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Friday, December 28, 2012

The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.

Ye daag daag ujala, ye shabgazida sahar
vo intezar tha jis ka, ye vo sahar to nahin
ye vo sahar to nahin jis ki aarzoo le kar
chale the yaar keh mil jayegi kahin n kahin
falak ke dasht men taron ki aakhiri manzil
kahin to hoga shab-e-sust mauj ka sahil

This leprous daybreak, dawn night’s fangs have mangled –
This is not that long-looked-for break of day,
Not that clear dawn in quest of which those comrades
Set out, believing that in heaven’s wide void
Somewhere must be the stars’ last halting-place,
Somewhere the verge of night’s slow-washing tide,
Somewhere an anchorage for the ship of heartache.

                  (Written By faiz Ahmed Faiz)

Don’t you ever think that it’s a common phenomenon for us to see women getting raped? Common because we all participate in this. Few rapes them at the so called scene of crime and many rape them afterwards either by questioning them how it happened or by lawyers for explaining the whole event in front of the court or by politicians making mockery about the rapes. I hope everyone remembers the Lawyer Chadda of Damini movie and that scene where the protagonist, Damini, fighting for a raped & murdered girl lost her patience and spoke her mind in the open court [Reminder link: http://youtu.be/BlFfVYedCqY?t=1m43s].

But have we ever thought who is responsible for all this happenings of this world and how it can be now cured?

Poverty of india is responsibily for everything ?

I don’t think poverty subjugates our moral values (if we have). Have we forgotten most recent Shiney Ahuja case?

Just few days, I was talking to my tech-lead who had spent almost 20 years in U.S. He was talking about his experiences when they used to go out for CSR (Corporate Socio responsibility program) to a State owned Refugee camp. He talked about this boy who nearly 10 years old, his father was in jail for some crime and mother was living with her boy-friend and this kid used to stay with two half-brothers. He told me few experiences which made me think about moral strength of that kid:

a)      So in these state owned refugee camps, government provides food, shelter, education and some vocational job so that they can earn their livings. This kid was really bright in learning and interacting with folks. Once while distributing muffins, he found that his mother had hid her muffin and was again in the queue for another muffin. He went to the supervisor and complained against her. There was no wrong feeling in him about his mother, he used to live happily with his half-brothers, but when his mother did something unethical, he felt bad.

b)      So in America also, kids sharp pencils from both sides (I hope every one of us have done that). The rich kids (average middle class also) throw those pencils when both ends meet. This kid used to gather those small pieces and used them for his homework. My lead once bought some pencils but he just thought of testing him. He kept one pencil by his side and while he was helping on some mathematics questions, he said “this is the way to solve it, now take this pencil and finish the next question”. Kid gazed at him and replied “this is not my pencil, I have five pencils” and he took five small left out pencils from his pockets. He could have taken it but in fact after my lead told him that he had brought it for him, this kid didn’t took it.

             My point was Morality doesn’t grow with the growing bank balance. Do you think above depiction of moral values can be seen in we, Indians.  I doubt that now.

Poor Education of india is responsible for everything ?

As per the data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, Madhya Pradesh tops in rape cases(reported as many as 2,937 cases), Nagaland ranks lowest(reported as many as 19 cases) (Source). And if we see the Census of 2012, Nagaland with a population of 1,980,602 has a literacy rate of 80% where Madhya Pradesh has a population of 72,597,565 with 71% literacy rate. So looking at this data, can I safely assume that 9% of less literacy in Madhya Pradesh is responsible for nearly 100 times more rapes in it? If this theory is correct then how come Kerala , being the most literate state, is at the top of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures  for crimes [Source  Kerala also ranks highest on incidents of rioting and arson with a rate of 26 compared to the national average of 6.4, although Bihar at 8,809 incidents accounts for almost 13% of all riots in the country. To put these figures in perspective, NCRB has also compiled separate statistics for violent crimes that include murder, attempt to murder, rape, kidnapping and dowry death]

Politic situation of India for everything?

Lot of people can argue on this stating the rusted police department and corruption in india is responsible for every wrong thing in our country. But frankly telling these have very less role to be played here. Our minds are corrupted because nearly in 20% of the reported rape cases, it has been found that family members were indulged in those inhumane acts. How can honesty of police officer or political figures comes in picture when family, which is in fact considered as the most secure place is involved in such cases.

Is it our true Nature?

Do you think "Ladies first" has just become a nice simple way of saying "Let me look at that ass while you walk in front of me". Sorry but that’s the way we are. Don’t you think eve-teasing is more common than common cold in India? The moment we see a girl in skinny jeans or half naked legs, our eyes will be wide open. In fact, I have seen girls looking girls from tip to toe in such a bad manner (I agree the feelings vary between jealousness and sexual urges). Problem (in my opinion) lies in our mentality. So far, we have seen Indian women as a house wife (I am talking mostly till my mother’s era). Now that women have grown up in their intellect and tried to raise their strata in society, then how come man let this happen? He has expected women always to take his orders and now she being an equal or rising high suits us. In fact, if you see women who raise their level either by power or emotions, they start fighting for something called “varchasav ki ladai”. I mean in a family if a woman is head, then she will control all other ladies and will not like any other lady to grow up on the ladder. Same is true in most of the organizations. They feel insecure in the company of women. In most of the cases of female infanticide, elder women are involved in killing/provoking these crimes. Same are for dowry. Yes, for rapes women have no part. But they do justify it by saying “what was she doing at that time with her boyfriend or her dress must have provoked this or she must be drunk and instigated this”.

Looking at the today’s condition, it reminded of an old song written by Kavi Pradeep, so apt for current situation:

Rote hain aangan galiyaare, - the courtyards and alleys are crying
Rote aaj mohalle saare, - today all neighborhoods are crying
Roti Salmaa, roti hai Seeta, - Salma is crying, Seeta is crying (Muslim & Hindu names)
Rote hain Quraan aur Geeta - Quraan and Geeta are crying (Muslim & Hindu Religious books - regardless of what religion they follow everyone is crying)

Aaj Himalaya chillaataa hai, - today the Himalayas is shouting
Aaj salaamat naa koi ghar hai, - today no home is safe any more
sab ko lut jaane kaa dar hai, - everyone is afraid of being looted
Humne apne watan ko dekhaa, - We have seen our country
aadmi ke patan ko dekhaa, - we have seen the downfall of men
Aaj to bahanon par bhee humlaa hota hai, - today even sisters are attacked
duur kisi kone mei majhab rotaa hai, - in some far corner religion cries

What can be done now?

First of all, stop thinking of those brutal pictures you all have seen on social networking sites about castration or public hanging of rapists in some countries. Let’s be sensible and pragmatic in our approach. There is no provision of such uncivilized acts in civilized courts.
Let’s look in our rule book for it, I mean what provisions Indian penal court has for it :

"The law of rape is not just a few sentences. It is a whole book, which has clearly demarcated chapters and cannot be read selectively. We cannot read the preamble and suddenly reach the last chapter and claim to have understood and applied it."  -   Kiran Bedi.

As rightly said by Kiran Bedi and I am also not a law student who can give all sections , so please consider it max effort of my knowledge.

a)      There is no section like Attempt to rape (can be added in Section 511 in The Indian Penal Code, 1860 but it’s a very generic one ), so we don’t believe in attempt, we want job to be finished only then we agree . We have seen some bad examples when victims have been raped by police officers and court released them saying it were consensual sex (notorious Mathura rape case).

b)      It was only after a woman employee who was subjected to sexual abuse by her superior officer, a NGO (Vishaka) in 1997 filed a petition to draw the attention of the Court about sexual harassment cases. This Writ Petition brought the enforcement of the fundamental rights of working women under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India in view of the prevailing climate in which the violation of these rights is not uncommon.
1.      Sexually colored remarks
2.      Physical contact and advances
3.      Showing pornography
4.      A demand or request for sexual favors
5.      Any other unwelcome physical, verbal/non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature.

