COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY?

It is indeed ironic that the Bush administration has decided to deny the wishes of the people of India, Germany, and Brazil for their countries to have permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. All three nations are major democracies with considerable economic status and contribute significantly to the annual budget of the United Nations. Yet, the administration is at odds on this issue with other permanent members except China. It is interesting that the United States appears to be aligned with the world’s largest dictatorship to deny the aspirations of these major democracies.

We can delay, but cannot deny for long their legitimate place in the United Nations. Meanwhile, the world must be wondering about our professed commitment to democracy.

S. Ashraf Imam, North Hollywood, Calif.

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* KICK HER OUT OF THE HOUSE

If that was my daughter (“Teen Pregnancy,” IC, August 2005) I’d smack the s–t out of her. Has she no respect for her parents, her culture, or religion! I, being born and raised in the Bay Area, get pissed off at these girls that come over and mess up our good name and reputation. I say, kick her out of the house if she’s having sex, then she can take responsibility for it. This is what five minutes of cheap pleasure brings you.

I know what will happen for real—the parents will get them married and let them have the child. Then the parents will end up raising the kid. I have seen and heard this all too often. It gets my blood boiling!

Amrita Prakash, via the Internet

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* OUR SAUDI CO-DEPENDENCY

It appears that our Saudi co-dependency has become stronger than ever. Last Friday, Bush senior, accompanied by Halliburton’s benefactor, Vice President Dick Cheney, made another pilgrimage to Riyadh to assure the House of Saud that our unhealthy addiction for their oil remains unabated. “The relationship has tremendously improved with the United States,” gushed the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal.

Forgotten is that most of the 9/11 perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia. Forgotten is that most of the religious schools spewing a virulent form of Islam have been funded by Saudi money. Forgotten is the enormous repression of Saudi women who are virtual prisoners in the House of Saud’s dysfunctional kingdom. And yet, we embrace the Saudis as friends, and our former ally, Saddam Hussein, as a monster.

We declared war on Iraq and killed thousands of their people, which our compliant media described as “shock and awe,” ignoring the immorality of such an action. We claim to revere life as evidenced by the passion generated by the pro-lifers but abort the life of tens of thousands of innocent civilians without remorse. Our government has committed crimes against humanity. The appalling visual images of human suffering from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki still remain hidden from the U.S. public. Sadly, our government continues the same strategy of censoring the human carnage of the war in Iraq to quell a public outcry.

Jagjit Singh, Palo Alto, Calif.

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* TWO DEMOCRACIES

The two largest democracies in the contemporary times are India and the United States. India established itself as the most populous and efficacious democracy, but it suffers from the infirmities of illiteracy, underdevelopment, overpopulation, disunity, and lack of healthy political institutions. The United States has the advantages of development, consummate leadership spread over two centuries, and healthy political institutions.

In earlier times in the United States, the political parties were conceived and nurtured by world luminaries like Jefferson, Hamilton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Their political ethos also reflected the best in the democratic system, such as equality, liberty, freedom, and pursuit of happiness. The compulsions of the democratic system gave rise to an alternative political party but hardly with an alternative political program. This development has bred indifference among the electorate. Consequently, political standards have fallen, and citizens, who are the real sovereigns, have become self-centered. Their status-quo governments are oblivious to the growing challenges to society.

India, despite its backwardness, gave a better evidence of its participation in the democratic process by 75 to 85 percent voter turnout in all elections during the last five decades. In contrast, the turnout in recent U.S. elections has been dismal. The nation has become stagnant, with mounting problems like broken homes, juvenile delinquency, rise in crime and violence, stressful life, ostentatious living, indifference to religion and ethics, waste of resources, outdated legal and educational systems, overwhelming influence of corporate culture, dilution of national integration, and media monstrosities. These trends are cited in the book The Healing of America by Marianne Williamson.

It now behooves the best political leadership of America to take a second look at the functioning of this republic and overhaul its agenda as many changes have supervened during the last two centuries. America is a nation of immigrants imbued with political ethos. They are a democratic ideal for the rest of the world. They have the two most longstanding and mature political parties, which possess the requisite potential to provide a new direction. Such a development will necessarily have an impact on its sister democracy, India, which has much in common with the United States.

Jagan Mohan Reddy, Whittier, Calif.

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* WHY DENIGRATE ONE TO ELEVATE ANOTHER?

I always look forward to and enjoy Alex Maarten’s ruminations and fascinations on India. He leaves no stone unturned and is a keen observer, much to my delight. One thing bothered me though, when reading the story “Circles of Fire” in his last Through Blue Eyes column (IC, August 2005). It’s wonderful to appreciate what is found in cultures different than our own, but why do we have to denigrate someone else to elevate another?

In speaking of the beautiful array of churies in all differnet colors, Maarten transported me to a place and a people and a culture I have truly loved the whole of my life. But when I read, “I suddenly laughed out loud at the arrogance of the fashion industries of the West,” he lost me. The sort of arrogance he alluded to can be found just about everywhere in the world. (The West certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on it!) I can appreciate the point he was trying to make without having to read, once again, of the arrogance of the West, or of anyone else. Enough already.

Michelle Reale, Glenside, Pa.

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* ALEX MAARTEN ELABORATES

I am both honored and humbled by what Reale said in her letter. She is absolutely right: it is wrong for anybody to put one type of person above another by denigration.

However, I’d like to pass on an anecdote that generated that last line in my story. I don’t present this as an excuse, but as an explanation.

Just before I went on that trip to India, my wife and I were strolling around one of the shopping areas of San Francisco. We happened to find ourselves in one of those haute-couture stores that sells exclusive European designer clothes for women. The salesperson came over; her nametag identified her as the store manager. After showing off some of the clothing, she looked down at my Indian wife and said, “It is such a shame that in India you don’t see things of such beauty.”

Even today I remember that superior, invalid, and ugly statement from that salesperson. When I discovered the beauty of churie-making just a couple of weeks later, I wished that she could be there, forced to look at the beauty of various things made in India that you cannot find in Europe.

Thanks for both flavors of comments in your letter!

Alex Maarten, via email

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* SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Thanks for the informative article about Pratham (“Every Child in School and Learning Well,” IC, July 2005). However, the URL mentioned for Pratham USA is wrong. The correct URL is: www.prathamusa.org

Sudhir, via the Internet

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