* Kerry, because Bush is sliding

By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

From the point of view of an Indian, there is not that much difference whether Bush or Kerry wins, for both will follow longstanding negative policies: namely, using Pakistan to keep India boxed in in “South Asia” and pressuring India to forswear its nuclear capability.

Bush’s warriors have done this with their embrace of Pakistan. Kerry is a nonproliferation ayatollah who will loudly hector India on that front, even though India has been a model non-proliferator. A protectionist Kerry is likely to play rough with India on the economic front. But Bush encourages militant missionary types, so there is more invasive proselytization in India on his watch.

However, from a purely Indian-American perspective, what’s likely under either a Bush or a Kerry regime?

If Bush does come back, the same Vulcans, such as Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice, schooled in the idea of Imperial America, will be back in action. As Manicheans, they believe that American power and ideals are “a force for good in the world.” They are Christian fundamentalists; therefore we can anticipate more crusades, more xenophobia. The dollar, in part because of the massive debt-funded consumption, is likely to continue to decline. An Indian-American has to answer the question: “Am I truly better off today than I was four years ago?” Probably not.

On the other hand, Kerry currently mouths a protectionist, “America first” type of perspective, primarily because he needs to differentiate himself. Otherwise, it’s not entirely clear what he stands for, other than traditional Democratic issues like abortion rights, gun control, and the environment. But he isn’t going to singlehandedly halt America’s systemic decline, either.

Indian-Americans have not been able to leverage their economic clout, having gone for just photo opportunities. Racism lurks not far beneath the surface: a recent report showed, damningly, that Bobby Jindal lost the election for governor in Louisiana in precisely those areas that had voted most strongly for racist David Duke.

Today, at least some segments of the community are embracing Jewish-Americans in an attempt to gain some credibility and strength in numbers. Zealous Jews are moving into the Republican camp because of common Biblical ideas. Besides, we know what the Bushies stand for.

Yet, in the aftermath of Iraqgate and Abu Ghraib and universal condemnation of apparent war crimes, Bush and company seem to be on the downswing. Traditionally, Indian-Americans have been Democrats; since anyway Kerry may squeak through, might as well vote for him as many of his liberal stands are appealing.

Admittedly, the choices are the proverbial devil and deep blue sea: not good.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Singapore.

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* Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

By S. GOPIKRISHNA

Confused by the surprising similarities between the Republican and the Democratic platforms? To invoke the famous pronouncement of George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, “There ain’t a dime’s difference between them.”

The distinguishing ideological differences and appeals to different groups of yesteryears have all but vanished. While the process of populist views shaping political platforms is a universally accepted tradition, nowhere has the process become more evident (or blatant) than in the United States. Following the average American’s “Rightward Ho!” path since the Reagan years, both the Democrats and Republicans seem to be crowding into the rightmost lane of American democracy.

The rat race to attract voters has forced both parties to purportedly derive sustenance from American values while trotting out social platforms appropriate for the Biblical ages and fiscal platforms all but declaring financial right to be might.

Given the generic lack of difference on most mainstream issues, does it matter who one votes for? Neither Tweedledee nor Tweedledum gives a damn, so why would you care?

Examine the actions of both parties towards issues of special concern to immigrants and the obviousness of a lack of engagement stares you in the face.

Consider issues pertinent to Indian-Americans, starting with Kashmir.

As is well known, the Republican majority in New Hampshire rammed through a resolution in 2002 condemning Indian “atrocities” in Kashmir. This drastic step merely marks the culmination of an earlier process marked by the rants of Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif., about alleged human rights violations in India.

How about the Democrats?

Bill Clinton’s changing stances are only too well known; he refused to meet former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto over her stance on regional conflicts but changed his mind when gently prodded by Pakistani contributors to party coffers. Volte-face or two-faced, Democrats can hardly be trusted to be sympathetic towards India.

As for racism, how can one forget the arrest of Indian software developers at the Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in January 2000 for frivolous reasons? Janet Reno, Clinton’s attorney general, refused to intervene in what she perceived to be way too much noise over nothing, a trend that has worsened with the advent of the Bush administration.

Federal agencies have given themselves carte blanche for ill-treating foreigners suspected of terrorism post 9/11 under the “get tough” attitude of the Republican administration. The shabby treatment meted to Sikh men (for “resembling” Osama bin Laden) reflects sensitivities and knowledge that would do a redneck proud.

Given the lack of sympathy from both sides, why go beyond antipathy? No vote or an impulsive vote for either side makes no difference, so why bother voting?

Toronto-based S. Gopikrishna writes on issues of pertinence to India and Indians.

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