Forum – A column where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.
Should Biden Steer More Left Given the Vocal Voices In the Democratic Party? Yes!
In a recent statement, GM pledged to stop selling Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles by 2035. This is not much different than one of the merely aspirational goals set out in the green new deal put forth by AOC and others. In other words, the so-called left-of-center Democrats are much closer to reality than they are given credit for.
On the other hand, we have 139 house republicans and 9 republican senators voting to overturn the 2020 election. This was after the failed insurrection attempt by the Trump mob. In other words, 80% of the GOP representation in Washington is willing to overthrow democracy. A significant majority of the registered republicans agree with this seditious position. As If sedition was not enough, the GOP is rich with Q-conspiracy followers and white supremacy groups to round out their core support. The principal policy position of this group is to hold onto power at all costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession are exasperating inherent inequality and preventing us from focusing on the climate crisis and crumbling infrastructure. In this un-precedented environment of crisis and political chaos, the word centrist is meaningless. I hope the Biden Administration does the right thing and executes their plan to address these issues. They shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a common cause with the sedition caucus!
Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry. He enjoys following politics and economics.
Should Biden Steer More Left Given the Vocal Voices In the Democratic Party? No!
The Democrats won the Presidency and also a narrow majority in both houses of Congress. However, this win is not a license to pursue an ultra-left wing agenda as AOC, Sanders, etc. are advocating for. Pursuing socialist policies will be a death knell to the party in future elections.
Ours remains a center-right country. The country itself was founded by immigrants who shunned communism and socialism to make land emphasize personal liberty and freedom. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were successful in part because they governed as moderates. Barack Obama did not pursue a Medicare for All socialist medicine but rather made insurance available to many more Americans at affordable rates. Neither Clinton nor Obama tried to make college free for all. Yes, Americans would support aid to low-income students of merit to attend college. But there would be outrage if colleges are made free for all.
President Biden and the Congressional Democrats would be wise to pursue a centrist agenda that will ensure their re-election and prosperity for the USA.
Rameysh Ramdas is a resident of the SF Bay Area and has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events.
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Leading some of these resolutions were leaders of Indian subcontinental background with radical socialist ideology. They oppose Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the Indian People’s Party). Incidentally, Modi received a massive mandate in 2019 to win a second 5-year term in office. These socialist leaders also have overt and covert support from organizations with explicit anti-India and anti-Hindu agenda.
India is the largest democracy and the fifth largest economy globally. It is least bothered by attempts at bullying by fringe groups. Beyond mere optics, these resolutions are as meaningless as they are useless. They remind me of the resolutions my leftist comrade friends in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) used to pass in their GBMs (General Body Meetings) and other gatherings frequently. The comrades, belonging to the students’ wings of some of the most radical and violent communist groups in India, would threaten the ‘capitalist Americans’ and the US President with dire consequences if they did not stop their ‘imperialist takeover.’
These city council resolutions, at one level, are a typical example of the ‘wag the dog’ syndrome and a PR stunt to stay in the news. In this case, these city leaders are making desperate attempts to hide their failures as city administrators by focusing on other countries’ issues over which they have no control. In the process, they waste tax-payer money, public time, and resources on things that are not in their jurisdiction.
Most US cities are reeling under a deteriorating law-and-order situation. For example, Seattle has been the hub of Antifa-BLM violence since the tragic death of George Floyd. Besides frequent looting, rioting, and arson, the city also saw an increased level of homicide. The protestors laid siege to the state Capitol building for days and created Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), ran their parallel government with security, etc. There were riots about 200 miles south in Portland almost every night for months after the initial BLM protests. The rioters vandalized, damaged, and burnt businesses, government and private buildings, and homes.
Minneapolis saw a sharp rise in the crime rate as police officers quit en masse due to looming funding cuts. “Day and night, the bullets zip through this predominantly Black neighborhood, hitting cars, and home, and people,” reported the Washington Post. In Chicago, the weekend shootings have become a common phenomenon. By November of last year, the city had recorded 3,033 shooting and 717 killings, a 50% increase from over a year ago.
Many of these city council members seem ‘concerned’ about human rights in other countries. However, they seem entirely comfortable with lockdowns, censorship, and curtailment of other civil liberties under one pretext or other in their communities. They also seem unperturbed with the rising homelessness and economic disparities in the cities they serve. They have also turned a blind eye to the persecution of religious minorities in the Islamic republics of the Indian subcontinent.
One common thread that connects these anti-India resolutions, incidentally, is the rise of the socialist group, most notably the Democratic Socialists of America. With a clear socialist agenda, their focus seems to capture power seats at the ground level. These socialists do not shy away from criticizing even the liberals, progressives, and Democrats for being “insufficiently leftist.” In the past four years, several dozen socialist candidates have won electoral victories in cities like Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, etc.
The style of functioning of these leaders, Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute calls them City Hall Socialists, is “disruptive… often ripped from the handbook of radical activists like Saul Alinski,” writes Malanga. These socialists are making significant inroads into the Democrat Party. In some cities, they have gained a reputation as “audacious outsiders crashing the Democratic Party.”
The Socialist movement has attracted many from the Indian subcontinent. Mostly from the younger second-generation immigrant background, these young leaders have experienced electoral successes. Some of them won the down-ballot races, and their accomplishments indicate a leftward-shift, including a transition from mere community activism to electoral politics. With their electoral and legislative successes at the lowest levels of democracy, these socialists create an ecosystem that will sustain them in the long run.
Avatans Kumar is a columnist, public speaker, and activist. He writes frequently writes on the topics of language & linguistics, culture, religion, Indic knowledge, and current affairs in several media outlets.
Featured image by SounderBruce under this license.
Forum – A column where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.