c)       Section 509 in The Indian Penal Code, 1860 : Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman :Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

This came to public news when Rupan Bajaj was slapped on the posterior by the then Chief of Police, Punjab- Mr. K P S.Gill at a dinner party in July 1988.

d)      The offence of ‘rape’ is covered under Section 375 of the IPC. Per the Explanation to the said section, penile penetration alone will ‘constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape’. Hence, offences like fellatio or cunnilingus (i.e. oral sex) and penetration by any other object or part of the body (like finger or toe), fall beyond the realm of Section 375. Consequently, sexual abuse of a minor in the form of unlawful sexual contact or by exhibiting pornographic material is outside the ambit of Section 375.

e)      Under the present scheme of the IPC, the penetrative abuse of a child below the age of 12 is classified either as unnatural offence under Section 377 or as outraging the modesty of a woman under Section 354; depending upon the ‘type’ of penetration. The said jurisprudence is based on a faulty premise, for the following reasons:-
Firstly, a vulnerable child cannot discern the degree of difference in terms of which her orifice is penetrated. So determining if the offence falls under Section 377 or Section 354 is practically impossible.
Moreover, the physical and psychological impact of the sexual offence on the child should be the basis for making out an offence under the IPC, rather than scrutinizing the ‘type’ of penetration.
And finally, is it not wrong to treat non- consensual penetration upon a minor as offence under Section 377 on par with certain forms of consensual penetration (e.g. consensual homosexual sex) where a consenting party can be held liable as an abettor or otherwise?

f)       Section 376 in The Indian Penal Code, 1860 - Punishment for rape: This is something which is possible in current situation and this is the one which has been amended in past 30 years with addition of various new acts (result of few bad rape cases). In this section, in worst case the culprit can have 10 years of imprisonment.

In the Delhi case , they can add the section 302 and attempted to murder and either the culprits can be punished for life time imprisonment ( which tax payers like me don’t want) or they will be hang till death ( which of course are more appropriate)

I am not saying that we should not protest against it. It is the protests only which can make Supreme Court intervene and amend the old rotten system and can create special and strict punishment for such heinous crimes.

Current situation of our nation seems to me like the famous historical episode of The Rape of the Sabine Women.

आह को चाहिए इक उम्र असर होने तक
कौन जीता है तेरी ज़ुल्फ़ के सर होने तक।

[My] longing [for you] requires a lifetime for its realization
Who may live that long to see its effect on you?  
 (Words of Mirza galib)

Same are my longings from Indian courts making strict laws and quick action policies for such horrendous crimes.

Some of the previous notorious rape cases readings:
  • In the Mathura Rape case [(1978) CrLJ 1864 SC] the Supreme Court acquitted the two policemen who raped a sixteen year old girl on the grounds that the victim had no visible marks of injury and that she did not raise an alarm.

  • In Mohd. Habib v. State [(1989) CrLJ 137 Delhi] the Delhi High Court acquitted a man who raped a seven year old girl, asserting that there were no marks of injury on his penis. The Court refused to take cognizance of the bite marks on the victim’s person and the fact that she suffered a ruptured hymen on account of the sexual assault.

  • In Vishaka & Ors vs State Of Rajasthan & Ors , where, on behalf of a woman employee who was subjected to sexual abuse by her superior officer, a NGO (Vishaka) filed a petition to draw the attention of the Court, as to the atrocities committed on the women folk in workplaces. This case was a landmark decision towards the self empowerment of women. For the first time, Courts have decided based on an international instrument, when there was no law specifically in force in India, for matters relating to sexual harassment. The move was based on India's ratification of the international instrument, CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW).

