members intimidating the members who were trying to find out the truth Now what can you say about leaders who use the very teaching of Nichiren Daishonin to persecute the members I f this is true then they portray True Buddhism stands for tyranny and is opposed to peoples rights and freedom Well they did use the gosho this way and they continue to do it
But this time there cover up and this tactic was exposed in the cultural Center when they apologized to us for their actions against us
There was no accountability of the leaders to anyone but themselves and because of their influence over the membership based on President Ikeda’s trust of them, they had carte blanche and they had abused this trust. It was an ethical matter since it was not the position that was of prime importance. What kind of example would this set for the membership if we had let this go by?
So the lie gained credence and was believed by other leaders and members alike. After all, why would the members believe Stan Zir if all of what the leaders said happened were true? They didn’t even investigate it themselves. This and the protests of Stan and Mary Zir eventually lead to Stan’s dismissal as a leader after 26-years of service with the flimsy excuse that there were no positions open in Queens. This was eventually exposed as a falsehood and eventually Jim’s folly was exposed. Not one leader, even though they knew this information was wrong, had the mercy to take Jim to task and correct him. This was all done in the name of preserving unity. Dialogue was useless because everyone was in denial. We went through the proper channels but were met with a wall of dogma that was inhumane. Therefore, when the truth came out we demanded an apology from Jim and he accepted reluctantly. Mr. Kasahara also said he would apologize for such events because he had the responsibility of being overall in-charge in New York.
This is the absolute truth of what happened in the room that night at .the meeting.
I spoke course, we insisted for an apology for Mary and myself myself being reinstated because it was the only decent thing to do after what you did. I was removed by a lie and false rumors and having the nerve to stand up to a arrogant leader to protect my members But to us that was of secondary importance for the events that occurred between the years of 1996 and 1998 were a constant repetition of the same abusive and irresponsible behavior being reported explained these reports were always greeted with the same response, “How can you say that?” “Why should I believe you?” But when asked why don’t you ask the members, the answer was “I don’t have to!” It was the height of arrogance and broken promises. For years such behavior was left unattended because of such attitudes of leaders in our organization. Those that stood up to protect their members were humiliated and treated as troublemakers. Even when members wrote letters to these very leaders they were not even dignified with a response. Going through the correct channels was useless for other senior leaders supported these actions with their silence. Even though in private they would disagree. There was no place to turn, no safety valve, and no way to put the leaders in check by the members. This was delegated to leaders but they were too busy supporting each other. This is why I am insisting that an apology was not sufficient and something had to be done so this kind of treatment of the members could never happen again. .I said Jim you have acted like this over and over Jim’s response was
I NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG” that was it for me I slammed my fist on the table and said that’s enough lets get out of here this man is irreprehensible. What are we doing here? We are wasting our time.
I left but Mary and Frank stayed Mary fully explained the grassroots committee so that it would further open up a vehicle for the members instead of just a top down system and put the leaders in check s a safety valve. for the members We were not looking for permission because this is a fundamental right of any civilized organization that is not invalid with tyranny and suppression and that’s what we just went through because such measure of accountability were not in place or Jim could not have done what he did.
It was then agreed upon by Mary, Frank, Mr. Kasahara, and Jim Corwin to try it in Queens on an experimental basis. Also, I would be reinstated as a leader in Queens on the chapter level
I was going to go home but returned. I felt it was not right of us to leave Frank and Mary there alone. We came together and should leave together. When I came back in they explained to me. They agreed upon a grassroots committee that would further open up communications and put such behavior of the leaders in check after what happened Mr. Kearny, Mrs. Zir, Jim Corwin and Mr. Kasahara agreed on this then when it came to me Mr. Kasahara said he was worried about my anger that it could be destructive and asked if I trusted him How he could not understand how I was constantly angry over the last two after being betrayed lied about and watching the members suffer with such irresponsible behavior especially after I had served the SGI for 27 years day and night and now he is saying I should trust him when he had asked me to shut up and protect him and his reputation and family while my wife and myself went down the tubes. He had broken his vow to me to fight to protect the SGI. This was to protect himself and Jim. Ten minutes before, he had just lied again. I said, “I did nothing wrong.“
My anger is healthy and my trust was betrayed. To watch leaders act with such impunity and aloofness, which the members suffered, is outrageous. To punish those who would protect these members is not to be tolerated at this point. I do not trust either one of you at this point lets see what happens.” I have decided to spend the rest of my practice fighting for this grassroots committee in order to protect the members from such behavior and if in the interim such conditions arise again I will fight for the members right to protect themselves and hold the leaders accountable through this system At that point no one said anything the meeting ended with casual conversation and we all went home.