Is the GOP worse than Trump? No!
The American voters have spoken and President Trump will vacate the White House. He will be relegated to a forgettable footnote in the history of our nation.
While I vehemently reject and abhor the GOP’s religious fundamentalism, narcissism, racism, sexism, intolerance of LGBT and hypocrisy, I still believe that it is vital to our interests that the GOP survives as an opposition party, a necessary evil. A healthy two party system benefits in issuing checks and balances to the instincts of both the far left and the right. You certainly do not want the likes of Ilhan Omar, AOC, and Bernie on the left and the likes of Rand Paul and Pat Robertson on the right, to steer our national conversation and agenda. The two party system ensures that fringe agendas are defeated and the nation sticks to a sensible middle course.
I am hopeful with the generational change in the coming decades, younger Republican voters will be more tolerant, inclusive and even progressive in certain areas. We just have to endure the current GOP till that happens, while working to cleanse it.
Rameysh Ramdas is a resident of the SF Bay Area and has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events.
Is the GOP worse than Trump? Yes!
It is official that the National GOP has grown into a despicable party that has given up all pretense of governance and are focused on consolidating power beyond all else. While, thankfully, Trump has been declared the loser of this election, His erratic, selfish presidency is but a symptom of the problem. GOP is the problem.
Since the early 90s, right wing radio hosts like Limbaugh and think tanks like Grover Norquist have been brainwashing voters and spreading misinformation. Their goal has been to create a lack of confidence in the electorate about in all established norms and structure in the USA. This was codified by Limbaugh in his four pillars of deceit. Trump used social media to amplify the dog whistle into a foghorn reaching vast swaths of the electorate resulting in his win in 2016. GOP readily embraced his win to further their agenda of power consolidation. Just as they did with the rise of Tea party to tear down the tax structure and GWB before that to destroy regulations.
GOP has turned their sights onto elections the very foundation of our democracy. According to a Washington Post article on December 6th Less than 10% of elected GOP congressional delegation recognizes the results of elections that were called a month ago. In another poll by Forbes only 29% of republican voters believed the legitimacy of the presidential election last month. This the clear evidence of the corruption of our democracy by the GOP using Trump. The only way to save our democracy is to reject GOP at the polls.
Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry. He enjoys following politics and economics.
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It is official. Joe Biden is the 46th man to occupy the Oval Office. Well, at least as official as it can get given the incumbent’s congenital aversion to concede. My first reaction to this victory was of course one of elation. Elation at the thought that policy by tweet could no longer be an acceptable ethos. Elation at the idea that vast swathes of people in legitimate opposition would not be summarily dismissed in crudities that normally are left unspoken in even impolite company. It feels good!
Speaking only for myself, Joe Biden is the kind of gritty, hard-working, ethically uncompromising, and compassionate person that I would have preferred to have grown into. While policies and politics are important for all of us given their implications for our livelihoods and socio-cultural experiences, there’s more to life. Joe’s way of life is what is likely to generate harmony, goodwill, and an involved camaraderie in all our lives. It transcends policy, laws, and free of political legerdemain. That is a big relief in the aftermath of this election. One that cannot be understated. One that has been missing for a while in our lives. One that people of many political affiliations welcome. One for which I’m grateful.
Yet it feels odd to feel so good. And likely, in time, the feeling will regress towards some ineffable mean as the natural high of a change in power is overcome by the real-life effects of policy implementation, debates, reasoned advocacy, special interest group admonitions, conspiracy-mongering, and other “features” of a rollicking democracy. But there’s more: The often unmentioned idea that one’s preference of a presidential candidate is a proxy for an unqualified endorsement for all things from his (God, I wish for this to be replaced by a “her” pronoun soon) party, is personally the most disillusioning part of today’s politics. At least for me. The political organization of this country has largely been fixated around the twin poles of the Republican and Democratic parties. While each has a big tent which presumably accommodates views with impressive majorities and trifling fringes and everything else in between, the constrained choice of just two in a diverse polity is too unsettling to fully enjoy any moment of elation. This Hobson’s choice makes it hard for us to exercise electoral choices in a more piecemeal manner.
Let me explain with some hypotheticals: What if I were fiscally conservative who is also a strident pro-choice voter? What if I were for prayer in schools as well as for LGBT rights? What if I were for a significantly reduced spending in defense capabilities and using the money towards paying our teachers more? What if I believe in school choice policies designed to open up the diversity of options available for our children? What if I believed that our role as a global leader and policeman is both superfluous and disingenuous? What if I truly believed that law enforcement personnel are the true heroes amongst us yet feel the need for police reform? A lot of these questions, or parts thereof, have found homes in either party and no doubt can be argued for and against by anyone far more knowledgeable than I. But that’s not the point. The point is, because of this two-party death grip in our lives, we are forced to unnaturally prioritize our many competing wishes and end up with electoral outcomes that feel somewhat disenfranchising.
Now as an alternative, what I am asking for is some reasonable dissipation of the bi-polar American order to something that includes a few more options. By no means am I suggesting forming single-issue parties geared towards short term outcomes. But surely there has to be a different conception of our lives that is governed by a plurality of thought yet unencumbered by a constrained choice of political parties. Having more parties can engender important benefits to us all:
One, a lot of us will find platforms that are more customized to our desires.
Two, theoretically, the effect of big money politics is likely going to be splintered across a wider constituency of interest groups and so less lethal.
Three, and perhaps my favorite pipe dream, is that voter participation in our vaunted electoral process could likely increase when each individual feels that there is a policy machine that is calibrated well towards their unique predilections.