  • In State Of Maharashtra And Another vs Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, the respondent, Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, was serving as a Police Inspector, Bhiwandi Town Police Station in District Thana of Maharashtra State in November 1965. On 13th November, 1965, between 8.15 and 8.45 p.m. he allegedly visited the hutment of one Banubi w/o Babu Sheikh in uniform and demanded to have sexual intercourse with her. On her refusing he tried to have her by force. She resisted his attempt and raised hue and cry. Her husband and neighbours collected outside the hutment. The hutment was about a furlong away from the Police Station and about 100 yards from Kuwari's Bungalow. After people from the vicinity collected at the place of occurrence the respondent rushed to Kuwari's Bungalow and telephoned the Police Station to rush police aid. PSI Ghosalkar who received the phone call rushed to the place of occurrence in a police jeep accompanied by PSI Wadekar and other policemen. On reaching the scene of occurrence they found the respondent in uniform standing at some distance from the hutment of Banubi. They also saw an agitated Banubi near her hutment. The respondent directed that the woman be taken to the Police Station as she had abused him. She was taken on foot to the Police Station by Head Constable Kulkarni and Police Constable Desale. The respondent and others returned to the Police Station in the jeep.
·         N Radhabai vs. D. Ramchandran :  Radhabai was the Secretary to D Ramchandran. D. Ramchandran was the then social minister for state. Radhabai protested against his boss’s abuse of girls in the welfare institutions. She claimed that  Ramchandran attempted to molest her and later dismissed her from the job. The Supreme Court laid down its decision in favour of Radhabai, with back pay and perks from the date of dismissal.
Aditya Deadpan 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jesse Owens and Luz Long's Friendship

When I was a kid, it used to be my favorite Story so just keeping it for me always.

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest athletes of all time, participated in the controversial 1936 Nazi Olympics. His competitor was the superb German athlete, Luz Long. As excerpted from his biography, Jesse confronted this “enemy” but found, instead, a friend.
As the time neared to board the ship that would take me to Europe for the 1936 Olympics, I began to wonder if all the publicity I’d gotten might be crowding out the spiritual side of my life. One morning, sitting at the breakfast table with Ruth and the baby, I said to her, “I’d like for us to go to church before I leave on that boat.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that, Jesse,” she answered. “It’s been a long time since you said that.”

I thought out loud, “Can’t go this morning, got to meet Coach Snyder at ten, maybe next Sunday morning, but I’ve got that press conference and got to get in my practice sometime, we wouldn’t have to go in the morning, could go at night.”

But one busy morning became another, days fled like minutes till, before I knew it, I was kissing Ruth goodbye and getting ready to leave with the American Olympic Team for New York. “I’ll pray for you, Jesse,” she said.

“We never did make it to church, did we?” I said a little sadly and maybe a little scared. “Next time, baby.”

I didn’t think about it again, frankly, until the ship left New York. Then, as the last traces of land vanished I had an almost overwhelming impulse to drop down on my knees and thank God for letting this opportunity come to me—and to ask His help to make the most of it. But I didn’t.
Was it because my teammates were around? Or a bunch of strangers? Or was it because by now I was just too full of myself? I had been brought up with a belief in God and the teachings of Jesus—His Word—to have His Spirit...to believe, to know, that if we struggled to the utmost and climbed the highest mountains within ourselves, above the final summit he would be there. Why would God desert me now? I asked myself. Surely he wouldn’t leave me now.

I had married and fathered a child. I had run as fast and jumped as far as any man in the world. I had gone to a fine university and learned to read some of the most learned books in it. But I had not learned the great truth that God never leaves us. We leave him.

If I wasn’t up to getting down on my knees and praying on the ship, showing in public what I believed seemed to be even more out of the question once I’d left the ship and arrived in Berlin. It was a godless city. Oh, there must have been some who believed, who secretly didn’t go along with Hitler’s ideas that he and his atheistic master race were superior to the rest of the world—but most of them had to keep it secret.

For some, though, it was impossible to keep beliefs hidden. The Jewish people, for example, were known to have their own firm faith. Before another Olympiad would ever take place, millions of them would be put to death by the German dictator for that religion.

But during the 1936 Olympics, Hitler had a more immediate target: the United States Olympic team. First, a big part of Hitler’s superiority idea was that his Nazis should rule not just because they were better and smarter, but because they were stronger and healthier. Though Hitler himself was short, dark and anything but athletic-looking, he constantly talked of his tall, blond, blue-eyed Aryan supermen. Every newspaper was filled with his braggings of how the German Olympic team would prove him correct by vanquishing the inferior Americans.

When Hitler said “inferior Americans,” everyone knew what he meant. Our track and field squad happened to be made up mostly of Negro stars. My buddy, Dave Albritton, was there. So was Ralph Metcalfe. And others. And all of us came from pretty much the same background—Southern poor, physical laboring, God-fearing. We were everything Hitler hated.

Other people—the Jews, Poles, gypsies—that Hitler wanted to crush; at least they didn’t have their beliefs written on their very skins. But we did. And, in particular, Hitler hated my skin. For I happened to be the one who had set world records in the 100- and 200-yard dashes less than a year before and had been dubbed “the world’s fastest human” because of it.

Even more, I had broken the world broad-jump record by more than half a foot. Long before I was ever in the headlines, Hitler’s critics outside of Germany—none were left inside—had challenged him to point to one person who was the super strong, super smart, super-everything Aryan superman. 

Now newspapermen from all over the world were asking him, “Who have you got to beat Jesse Owens?”

Hitler answered with a name: Luz Long.

I’d heard of Long, of course. The Germans didn’t let the rest of the world know exactly what their athletes were doing, so I had no idea how good he was. But there was no doubt that he was good. I wondered what he looked like. And … could he be the superman that Hitler claimed? One thing I did know: Luz Long had trained his entire life for this Olympiad, and for only a single event in it: the broad jump.

When I first set foot in Berlin’s huge stadium on a muggy August day, I felt a strange, ominous chill run through me as my eyes scanned the athletes from other countries and then stopped cold on one who was wearing the German uniform. I knew it was Luz Long. And he was indeed a supreme example of Aryan perfection. Taller than I was by an inch, maybe two, the blue-eyed, sandy-haired, Long was one of those rare athletic phenomenon—a perfectly proportioned body, every lithe, pulsing muscle stunningly compressed and honed by tens of thousands of hours of sweat and determination. He might have been my archenemy, but I had to stand there in awe and just stare at Luz Long.

Yet when he walked over to the broad-jump area to take a practice leap I knew, though it was the last thing I wanted to admit to myself, that he had the competitive spirit to match his body. Long didn’t jump. He exploded. With such intensity, yet such ease.

Long landed, laughing. One of the jumpers from another country came up to me. “You’re lucky this is practice,” he said matter-of-factly. “If they were measuring what Long did, it might be a new record.”

Soon, too soon, they were measuring. And … for the first time in years … I was falling short. The broad-jump trials gave each athlete three tries to make a qualifying distance of twenty- four feet, six inches. I hadn’t gone less than a foot farther than that, practice or otherwise, for two years. And my first jump went much more than a foot farther. But I fouled. In my eagerness to show Luz Long what I had, I’d been careless about measuring my steps to the takeoff board. I’d gone over it.
Forget it, I said to myself. You’ve fouled before. There are still two jumps left. I told myself that, but I didn’t believe it. Second by second, home seemed farther away. I was in Berlin, in the Olympics … but it wasn’t my turf. It was Luz Long’s turf. He belonged here. I belonged back in Cleveland.

Stop thinking those thoughts!
I screamed silently to myself. And as I jumped when my name was finally called after all the waiting, I didn’t try to break any records or outdo Luz Long. I just tried to qualify to get into the finals, and have three jumps again. And I fell short by three inches. I was almost in a state of shock. I had jumped less than twenty-five feet. I hadn’t done that since, since … high school.
I put on my sweatshirt and tried to get off by myself. The reporters were buzzing around me like locusts. The press had always been good to me, and I tried to be as good as I could in return, but now all my nerves were like open wounds with each question cutting deeper and deeper. Finally, all were gone except one. He was an American writer I’d gotten to know.
“Jesse, off the record,” he said, “is it true about Hitler?”

“Is what true?”