” FOUR MONTHS LATER THESES SAME LEADERS RESUMED THERE SAME BEHAVIOR AS WAS SHOWN IN THE CASE OF LONG ISLAND. THUS GIVING RISE TO THE PAPER VICTORIOUS AMERICA AND THE SPREADING OF THE GRASS ROOTS COMMITTEE OUTSIDE OF QUEENS TO LONG ISLAND IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT WAS STATED IN THE CULTURAL CENTER IN THE MEETING WITH MR. KASAHARA AND JIM CORWIN MARY ZIR FRANK KEARNEY AND MYSELF. THEY HAD BETRAYED THEIR OBLIGATION TO REFORM THEIR BEHAVIOR THEY HAD BETRAYED THEIR APOLOGY
So Jim was to apologize for his actions and Mr. Kasahara offered an apology on behalf of the NY Joint Territory because this was his responsibility. But what was most crucial to the meeting was the agreement that a grassroots committee is instated to act as a safety valve to prevent such occurrences from ever happening to any member again. The suffering that was caused was unimaginable. We were shunned, ostracized, and people we had known for years refused to associate with us. We would not permit this to happen to anyone again..
Meanwhile apologies were made at three different meetings at the kaikan of their behavior and Promises of reinstatement were made. Apologies for such behavior were made and the announcement of an experimental grassroots committee in Queens was made. . With great excitement we left the kaikan looking forward in great anticipation to the future. We met with Jim after the meeting. Jim said, “Let’s work together” With great excitement we left the kaikan looking forward in great anticipation to the future, That is the last time we ever heard from Jim Corwin. That is the last time we ever heard from Jim Corwin
Interlude what was happening to my wife during the period before the Public apology and afterward
This part has great significance because you can see what happened to her when she decided to stand up and fight against the abuse of her owe leaders to the members plus the reputation that was put by on her by the leaders to the members for standing up against the unjust treatment of me and others before the public apology and the acceptance of the grass roots committee
My wife, Mary O’Connell Zir was cherished by her members, especially by the Youth Division in her chapter She was also cherished as a leader when she served in Brooklyn since 1990, she was able to rally her membership behind her to support the Youth Div. in their quest to defeat and uproot the Temple movement in New York in her queens chapter where she served as Vice Chapter chief while there were few MD and WD members here and there that joined in this fight against the temple, there was no group of people at the grass roots level, especially a whole chapter who united together with the youth to fight this problem in Queens at that time They held 10 hour tosos on the weekend both Saturday and Sunday and were constantly visiting. At the same time, Mary took care of her responsibilities on other fronts, such as the World Tribune collection and taking care of many of the children whose parents were immigrants and who had no time to take their children to activities.
In the years 1990 – 1997, Men and Women Joint Territory and Headquarters and Chapter leaders were rarely involved or even championed the Temple issue except through lip service so all the other Men and Women leaders in Queens followed suit except in Mary’s Chapter. She stood alone! (By the way theses were the same leaders that signed the letter that we did not understand the temple issue can you believe it) But she had great patience with these top leaders. Even when they were assigned to lead tozos in the cultural center for the AD campaign (Nikken out) they rarely show up. Mr. Kasahara had expressed his frustration to me about this since I had been one of the youth that had fought side with him against the Priesthood when the organization was totally disrupted in the late seventies and eighties
Her patience with theses leaders in Queens soon ran out in early 1997. While at a meeting with the Territory and HQ. Leaders, Mary brought up a point. She felt that the Territory and HQ leaders should be more involved in the Temple issue campaign, that they needed to be more vocal and stronger. In short, they needed to loudly and clearly denounce Nikken in a way that their members could see in no uncertain terms as President Ikeda had been doing in the World Tribune over the past years. At that point, there were still some members who were holding onto their Nikken Gohonzon and even having Gakkai meetings in homes where Nikken Gohonzon were enshrined. Mary said there should be a direct effort to convince these people to exchange their Nikken Gohonzon and further there should not be any official Gakkai meetings held in these homes. Some of the Territory leaders said it doesn’t matter whether the members have a Nikken Gohonzon or not. Mary then said how could you even think this? Don’t you even read the WT? Are you even reading guidance about this fro, President Ikeda who said that your enlightenment depends on whether you make the commitment to fight against Nikken who is trying to destroy the law. You have to take more responsibility. You are leading the members the wrong way. This campaign has been going on for 7 years and you have done nothing to fight against Nikken. You hold yourself aloof and even trivialize the Gohonzon exchange issue
After the meeting, Mary was talking to her WD Territory leader when two of the other leaders intruded on the conversation. Suddenly both started to attack her, waving their fingers in her face and backing her into a corner. this leader was Larry May Headquarters chief at the time Who do you think you are, they yelled. Mary tried to keep her control, saying, I think you, in your capacity as leaders, need to be clearer.