Now, all of this could also deliver Italian style governance with perpetual coalitions or politically expedient partnerships. But that’s happening anyway today albeit shielded with a cloak and dagger intimacy of horse-trading that only underscores the unseemliness of our politics. At least with a multiparty democracy, all such pretenses of serving in the big tent are gone. And all said, more of us can go to a home that reflects our tastes rather than being mucked over by a dozen designers with lofty ambitions to one that just isn’t ours.
But I’ll forget it all for a moment and savor this moment in history: the vociferous resurgence of decency and yet another color barrier was broken heralding the ascendancy of a Black and Indian woman to the second-highest office in the land. Now I have big hopes for my daughter too.
Sri Raghavan is a San Francisco Bay Area corporate minion with a passion for political and cultural analysis and loves to quote from classic rock lyrics in his personal writings, AC/DC excluded. Email him at Beatles24@gmail.com for more conversation.
The country goes to the polls today. The what-if questions keep many of us awake at night. What if we make poor choices? What if healthcare becomes worse? What if we don’t survive this year?
I can’t recall ever being certain about anything in life. Until July 2020. As long as I can remember, from my first day in grade school (which desk to sit at or to share my lunch) I’ve been plagued by uncertainty. And these were the easy ones. Which college to go to, graduate school or not, meet the man my parents wanted me to, were even greater sources of uncertainty. Yet with my father in a job, that required us to move cities every two years, having to learn a new language each time and making new friends meant I must have learned to cope. Though all I recall is the anxiety that came from all the change and the uncertainty it entailed.
Strangely enough, after more than six months of being quarantined, the COVID-19 pandemic has surprised me with the degree of certainty it has brought into my life. The certainty that we don’t know a whole lot about the virus including when we’ll have a vaccine. If there will ever be a return to a normal—whether the old one or a new one. With aging parents living in India, I don’t know whether and when I’ll be able to visit them. My adult children constantly remind me that they’d rather be ‘home’ and they mean THEIR home! The pandemic’s guaranteed uncertainty, far from causing a panic attack, has had a calming effect on me, by rendering the uncertainty about everything else – the impending elections, the parents’ health, the children’s careers much less scary.
‘This too will pass.’ My mother’s mantra reverberates loudly now more than before. I remember the first time I heard her say the words. I was too young to understand how significant those words were and what they’d come to mean for difficult situations. When the emergency rule was declared in India, in the seventies, we were living in Hyderabad. The sense of fear that hovered over the homes of family and friends, the hushed conversations, and furtive trunk calls made to relatives living in Delhi are distinct even if only fragments of memory. Yet I recall the day I heard my mom whisper to her friend, ‘This too will pass.’ The mantra became my lodestar. A year later when an accident had me hospitalized for days, I held onto those words even as my aunts sang songs of comfort around me.
From the political to the social and personal, we often go through periods of great uncertainty. The current COVID-19 virus is not the first time we’ve faced a devastating pandemic. The human race has survived the bubonic plague (called the Black Death), the Spanish flu, Ebola, SARS, and other deadly viruses. The upcoming elections with the potential of devastating results are not the first crisis any country has faced. Even though the outcomes that we feel uncertainty over are never in our control, how we choose to respond is completely in our control. When my kids worry about a future that appears bleak, I quickly point out. “When you think you’ve hit rock bottom there’s only one way to go and that’s upwards!”
A story about the 16th century Mughal emperor Akbar and his advisor Birbal reminds us how to keep things in perspective. Once Akbar was strolling in the royal gardens listening to Birbal when he noticed a bamboo stick lying on the ground. The king picked it up and turned to Birbal with a mischievous smile on his face. “Can you make this stick shorter without chopping it?” Birbal looked around and spotted a gardener holding another stick—a longer one. He took the stick from the gardener and placed it next to the shorter stick that Akbar had given him. “Look, your stick is now shorter!” he declared. Birbal’s solution teaches us that our own problems may not be as bad compared to others.
As we head towards what seems to be a game-changing election, let’s use time-tested techniques, whether personal (meditation, exercise, hobbies) or public (writing, speaking, organizing), to cope with any uncertainty that we face. And continue to spread the word about the only thing that’s certain to make any difference. Vote!
Chitra Srikrishna is a Carnatic musician based in Boston.
Humans are pattern-seeking – something that doesn’t agree with the nature of reality since it is inherently uncertain and unpredictable. Anything can happen. There is a perfect blend of beauty and terror in the ambiguity, but it’s the reality we live with and keep tucked away in the backs of our minds every day.
This year has been one of pure uncertainty (in case the advertisements haven’t told you that “these are uncertain times” enough). We joke that 2020 can’t get any worse, so go ahead and add another disaster to the pile forming in the corner in the same way national debt does. It’s not normal to be as numb as we are to the concept of uncertainty. Global pandemic? Economic recession? Protestors getting shot down? The election of a decade? At this point, I could’ve added alien invasion to the list and no one would be phased.
In the year 2020, the only certainty is uncertainty itself. This year has been a breath we’ve been waiting to let out. When will it be okay to breathe? When will it be okay to feel like the crisis is over? When will we be okay?
Until then, we hold our breaths, twiddle our thumbs, and try not to hope too much in fear that something worse will roll along in response.
And here it is: this year (of all years this could possibly happen) incidentally is the year of the general elections.
Red vs. Blue
Elephant vs. Donkey
Democrat vs. Republican
We make decisions on who makes decisions for us. One of the cornerstones of democracy is free and fair elections. Take your ballot and drop it in the box as all votes are counted accurately.
But not this year. No. Like everything else this year, voting is a bit different. Mail-in ballot voting. The concept itself is not all that foreign and has worked on a smaller scale in the past. But this year (to use an overused phrase) there seems to be some controversy surrounding this. Mail-in ballots are voter fraud. We might not know the results until later. The post office sucks. You’ve heard almost everything on this by now if you’ve tuned into even half an hour of news a week.