“That he walked out of the stadium on you. Look.” The reporter pointed to Hitler’s plush box in the first row center. It was glaringly empty.

“I don’t know,” was all I could answer.

“That’s what I heard, anyway,” he said. “Hitler left before your first practice jump. Saw it myself. Then I asked a couple of German athletes, and they said that Hitler had made a vow not to look at you in action. Crazy?”

I nodded. But without much conviction. Was he crazy? I had just one jump left. And almost no time to get ready for it. The broad-jump preliminaries came before the finals of the other three events I was in—the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, and the relay. How I did in the next ten minutes—with this one remaining chance—was, I knew, how I would do in the entire Olympics. And, somehow, I sensed, in life itself.

What if I, I stopped myself from thinking it time and again, but it kept crashing through my mind, what if, what if, … what if I didn’t qualify? Hitler won’t look so crazy, then … I fought, fought hard, harder but, one cell at a time, panic crept into my body. Any minute now my name would be called for the final jump. I looked at Hitler’s box. Empty. His way of saying that Jesse Owens was inferior. Around that box, filling every seat, were a hundred thousand Germans. All wanting Luz Long to beat me. 
And there, laughing in a carefree way near the broad-jump pit, was Luz Long. He had only had to take one preliminary jump. Because he’d broken the Olympic record with it. I walked back to the broad-jump area. As I did, I heard a name called. Mine. Now it was my turn. I have to find strength somewhere, I said to myself. Have to reach into myself and find the strength to make it, to do my best. Almost instinctively, I dropped down on my knees. Pray. Must pray, I whispered to myself. But in front of a hundred thousand people?

“Jesse Owens!” It was the loudspeaker announcing my name for the second time. I closed my eyes, one of my knees touching the ground. Oh, God, I pleaded wordlessly with everything that was inside me. Help me to pray. But I couldn’t. Couldn’t.

“Jesse Owens!” Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. It wasn’t the loudspeaker calling my name a final time. It was a man standing right there next to me.

It was Luz Long. My archenemy. Or was he? The way his hand rested on my shoulder, the vibrations I felt as he looked at me and smiled, made me know somehow that, far from being my enemy, he was my friend.

“I Luz Long,” he said, introducing himself. I nodded. “I think I know what is wrong with you,” he went on. “You give everything when you jump. I the same. You cannot do halfway, but you are afraid you will foul again.”

“That’s right,” I said, finding my voice for the first time.

“I have answer,” he said. “Same thing happen to me last year in Cologne.”

There were literally only seconds left before I had to jump or default. Luz told me to simply remeasure my steps and jump from six inches in back of the takeoff board—giving it all I had. That way I could give 100 percent, and still not be afraid of fouling. He even laid his towel down at exactly the place from which I was to jump. It was so simple! And it worked.

I could feel the confident energy surging back into my body as I stood still for that brief second before beginning my run. I went as fast as I ever had, took off, and felt almost like I was flying. When I came down, it was more than twenty-six feet—an Olympic record—from the takeoff board. With the extra six inches, it surely would have been a new unofficial record. But what did I care about records? I was in the finals.
I didn’t know how to thank Luz Long. All I could offer was my friendship. I met with him that night, and we talked, over coffee, in the Olympic Village. We might’ve stayed up a little later than athletes should who have to compete against the best from every country in the following days, but it was worth it.

For the bond between us gave a spiritual strength that was greater than the physical. Luz and I, it turned out, were very much alike. He was married and had one child, as I did. A son, Karl. He had come from humble beginnings. And he didn’t believe Hitler’s Aryan supremacy statements and was disturbed by Hitler’s military aggressiveness. Still, it was his country and he felt that if he didn’t fight for it, he would be putting his family in danger.
I asked him about religion. He said that he did not have any, had never really known any. “Do you believe in God?” I questioned. He held out his hands, palms up, as if to say he didn’t know. Then he shrugged a little, as if to add that he had never really had any evidence that there was a higher power. He was so good, and all the truly good people I’d known till then believed in God. But even if Luz was a Nazi who might soon be my archenemy again, trying to kill my countrymen and even me, I felt that beneath that he was my brother. And even though he didn’t believe in God, I believed in Luz  Long.
We spent each night afterward talking, and the days competing. Because of the support he gave me, I won the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter, breaking records in both, and helped to lead my team to victory, and a record, in the relay. But most of all, I was waiting for the high point: the broad-jump. For here, once again, Luz and I would be competing against each other. Without him, I would have never been competing at all. Yet I somehow had to fuse that feeling with the will to do my best. For wasn’t my love for Luz, and yes, I loved him—a love for the best that is within man, and within me?