As Mary was leaving the Vice WD HQ leader said to a youth leader, “Who the hell does Mary Zir think she is?”
Mary came home distraught. Later in the week she called her WD HQ leader. That leader essentially said you’re on your own with this. She would not lend a hand to help in any way as a go-between or making it possible for these people to conduct a dialogue. Even though a MD Territory vice leader, and a WD vice HQ leader screamed her and this was witnessed by other top leaders, no one would correct them, no one made him apologize. Rather, Mary was labeled a “troublemaker”, and it was intimated that she had brought this on herself.
Finally, in order to restore some unity Mary had to approach the MD leader Larry May who had berated her. She felt that she had to humiliate herself in approaching him, but felt it had to be done for the sake of kosen-rufu. He did apologize to her at that point, but she was left with a very bitter taste from this experience. She felt betrayed by her fellow Women Division Leaders and brutalized by her Mens division leaders who let Larry act in such a way to a Women’s division who was standing up for President Ikeda and the SGI.
Meanwhile, the vice WD HQ leader reported to the Joint. Territory leader that Mary had written an insulting letter to her. Mary was telling me she was getting the cold shoulder from her leaders even when she went to the CC. Soon it came out that based on this unfounded and unchecked-out report, some of the WD leaders were telling each other that Mary had written this terribly nasty letter. One heard from another and passed it along like a chain. When it came to one responsible MD leader, he asked the WD Joint Leader why she didn’t simply ask Mary if she had in fact written such a letter. I do not have to explain the effect this kind of thing has on a person. As it turned out it was not a nasty letter it was a letter telling of her of her irresponsibility for not protecting her against the abuses of the Men’s division especially since she was standing up in the Nikken campaign and they were not even following or reading the guidance’s of President Ikeda to the members about the issue
In any case, not one WD leader ever called to ask Mary about what was in the letter; rather they gave in once again to gossip and innuendo. Who would stand up to question or challenge leaders?
Something was backward. Eventually, there was nowhere for Mary to turn. She was getting sick again. In June, my wife said she was resigning from her position. She had lost trust in the New York leaders. This happened to many other leaders in Joint Territory l.
From June to September, not one leader visited my wife. to ask her why she .was resigning. Is this the way we treat our treasures? It was cold. They froze her out.
Finally, the Youth div. found out and asked the leaders what’s going on. Why is Mary resigning? Don’t you call her? The members love her. What’s going on? Still the Joint Territory WD did not visit or call.
The WD Joint. Territory leader was asked to talk to her. She wouldn’t. Finally, in mid November, the vice WD territory leader visited her at the request of the YWD chapter leader. She came and asked Mary to be vice WD chapter leader. She never asked Mary why she wanted to resign. There was no interest in her suffering. Mary was still visiting and fighting in the ad campaign. She would never stop. But she would not trust these people again. This is unacceptable.
I asked myself where was this kind of behavior from these top leaders come from. Why were such pure hearted members being treated like this? Where was this influence coming from?
Mary had written an editorial piece for the WT. In it, she was scathing in her attack on what she felt was a kind of Fascism creeping up into the leadership of the SGI/USA. About two or three weeks after mailing the piece, out of the blue she received a letter from Greg Martin. He did not identify in what capacity he was writing. He was not directly connected to the editorial staff as far as we knew. It was really mysterious as to how he even got hold of the editorial.