It’s hilarious. I’m laughing right now as I write this because of the utter hypocrisy of it. I get it, the post system isn’t always perfect, but neither is our political system right now, and it seems the same people criticizing mail-in ballots seem to be glossing over the faults of our government. We keep talking about how fair it is to have mail-in ballots. Can we trust it? What if everyone’s votes don’t count? It’s not an accurate representation. It won’t make everyone’s voice heard.
Has it ever counted? Think about it. No really. Think. Way back in ye olden days, women couldn’t vote, people of color couldn’t vote, the impoverished found it difficult to vote. Was that accurate? The voice of the people was the voice of straight, rich, property-owning, white males.
Oh, but we’ve evolved from that.
Have we though?
Remember: just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. That’s the equivalent of saying that starting to think about giving rights to the LGBTQ community can fix homophobia. That’s not how that works.
We’re not that much better today than we were centuries ago in terms of free and fair elections. Why? Voter suppression exists. Who are we suppressing?
Who are the people who are suppressed in all aspects of the American government? Minority groups.
This administration is known to suppress minority groups. Throwing them in cages, threatening deportation, building a literal border wall, shooting protesters, and just sowing hatred. Not to mention how difficult it is to even be able to vote if you have a criminal record. The Shelby County vs. Holder trial didn’t help either. Democracy lost 5-4.
There are tactics and chess pieces being moved to silence people that we aren’t even aware of.
The worst kind of uncertainty is the uncertainty in whether or not your voice is heard. Am I represented? Am I equal? Am I cared for? This type of uncertainty is almost existential in nature and deserves a definitive yes. These shouldn’t be things we have to worry about, but such is the state of reality at this point.
There is a way to change this. Vote. You’ve probably already heard this one, but I’m serious: if you can, then do it. I’m not saying vote for any particular candidate but just vote. The best way to predict the future and eliminate as much of this malicious uncertainty as possible is to vote.
Vote. You can be certain in your own opinions, actions, and decisions. Once you master that, the rest shouldn’t bother you much. You have to voice your opinions and speak out against injustice. It’s hard to pinpoint definitively what is wrong and right, but the important thing is to try. It’s all anyone can do. I can say with complete certainty that trying has more of a chance of succeeding than not trying at all.
Reema Kalidindi is a junior at Lower Bucks High School and a lead volunteer at Bharatiya Temple’s school for children.
Anooshka Kumar’s grandparents voted for the first time in the US, this past week, at the age of 76 and 81. Anooshka sat them down and went through each proposition on California’s Santa Clara County 2020 Ballot – not an easy feat.
Her civic duty extended beyond just her own participation. She started an intergenerational dialogue and the outcome was pleasantly surprising. “They were excited to vote! They now understand how important this particular election is and want to bring in a new leader that actually cares for communities that have been marginalized and discriminated against,” Kumar pridefully said.
Anooshka’s hopes for a better country rely on the democratic process of voting. In order for the future that she envisions to be a reality, she educates herself and the people around her on candidates, their policies, and the propositions on the ballot. “I’m nervous and excited,” expressed Kumar, looking optimistically at the potential future, “We filled in our ballots at home then dropped them off at a ballot dropbox. We want to make sure our votes are counted in time!”
NPR had a segment of airtime addressing people’s anxieties about the election…which inevitably led to more anxiety about the election. Anooshka and her grandparents want their votes to be meaningful, but will they?
Not everyone feels as optimistic…
Diego Osorio, a Mountain View resident pressed, “I wanted to go vote in person because I personally believe that Trump will try to steal the election anyway he can. Recent reports are claiming that he may attempt to throw away mail-in ballots. I want to set an example. If you can vote in person…go!” As a person of color, Osorio is concerned about voter suppression.
A quick survey of the India Currents’ readership reflects that our readers were less likely to use the Vote By Mail option. Of the 150 -160 million expected to vote this year, 70- 80 million of them will Vote By Mail. Vote By Mail will be twice what it was four years ago, with 82 million absentee ballot requests.
“We know the number of [mail in ballots] will be in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands but that would not be unique to this election. The pace of mail balloting and the actual time it will take once [a vote] mails their ballot will be the same as it was in 2016,” assures Dr. Persily and continues, “You can take that as good news or bad news…No one was reporting on the hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots that were late in the last election.” Local postal officials feel like they have it under control.
So close to the election, discouraged voters should not be afraid to vote in person. This year there are larger voter centers but long lines are to be expected. The length of the line at a polling place is not directly linked to the length of wait time, since social distanced practices will be observed for safety.
How to View the Election Day
When disseminating information, check to see if the problem is isolated or systemic to a locality. For example, there may be absent poll workers with COVID-related illness, inadequately trained poll workers, or voter intimidation at a specific center but the problem is not systemic unless you see statistically significant rises of such events in a particular locality.
“Get rid of the notion of precinct reporting,” advocated Dr. Persily. Absentee ballot collection precincts may or may not be part of the number of precincts reporting and can skew results. The biggest faux pas would be to declare a winner or use predictive results as the final result on the day of the election.
Patience is key.
“What makes a count official is the certification but the Chief Election Officer in a state,” emphasized Dr. Persily. Most states will not have an official ballot count on election day but check states like Florida that should have nearly all votes counted on election day.
Interested in data and research and want to share that with your network? Always explain the share of vote counted over the expected vote, explain geographically where votes are coming from, and report results in fully reported jurisdictions as a comparison to the 2016 results in the same jurisdiction. Such modeling has already been done by Citizen Data and can be used for accurate insight into the election results.
After Polls Close
Prepare for unwarranted claims of victory by candidates and an onslaught of disinformation relating to voter fraud, destroyed votes, and malpractice.
However, to use our President’s words, “Stand back and stand by…”
Even though we are all anxious, Dr. Persily has confidence in the system. Anooshka, her grandparents, and Diego will all have their votes counted in the 2020 Election.
Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.
Featured Image by League of Women Voters of California LWVC from USA and license here.
On social media and in real life, we all know friends and family members who complain with good reason that there is little sunlight between establishment Democrats and Republicans on many matters of policy such as race, immigration, and use of U.S. power in foreign affairs. They argue that in dealing with these challenges, the Democrats and Republicans are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, peas of the same pod. They would, for example, argue that under President Obama, more people were deported than under any other President (including George W. Bush); that drones during his eight-year Presidency killed many innocent civilians; and that Obama sent 60,000 additional troops into Afghanistan.
Following this logic, some people might even propose that there is not a huge difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and that Trump has been in fact a strong leader on trade and economy.
At the same time, we need to recognize that politics is ultimately the art of the possible and the choice we make every four years does have consequences for the U.S. and for the rest of the world. More than ever before, we simply don’t have the ostrich-like option to sit out this election or vote for a third party candidate. Indeed, if we view Donald Trump as a serious danger to a fully functioning democracy in the U.S., we must seriously consider voting for Biden/Harris ticket. Not voting for Biden on November 3 is effectively another vote for Trump.
None of our Presidents in the past would meet our highest standards in every imaginable way.
Thomas Jefferson played a major role in shaping our constitutional ideals of life, liberty, and happiness for one and all, but then there is the Sally Hemings story along with his contradictory views and actions on slavery.
With the partial exception of Abraham Lincoln (who grew in ethical stature while in office), no major U.S. President has been without blemish or has met our radical criteria or expectations.
Franklin Roosevelt created societal safety nets (including our hallowed Social Security system), brought us out of the Great Depression with compassion and empathy, and helped the Allies to rid us of the scourge of fascism in WWII, but he was also the one who placed 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps.
Lyndon B. Johnson would get an A-plus on Civil Rights (on par with Lincoln in many ways), but he would probably get a D-minus on the Vietnam War. But here is the reality check on our frequently limited choices: the country and the world would have definitely been better off under Albert Gore than under George W. Bush. At the very least, the Iraq War would NOT have happened and the trillion-plus dollars spent on that senseless war would likely have gone into building infrastructure and fighting climate change in the US. We need to learn not only what happened in the past, but also from the might-have-beens of history.
We believe without a doubt that the U.S. and the world, our healthcare and environment, our civil rights, and civil liberties will be much better off under Biden than under the imperious, narcissistic Trump in his second term. Biden’s decency and sense of empathy can help to heal the divisions and wounds that have been inflicted upon us since 2016. Also, let us not forget Biden has evolved on many important issues surrounding race and law enforcement and has openly expressed regrets for some of his earlier regressive policies and views, in the process of embracing some of the more progressive positions on education and healthcare.
This perspective is not without relevance to the current situation in India too. The BJP could not have won majorities in 2014 and 2019 with the support of hardcore RSS cadres alone. Indeed, voters who subscribe to “soft Hindutva” are largely responsible for the electoral success of BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Some academics and intellectuals in urban centers of India tend to rationalize their support for Modi by exclaiming: “Do you see anyone else we could have voted for? At least we voted for someone who is a strong leader.” Such a focus on a strong leader, away from democratic values and ideals, is eerily reminiscent of how Germans described their choice in the 1930s.
In the U.S. context, we hope that the Biden/Harris team find a way of accepting the challenge of defanging the military-industrial complex that has insidiously kept almost all 20th Century Presidents from both parties in the grip of huge defense budgets and dispensable military adventures abroad. No one spoke more clearly and accurately on that foundational problem of “America” in relation to the world than an Army General, a Republican President named Dwight G. Eisenhower. No President in the past six decades has heeded the prescient warning Eisenhower had issued in 1961, at the end of his eight years in the White House:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Of course, Eisenhower remained fully immersed in the logic of the Cold War. John F. Kennedy too could not shake that off. And even in 2020, we have still not weaned ourselves from the logic of competing superpowers. We hope the Biden/Harris team, when inaugurated on January 20, 2021, will pay heed to Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of building a “beloved community” at both home and abroad, pursuing peace and prosperity for individuals and groups within the U.S. and between nations around the world. We will all need to work hard to keep them honest during the next four years.
Amritjit Singh is Langston Hughes Professor Emeritus at Ohio University and lives in Austin, Texas.
Nidhi Trehan is a sociologist focusing on minority rights and political mobilization and is co-founder of TheySeeBlue’s Austin chapter, part of an all-volunteer network of South Asians across the US dedicated to getting out the vote for Democrats.
My earliest “memory” of America is of my father telling me about the moon landing. “John F Kennedy said we will put a man on the moon in 10 years and the Americans did it.” As a little girl growing up in India, I imagined a country called America whose presidents were visionaries, whose people believed in science, and whose spirit was ambitious.
My second “memory” of America is reading about WWII. “Roosevelt told the American people not to fear, and it was under his leadership that the Allies won the war”. I imagined this president who had suffered from Polio himself; his determination forged in the crucible of personal trials, and I imagined Americans as a courageous lot, willing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good.
My third “memory” of America is of watching the news about the first Gulf War. “The US presidentGeorge H.W. Bushis a Navy pilot himself, who flew 58 missions in WWII”. By this time, I was fascinated by American leaders – full of enterprise, conviction, and personal courage. And my heart was full of respect and admiration for this far-off place.
That America; the country of my imagination is what I immigrated to as a young woman. I came to America because I thought it was the best country on the planet, and I came to offer it the best I had. I came to America because I believed in the ideals that I thought were seeped into the soil of this great country. I am not the only one who came for that reason. Many of us who grew up in countries around the world imagined America to be a receptacle for the best one has to offer, a place where dreams and ambitions came true, a shining city on the hill.
Living in America, I came to know more about its history. I learned that the truth was far more nuanced, the country far more complex, its policies and leaders far more flawed than the little girl had imagined. Yet with all its flaws and complexity, it was a country that, to my immigrant eyes, appeared to forever strive to become a more perfect union, a place where people hardly cared about where you came from but were always interested in where you were going, a place where mastery of craft was valued over superficial achievements, a place where what you knew was more important than who you knew. I felt at home in such a place.
I saw the twin towers fall on 9/11 and cried alongside hundreds of thousands of Americans – the gaping hole in the NYC skyline left a hole in my heart too. When yelled at by a bunch of white teenagers in a car next to me telling me to f*** off, and go back to my country, I was shocked at first, but quickly understood it to be misplaced anger of young Americans who also had a hole in their hearts. I was against the war in Iraq, and so I marched alongside thousands, participating in the finest American tradition of non-violent protest – the tradition that brought India its own independence from the mighty British Empire, the tradition that had made its way from Thoreau to Gandhi back to MLK Jr. in a karmic loop between my two homes. I felt dismayed at the cacophony of fake debate around climate change fueled by the fossil fuel industry and perpetuated by the likes of Fox News. Although I couldn’t vote yet, my heart swelled with pride when Americans elected their first black president, and when that president corralled every single country on the planet into the Paris Climate Agreement, in an effort to save the world from imminent climate disaster, I told friends and family back in India – this is what American leadership looks like, it’s still alive! They didn’t need to be told, they knew it too.
Nothing prepared me for the shock of Donald Trump. I remember when I first heard Donald Trump as a candidate – I was caught speechless at the parallels I saw and heard between what he said & how he behaved, and the politicians I had grown up listening to & watching in India. Nothing about him felt “American” to me – no vision, no courage, no brilliance, no statesmanship, no building of bridges. All I heard was hate-mongering, fear-mongering, and showmanship of the worst kind. Having grown up in a deeply sexist country, it was Donald Trump’s treatment of and rhetoric on women that told me that sexism is not only very much alive in America but is now acceptable in American leaders.
I couldn’t believe what else I was learning about candidate Trump – the fraud his businesses indulged in, the thousands of lawsuits he was embroiled in – many of which he openly gloated as bullying tactics against people far less powerful than himself – when did fraud and bullying become something to gloat over in America? Unlike other presidents before him, Trump neither served in the military nor showed respect for others who did, calling John McCain a loser. He rallied his followers into obscene chants to lock up his political opponents and brandished the possibility of an armed revolt if he happened to lose the election. I was awestruck – American democracy and its political landscape were devolving in front of my very eyes.
The idealist part of me couldn’t believe that Trump could possibly win the hallowed office of the American presidency. But another part dreaded what it innately knew from having a lived experience of a far more corrupt, dog-eat-dog political system – people like Trump win, and often, not despite their hateful rhetoric but because of it. There are leaders who call for us to be guided by the better angels of our nature and not give into fear – great visionaries like Lincoln and FDR. And then there are those who give permission to act out our worst inclinations, goad us to fall for the lowest common denominator. I saw many such politicians win elections over and over in India. I thought it wasn’t possible in America – my shining city on the hill. I was wrong.
November 9, 2016 – I knew in my bones that American democracy had been dealt a severe blow, I felt in my heart that the American promise of democracy – with malice towards none and charity for all had been ripped asunder, I saw the promise of America fade for friends & family abroad, almost overnight. I could only hope that President Trump would be a better man than candidate Trump.
Four years of his presidency proved that hope false. Every day I see a president, who refuses to rise to the stature of his office, lies ad nauseam, insults the military, denies science and disrespects scientists, surrounds himself with criminals and when they are convicted pardons them, keeps petty scores & tweets against ordinary Americans and American businesses. A president, who brazenly indulges in nepotism; his appointment of family members to cherished positions in his administration acutely reminds me of the nepotism rife in Indian politics. A president who had promised to “drain the swamp” but has instead turned the government into a cesspool of corruption like never before, with every department headed by industry lobbyists, pillaging people’s money for private profit.
Friends and family around the world marvel at what my fellow Americans bought into but I have no answer to them. I am not sure if ordinary Americans are able to see how much this country has changed in the span of 4 years. If the old adage, “united we stand, divided we fall” is something to learn from, we have fallen very far indeed. I see signs on lawns around where I live saying “make liberals cry again”; emblematic of a country full of hate and division, and I wonder how it came to pass, that happiness to some is to make their fellow Americans cry. I see signs at white supremacist rallies saying “Diversity = White Genocide” and I realize I am being told that my very existence as a brown person is a threat to theirs, that this country belongs to white people & white immigrants – meaning my white immigrant husband is welcome but I am not. I remember those kids in the car after 9/11, telling me to go back to my country. Except that this time, it is the American President himself saying those words, for that is what he tells me when he calls those white supremacists “very fine people”.
For 4 long years, Donald Trump simply refused to be my President. He refused to be my President when he refused to govern with any manner of decency or grace. He refused to be my President because he refused to inspire Americans to come together in a common purpose, instead pitting them against one another, so they are more divided than ever before since the civil war. He refused to be my President when he put immigrants – asylum-seekers & their children; the proverbial “tired, poor and hungry” in cages – is this how America treats its immigrants? He refuses to be my President when he undermines the work of medical professionals, scientists, and state governors, even as 200,000+ Americans have died under his watch. He refuses to be my President when he refuses to acknowledge the enormity of Climate Chaos, squandering what could have been another “moon-shot” moment for America, willfully pushing Americans and the world closer to the edge of disaster. He refused to be my President because he could not ascend to the stature his office behooves, warranting a spirit of humility, perseverance, and self-sacrifice. Instead, he has turned the country I was proud of, into an object of pity around the world. So much for the promise of making it great.
Despite his self-proclaimed greatness, comparing himself to Lincoln and asking for his face to be added to Mount Rushmore, Trump has left the American spirit and its moral ascendancy around the world in tatters. He is already ranked by historians & scholars, and seen by much of the world, as one of the worst American presidents ever. In its nearly 250-year-old history, America has had 45 presidents, all of them powerful for a brief period, yet most of them forgotten soon after. That’s the nature of history; it turns the once-mighty into nothing but dust, it is poised to do the same to this one.
But from the eyes of this immigrant, Donald Trump would forever be seen and remembered as the President of the Divided States of America.
Swati Srivastava is a film-maker, an environmentalist, and a first generation immigrant in the USA. She can be reached via Linkedin and swati@TiredAndBeatup.com
I have always considered myself an empathetic chap, fully able to understand other people’s points of view. And believed in their freedom to voice them, however radically different or downright stupid they may be, till Mr. Trump showed up. Took maybe a year or two for this thing to bloom by watching my designated TV Channels, till I got infected with this new bug of intolerance – if Chacko is a supporter of Trump, I don’t want to have anything to do with Chacko.
I practiced this for some time till out of the blue the unthinkable happened – some of the folks I deeply respected emerged as T-supporters. My policy of shunning T-people came to a screeching halt and I called for an emergency top brass internal review of this tricky matter. We met in our basement bar, Tomatin on-the-rocks, and me.
While deliberating on the why, how, how come, etc. an old Hindi song dropped by:
Ye, kyaa hua, Kaisay hua Kab hua, Kyon hua
After a while, my innards started to get attacked by a gnawing doubt – maybe I am wrong. I mean, these are really good people, who genuinely help their fellow beings, and some of them I even try to emulate. How can they be right and I be wrong in a matter that is as clear as black and white. Purely accident, I mean the pun. Drove me to think maybe am missing something and so our session ended with no conclusive findings but decided to keep collecting more perspectives.
The revelation came during a weekend when my Mother-in-Law was visiting us. I was at the kitchen island in the company of the ladies, gingerly cutting ladies-finger lengthwise and overhearing the mother-daughter banter. My wife was asking her something about a ménage-a-trois involving Indra, Ahalya, and Gauthama and the clarification Amma was giving was too complicated for me to digest, but her rejoinder at the end of explaining was a no-brainer – “Anita, these stories in our epics are not just to enjoy their story value, these have lessons we can use in our lives.” My flickering mental tube light suddenly stood still, shining its full 100 Wattage.
I think it was a Zen Buddhist who said, When a man cutting wood gets enlightenment, he continues to cut wood. I continued to cut the green
vegetables but my mind was on Drona, Bhishma, and Karna. All noble characters and stayed so till the end, in the eyes of Vyasa. And this is in spite of staying on the dark side with the Kauravas, for whatever pre-existing conditions, to borrow the popular medical parlance. And we all look up to them as good souls.
That’s when I realized the embarrassing shift that had happened in my neurons over the past few years. Like in the Crusades period in Europe, I came to embrace the mantra “if you are not with me, you are against me.” I wonder what happened to my favorite Henry R. Luce’s journalistic principle, “I will write against my opponents, but I will willingly die fighting for their right to voice their opinion.”
My opinion about Mr. T remains the same and I will continue on the side of the Pandavas, fighting for the soul of the country. But the dismal thoughts I had about my near and dear supporting the wrong guy have been resolved and I feel relieved now, having circled back to my normal self – able to stand in the opposing teams camp and sympathize with them. When close friends and colleagues that I look up to are supporting Big T, they are merely taking a political stand. Me and those folks – we still share the same long term values, only our opinions differ and as we all know, by the grace of God, opinions are not unbreakable, they are always reversible.
Jayant Kamicheril was born in East Africa and did his schooling in Kumarakom, Kerala. For the past 22 years, he has been working in technical sales for the food industry and lives in Reading, PA.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of India Currents and India Currents does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
On an October day, around the time I turned 59, I’m voting as if my life in my adoptive nation depends on it. At no point in my life in these United States have I felt more insecure or more irrelevant. I feel like the phalanx of coronavirus striving to live inside the body of America’s 45th President. It wants to stay but the environment is toxic.
The insecurity I feel has resounded around the globe in a year unlike any other in recent history: Pestilence, fires, death, fear, unemployment, grief and loneliness, all, in 2020 marked by miles of gravestones. For the privileged among us, this year was a reminder of how fortunate we were that we could work from the comfort of our homes. For each of us, at every rung of the US electorate, this year has been a watershed year proving why we must care a great deal about the people we elect to govern us.
I became eligible to vote in July 2011 upon becoming a naturalized citizen twenty-four years after I arrived in the United States. My husband and I delayed becoming citizens until citizenship became a practical need. We left one democracy for another in search of name and fame but we didn’t entirely commit to our adoptive country either. This lack of early investment in the place that had nurtured us became more apparent to me in January 2017 when America became Play-Doh in the hands of an immature, bigoted human.
Reading author Vijay Prashad’s Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today made me reckon with some of my stances. While visiting his relatives in Northern California, Prashad observed how educated Indian-American professionals in their vast, comfortable homes did not care to be engaged in the political process in any serious way. He reasoned that it was because they had never had to fight for their survival. The fight for independence in India had been fought by the previous generation. In their adoptive nation, too, Prashad pointed out, it was the doggedness of the African American community that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Well before that, African Americans and other minorities had also fought for fairness in employment which led to their employment in companies engaged in work for World War II.
The Indians who arrived here in the United States after 1965 were thus doubly privileged; we had benefited from our parents’ fight in our native shores and enjoyed the privilege of the black man’s fight in our adoptive country. The only real struggle faced by Indian-Americans, as we rose up the ranks of corporate America, was to secure our foothold in America’s meritocracy. During our climb up, successful Indian-Americans did not think to question why some segments of American society never crossed our path; we shrugged it off observing that some people did not work hard enough or were not smart enough. A 2017 Pew Research report showed how the household income of Indian-Americans ($100,000) was a lot higher than the median annual household income of households headed by Asian Americans ($73,060). While Indian-Americans and their families—4.5 million, according to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI)—had done better, had we consistently sought to make America a better place for others? Hadn’t we become part of the systemic racism now endemic to our nation?
In late September, I was startled to read a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times. The paper was contrite about how, over its 140-year history, it had frequently been insensitive and racist in its coverage stating its support of Japanese internment, its denigration of Latinos as “marauders” and its tacit nod to white supremacy. It listed all the instances when it could have been fairer. One of the obvious ways was to hire people who represented, fairly, the demographics of the area it served.
While reading it, I wondered about individual responsibility in nation-building. Indian-Americans had gloated over our successes never questioning why a cross-section of the American population suffered injustices even as we thrived. When my son was in high school in Saratoga, he wondered why there was only one African American kid in his graduating class. I was taken aback, too, but I didn’t really think about this any more than I needed to. Here was my moment to ponder and to question the demographics of my community. Thus I too was complicit.
The time has come for successful immigrant communities like mine to admit that we rode on the coattails of others who fought for fair employment practices and equal rights that led, ultimately, to the immigration act of 1965. 2020 has offered us a rare glimpse into our common humanity. Let us commit to the common cause of building a fairer nation. Let us begin by voting for a qualified compassionate leader.
I have seen how the Indian American Voters have gotten slightly disaffected by Harris/Biden/Jaipal Reddy/Ro Khanna/Ilhan Omar’s stances being perceived as though against India, especially on Kashmir and Modi administration.
In swing states, Indian votes will make a difference. I see a large number of politicians and policy wonks giving a perception of this anti-India stance (and mollycoddling of Separatism in Kashmir by Muslim fanatics supported by Pakistan and China).
Therefore I would request politicians that support Indian democracy and want peace and normalcy to return to the Indian subcontinent – especially Kashmir, please make a strong statement that supports India’s Modi’s efforts to call the 70-year-old bluff (explained below) and bring normalcy to the people of Kashmir, including for Muslims, by restoring Law and Order slowly.
To US Political Leaders and Policymakers:
Please give light to the treatment and plight of the Kashmiri Pandits who had to flee Srinagar due to the genocide/ethnic cleansing wrought on them by the Pakistani Army.
Mention the fact that a majority of the J&K population and area – Jammu residents and Ladakhis do support the Modi governments’ actions and gradual restoration of the rule of law.
Mention that after article 370, there are glimmers of hope in Kashmir and now the local population is asking the Indian government about constructing infrastructure instead of breaking away. As an example, read this article on India Currents: https://indiacurrents.com/after-370-glimmers-of-hope/
You could also talk about the torment (and smothering) of ordinary people in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (which Pak cunningly calls Azad Kashmir) and Gilgit Baltistan under the hands of the Pakistani military, which does not easily allow free expression or a free Press. In addition, talk about how a large cross-section in these regions under Pakistan, wants to actually join India!
1) Don’t ignore the plight of the soldiers and their families who have lost their near & dear ones too.
2) There is a history of corruption and demagoguery by the Kashmiri politicians (Abdullahs and Mufti Mohammed Syeds, albeit along with central political parties) in rigging elections in 1989 and thus giving disaffected youth a cause to rebel – however unjustified.
3) Note the treachery of the Hurriyat leaders (local Kashmiri leaders), including Gilanis.
4) Please understand that J&K had acceded to India in 1947 and it is the Pakistani army that tried to wrest it away by force. Upon that, Article 370 and 35A were but temporary and stop-gap measures having no validity any longer and completely un-tenable for a state in a democratic country
5) Understand the abuses of these articles in Kashmir, with the politicians giving passports and citizenships to Uighurs as well as Rohingyas without any sanction from the Central Government.
6) Let people know about the amount of money and sops given by Indians to Kashmir, which was mis-used by the corrupt Kashmiri (local) politicians and administration before the abrogation of article 370.
8) Realize that the original Kashmiri Muslim (mostly a Shias/Sufis) will have much better human rights, security, and equality in a unified Kashmir than under Pakistan (Shias being persecuted in Pak), just as Kashmiris had between 1947 and 1989, before militancy.
I really hope you can educate your colleagues to avoid making a blanket “mother of all” statements supporting the plight of the Kashmiri Muslim alone, without understanding the complex history, nuances, and facts – especially the plight of the plurality of the J&K population (Pandits, Jammu residents and Ladakhis).
I hope your colleagues will be even more strident in castigating and thwarting the Pakistani military’s nefarious designs at damaging the Kashmiri psyche, peace, and economy by fueling Jihadist terrorism.
If you leaders are true to your words and really care for the average Kashmiri, you need to pass resolutions to stop funding and aiding the Pakistani military, impose sanctions on ISI and strengthen the Indian administration’s hand in making J&K a prosperous part of peaceful and democratic India.
Please help in the ongoing restoration of peace by making such statements for India’s efforts and pass this on to your colleagues’ policymakers.
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