The day of the broad-jump arrived. One by one, the other finalists fell by the wayside. Then, it was only Luz Long and Jesse Owens. His first leap took the lead. I beat it. His second of three was even better. I beat it by half an inch. I watched him take a deep breath before his final leap. I watched his blue eyes look up into the sky, then down, fixing on a point which he knew, and I knew, would be well over an Olympic record. I could see him transforming the same beautiful energy which had enabled him to come to me and change the course of my life when I needed it most … into the determination to do what had never been done before—to do what most men would call a “miracle.”
He stood perfectly still for an instant. Only his eyes moved as they looked skyward once more, and then he began his run. Fast from the beginning, not gradual like most, but then faster. His perfectly proportioned legs flashing like pistons now, his finely honed physique working like one total machine, all for one purpose, for one split second.

And then it happened. High. Higher than I’d ever seen anyone leap. But with so much power that it was not merely high, it was far. Incredibly far.

It seemed for a split second that he would never come down. But then he did, straining his body more than I’d ever seen any man strain, as if he were an eagle attempting at the last minute to rise above an infinite mountain...straining...moving forward as he fell downward … forward farther … forward …

He landed! Exactly in the spot on which his eyes had fixed. Luz Long had set a new Olympic record. I rushed over to him. Hugged him. I was glad. So glad. But now … it was my turn.

I took my time, measured my steps once, then again. I was tense, but that good kind of tense that you feel when you have to be tense to do your best. Deep, deep inside, under all the layers, there was a clear, placid pool of peace. Now I, too, stood perfectly still. I, too, looked up at the sky. Then, I looked into Luz’s blue eyes, as he stood off to the side, his face wordlessly urging me to do my best, to do better than I’d ever done

For a while I was one of the most famous people on earth. But I soon discovered how empty fame can be, and how easily it could be exploited by those who would use it, and me, for gain. I became entangled in a number of bad business deals and in a few years, I was bankrupt. It was only the steadfastness of my family and the friendship of Luz Long expressed in letters that helped me through. I was determined to pay back every penny I owed and start again.

Luz was undergoing trials, too. Germany had plunged into war, and he was in the military. After a while the letters we had faithfully exchanged every month or two stopped altogether. Soon America was in the war. I joined up. And then one day I received a letter posted from North Africa. It was over a year old. It was from Luz. It said, in part:

I am here, Jesse, where it seems there is only the dry sand and the wet blood. My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. That hour in Berlin when I first spoke to you, when you had your knee upon the ground, I knew that you were in prayer. And I know it is never by chance that we come together.

And you, I believe, will read this letter. I believe this shall come about because I think now that God will make it come about. This is what I have to tell you, Jesse. I believe in God. And I pray to Him that, even while it should not be possible to see you again, these words I write will still be read by you.

Your brother,

Those were Luz’s last words. I learned shortly thereafter that he had been killed in battle just a few days after he had written his letter to me. Our friendship had proved greater than the forces, which divided our nations. I had not lost my brother. His letter spoke the truth: … it is never by chance that we come together. God had sent him to me at a moment of personal despair, and he brought me the gift of hope. Bowing, but unable to pray on that Olympic field, I had given him a sign, a seed of faith which was to blossom in the deserts of North Africa.

Together we had shared the greatest gift of all, which comes from God. The gift of brotherly love which neither competition, nor war, nor even death could annul.

By Jesse Owens