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Poets can tell us profound truths in a way that the greatest scholars - even legal specialists! - cannot equal.
Two great poets of the Muslim world, one from 10th century Iraq and the other from 14th century Persia, wrote lines which might well describe Donald Trump and his January 27 Muslim ban order which has now been put on hold by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals;
I will begin with the famous 10th Century Iraqi poet, Al-Mutanabbi (915-965), who wrote as follows - I apologize for any mistakes in transliteration, as i am not an Arabic language scholar):
"Wa taadumu fi 'ain assaghir assagharuha,
Wa tasgharu fi 'ain al azim al azaimu."
("Those who are small think that their small deeds are great,
And those who are great think that their great deeds are small.")
Isn't the first line an apt description of Donald Trump and his January 27 executive order, in which one lone man, a firm believer that everything he does is great, if not the greatest ever, acting on his own, claimed the right to bar almost 200 million people from coming to the United States just on the basis of his own say-so?
And what about the president's even smaller tweets, each of 140 characters or less, in which he maligns and abuses respected federal district and circuit judges as being "a so-called judge" and, "disgraceful" respectively, for daring to disagree with the legality of Trump's "great" executive order
And, very arguably, the second line is a good description of the otherwise almost unknown, or at least inconspicuous, judges of the federal district court and of the 9th Circuit panel who, modestly but firmly, and without bombast, put a stop to Trump's abuse of power in issuing his now thoroughly discredited ban order, one which he thought was so great.
As the Circuit Court's opinion shows, the president's order was small on legal reasoning and even smaller on the facts. (See my February 9 Immigration Daily comment, and my more detailed analysis of the 9th Circuit decision to appear in a forthcoming Immigration Daily comment.)
Now let us turn to the one of the greatest of all Persian poets, Hafez (1325/26 - 1389/90) who is not an unknown name in the United States and whose Sufi poems, in translation, can be found in any Barnes & Noble store.
In one of his most famous poems, using a theme to be found in both the Bible and the Koran, he writes (again, I apologize for any mistakes in transliteration - I am not conversant in Farsi either):
Yusofe gomgashte baz ayad be kanan - qam machor
Kolbeye ahzan shavad roozi golestan - qam machor
("Joseph, who was lost, will return to Canaan - do not grieve.
The house of sorrows will turn into a garden - do not grieve.")
This could be taken as a metaphor for Donald Trump's America, which is on the path of losing its way to the values of equality, tolerance and democracy on which our nation was founded and which has made America the greatest nation on earth.
But, the poet tells us (speaking from seven centuries ago - one century for each of Trump's banned Muslim countries) we should not grieve. America is stronger than any one chief executive, and this country will one day return to its real values, in keeping with the words of the great ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, writing (according to most estimates) around 2,700 years ago:
"Hoi de dikas xeinousi kai endemoisi didousin
Itheias kai me ti parekbainousi dikaiou,
Toisi tethele polis, laoi d'antheousin en aute.
("Those who give justice to foreigners and fellow citizens and do not turn away from justice at all, their city blooms and the people in it flower.")
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover, Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been representing mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world for more than 35 years.
At Phillips Andover and Harvard, Roger studied and gained some knowledge of several Western European languages. He has also been exposed to the basics of a number of non-European languages, without becoming proficient in any of them.
Roger's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 02-13-2017 at 02:23 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs