Tag Archives: Sarita Sarvate

Kamala Harris’ Amma, an Unlikely Soulmate

Until recently, American elections used to evoke in me, not angst, but wonder.  When Bill Clinton ran for president, I watched The Man from Hope, a documentary about his life, over and over again, feeling inspired by the story of a boy who rose from an abusive childhood to reach the highest office in the world.

Through the summer of 2008, as the world teetered on the edge of a financial meltdown and my mother lay dying in our house in Nagpur, I sat by her bedside, reading Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father, and marveling at the miracle of America.

Even today, as a criminal occupies the White House and I dread the demise of the American promise, I come across the story of Shymala Gopalan and feel I’ve met my soulmate.

I am talking of Kamala Harris’ mother, who, until recently, I did not know was Indian.  Why, as Harris rose through the political ranks, she never spoke of her mother, remains a mystery, but I find Shyamala to be a fascinating figure.  I can’t imagine a young woman from Madras – now Chennai – venturing into the University of California, Berkeley, at a time when few Indians had even heard of the place.

I recall when I was a school kid in the 1960s and America was just entering into my consciousness.  The Kennedys had appeared on the world scene and Jackie Kennedy was visiting India.

I imagine the young Shyamala leaving Madras, a place of Hindu orthodoxy and spicy food, and arriving alone in Berkeley just as the ‘60s were in the offing.  I can envision her being thrown into the tumult of Vietnam War protests and civil rights movements.

Nearly two decades later, I arrived in Berkeley to find myself just as exotic as Shyamala once was.  In the ‘70s, there were still very few Indian women on campus and even fewer role models to follow.

How had Shyamala navigated this terrain nearly twenty years earlier?  What were her guiding principles?  Did she find Berkeley’s liberal politics and culture just as invigorating as I found it?  Did the Americans of Berkeley, a breed unto themselves, wrap their arms around her just as they had done around me?  Did she relish this place where she could live without restrictions or fear of judgment, just as I had done?  Did she welcome the absence of expectations?

I am convinced that she did.  Why else would she fall in love with a black man from Jamaica?  Why, when it became imperative, would she divorce him and strike out on her own as a single mother?

But the question that haunts me is this: how did Shyamala have the courage of her conviction that I’ve had to struggle to maintain?

Arriving in the US decades after Shyamala, I experienced the stigma of divorce out of my arranged marriage. I was ostracized, not by the Americans, but by the Indian community, which had just begun forming in the Silicon Valley.  Later, I felt the taboo of my marriage to a white Englishman.

I felt I had been wronged.

But Shyamala overcame so much more.  When Kamala mentions that her grandparents had no telephone and had to rely on writing flimsy aerograms that took two weeks to arrive in Berkeley, I tear up.  Decades after I arrived in the US, my parents too did not have a phone.  For them, calling me involved an expedition at a prearranged time to my cousin’s house in another suburb.

I imagine that the lack of communication made it easier for Shyamala to break away, to assimilate into North American society; to eventually take the professorship in medical research at McGill University in Montreal and move her two daughters there.

Just as it had enabled me to strike on my own path.

Recently, I came across a picture of Shyamala walking her daughters to an elementary school in Berkeley.  In the photo, she is wearing black stockings, a short plaid skirt, matching vest, and a black blouse.  With her strong Indian features, curly hair, and beaded earrings, she looks like a woman who is working hard to assimilate.  The picture reminds me of the first skirt and vest outfit I had purchased nearly forty years ago for attending job interviews.  With my knee-length hair and off-the-boat expression, I’d perhaps looked just as out of place in it as Shyamala had done.

The thought fills me with a kinship that I haven’t experienced with any other immigrant female. I marvel at the miracle of our nation which, every four years, presents us with unique stories of the American journey.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

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.

Northern Light

The land is rolling, understated, desert like. Lava fields, volcanic craters, and boiling, sulfurous pools of water abound. But what I notice first is the light. A flat, soothing white light that envelops the land. A light that caresses your senses. A light that is never harsh or dull, but always luminescent, be it day or night. A light that wakes me up at 3:30 a.m., makes me pull the curtain aside, and shows me an orange sun peeking from behind the mountains lining the North Atlantic harbor. But mysteriously, the light remains a translucent white, brightening the sky all night long.

It is said that Tolkien invented hobbits, goblins, elves, and dwarves. But like most legacies that are claimed to be English, Tolkien appropriated the creatures from a far away people.

No fan of Tolkien, I am staying in this far away land. And I can see why its ancient settlers dreamt of magical creatures. One minute the green hills would be feeding the goats here, the next minute they would be spewing hot magma, paving everything with nature’s tar. A volcano would erupt sometimes, and its lava, cooled by the glaciers, would turn into basalt columns that would resemble walls little gremlins built. On occasion, ash from an eruption would cover the farms, forming such a large cloud that a nuclear winter would prevail, followed by an ice age. And people would huddle in their stone-and-wood huts, writing the sagas of their clan which they feared might not survive.

I visit the Viking house, located in a desolate valley covered with volcanic ash, still treeless after a thousand years; it resembles a wasteland even today, though a river has always run through it.

As a child, reading Uncle Moon magazine, I used to think of the Vikings with their horned-hats as mythological creatures; it never occurred to me that one day I would visit their houses.

From my desk now, I look upon the snow-covered Mt. Hekla, the culprit that destroyed the Vikings’ valley. And beside it, in the far distance, lies Mt. Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010, creating havoc for European air traffic. In the foreground, merely a few hundred yards away, is the Laugar, the lake, out of which steam spouts, living up to the town’s name, Laugarvatn, Hot Spring Lake. Somehow, I find its acrid odor comforting.

There are crater lakes here too, in the serene waters of which stand trolls, stone figures resembling humans frozen by daylight, the legend goes.

The goblins are not the only things that are miniature-sized in this land. Even canyons and rivers appear that way.

You arrive at a famed waterfall and all you see is an empty lot. You cannot imagine more than a finger of water flowing here but when you walk a hundred yards, a magnificent torrent gushes out of a hole in the ground, reminding you of Niagara.

Coming here, you feel you are witnessing the primordial earth, but ironies abound. It turns out that the landscape that is so mythologized in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones is anything but natural. When the Nordic people came here, they cleared the forests for grazing. The ground eroded, creating this denuded landscape that has become America’s latest playground.

I myself have come here to escape. Yet, I’ve been full of misgivings. “Don’t expect too much,” I’ve told myself. “The other residents at the artists’ colony may not like you.”

“Or you might hate the food. You might not discover the sanctuary you long for.”

But this land is so serene, I sleep here for hours. I discover that, for once, the stars and the planets have aligned in my favor, and the residents, all women, are accommodating yet genuine.

From this vantage point, my life in America recedes into the distance; all the disappointments and traumas and stresses don’t exactly melt away but take on the optical illusion of being just as miniature-sized as mythological creatures. I am alive; I am breathing; I have ventured where few Indian women have gone on their own, I remind myself in moments of vulnerability. If someone hasn’t given me a prize, then I must reward myself for my valor.

This land may be small, its people may be few and isolated, sharing the same genealogical tree, but their circumstances have not made them small-minded. Our hosts, Alda and Jon, adopted two lovely children from India nearly twenty years ago and often talk about their recipes for tandoori chicken and aloo gobi.

Standing on the rim of a miniature black canyon, I meet an Indian rafting guide named Ravi who is spurring his charges to jump into the waters below. And I am touched. I so long to learn his story, but he is preoccupied.

Yet the looming disaster of Donald Trump and Brexit are never far away from my mind. But at least here, far away from the Republican Convention and its 24/7 cable coverage, I feel safe. I wish I could stay forever. I long to inhabit a country where strong women are respected, where men are genuinely interested in the outside world, and where children have a village willing to raise them.

I heart you Iceland, I whisper.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

Sexual Power and Politics

Something happened to me on June 7th, 2016. As I watched Hillary give her victory speech (for being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party), tears came to my eyes. I was shaken to the core. Rationally, I could not compute my reaction. But emotionally, I understood it.

As you may well know, I have had a conflicted relationship with Hillary Clinton. Like millions of Americans, I haven’t liked Hillary as a person very much even though I have never doubted her intellectual accomplishments.

But on that Tuesday night, all my doubts melted away. The enormity of the moment overwhelmed me. A woman was on the verge of becoming the leader of the free world. Things were never going to be the same again.

Actually, it was not Hillary who moved me but Rachel Maddow. Maddow, theMSNBC anchor, has a way of telling a story that lifts politics out of the morass of the dull and the dreary and elevates it to the romantic. On the eve of Obama’s visit to Cuba, for example, Maddow started her program with the story of a 1960 dinner at the house of Ben Bradley, the editor of the Washington Post, and ended up with the revelation of a secret peace mission to Cuba that a man named William Attwood would have undertaken had Kennedy lived.

On the eve of Hillary’s victory, Maddow started her show with the campaign of Barry Goldwater and ended up with the stories of two women who had dared to run for President in the ‘60s, Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm. Like many immigrants, I knew nothing of either woman, and as the story progressed, I was struck by the ‘50s sensibility with which even the most ardent female supporters of the two women had treated them, asking them which male candidates they would support.

Hillary campaigns in prose, but Maddow translates her substance into poetry. So watching the show, I couldn’t help parse my own reactions to Hillary. I wondered if, deep down, I disliked Hillary because she reminded me so much of my own inner contradictions. Like Hillary, I too have cherished the men in my life more than I should have; like Hillary, I have sacrificed my own personal advancement in favor of my family’s welfare. Like Hillary, I have been the butt of put-downs because I have been a strong woman who has not tolerated the “mansplaining” and other treatments I am subjected to. Like Hillary, I have felt entitled to power and prestige and respect but haven’t always gotten it.

It is ironic that in the year that a woman is finally a nominee, the Republicans are rallying around a candidate who is a sexist female-hater, a man who reduces women to body parts.

When Howard Stern asked him to identify three women whose bodies he found hot, Trump named his own daughter Ivanka. When the radio jockey inquired if he would still love his wife Melania if she were disfigured in an accident, Trump replied that he would, if her breasts were still intact.

Are you feeling sick already?

This election is thus an ultimate referendum on gender and sexual attitudes in America. And it is in this area that Trump will attack Hillary the most. He cannot tolerate the notion that a middle-aged, somewhat plain woman will be standing on the dais debating him; he will wade into the gutter while his working class white male supporters will egg him on.

The battle of the sexes has already begun; prominent women like Elizabeth Warren are calling out Trump’s chauvinism.

But at the heart of the schism is something very sinister, namely that women have little sexual power in today’s society. Time and time again, I come across men who have gone from adolescent horny dogs to dirty old men without ever transitioning into sensitive family men; men who, even at my age, objectify me; men who don’t want to know about my writings or my intellect or my strength. In a way, feminism has made it worse for women because men can now sexually exploit women without facing any social or moral strictures. No wonder then that young women today are coerced into sending nude pictures to men who simply intend to use them for sex and rape.

But what if the women simply said “no?” What if, en masse, they refused to be intimate without an emotional connection? What if they demanded more grace, respect and dignity from men, even at the risk of being alone?

I know President Hillary Clinton will have other things to worry about. Still, I think an honest dialog on gender, along the lines of Obama’s speech on race, delivered during his 2008 campaign, will inspire women worldwide. Perhaps with the help of prominent women like Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Kamala Harris, President Hillary Clinton could begin an initiative to teach young women—and men—about the correct balance of sexual power in our lives and our society.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

The United States of Minorities

When a Filipina friend told me that her relatives and friends were voting for Donald Trump, I was dumbstruck.  I knew they voted for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.  The rationale then was that the Republicans would strengthen the military, which their family members belonged to. That was a flimsy enough excuse, but now the Filipinos are voting for Trump. In fact, Gel Santos Relos, the anchor of The Filipino Channel’s “Balitang America” published an article last year titled “Donald Trump Gains Votes Among Conservative Filipinos” in the Asian Journal. But I still can’t believe that they are voting for Trump the ignoramus! Trump the racist! Trump the misogynist! Trump the white supremacist! Trump the narcissist! Trump the bully! Trump the fascist!

Most often you hear Trump supporters give cliched excuses, like, “He tells it like it is,” or “He will run government like a business.” Or worse yet, “Republicans oppose gay marriage.”

Recently, an Indian-American PAC was formed to support Trump. The backers of this PAC see similarities between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi.

That is why, when so many liberals tell me that “The Donald only got votes from middle aged white men,” that “he has no chance in the general election,” that “he got very few votes in the primaries,” I laugh. I cannot believe the ability of liberals for such wishful thinking.

All along, I have been saying, “Watch my words, the Republican Party is going to get behind Trump.” But liberals have been fantasizing, first about a contested convention, and then about the Republican leadership’s abandonment of Trump.

The truth is, Republicans hate Hillary more than they dislike Donald Trump; they will do anything to destroy her. She is a weak candidate in any case; her unfavorability rating is almost as high as that of the Donald; 55% versus 65%. And as for the skeletons in her closet, she can perhaps outdo Trump who doesn’t get defensive about his past.

Which makes me wish that the Democratic Party hadn’t let the Clintons control it. That the party establishment had the courage to go against the political dynasty and come up with a candidate like Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand. That it had chosen a fresh face, someone who could inspire, who didn’t have so much baggage, who was not seen as corrupt or hawkish or hypocritical, who could take the Democratic Party in a new direction. Most of all, I wish it had selected someone who was a real feminist, as opposed to an alleged one.

Of course Bernie is still running. But he is not getting the nomination, nor does he have a realistic chance of winning the general election.

So what now?

It is clearly too late to pick a better candidate. But it is not too late to do what we can to help Hillary win. Yes, I know, I am making an about-face here. But I would rather have Hillary in the White House than a psychopath.

And the only way we can win the presidency is by uniting all the minorities in a coalition against the Donald. If all the ethnic groups really listened to the Donald’s words, if, instead of putting their faith in his promise to lower their taxes, like the Indian-American group is doing, they scrutinized what he really is—a dangerous man who cannot be allowed to put his finger on the trigger—we will perhaps save not only America but all of humanity.

And what should Hillary do to improve her chances in the general election? She should find her soul; discover her true voice. She should get in touch with her convictions. Jon Stewart suggested as much in a recent interview. I will go one step further and say that Hillary should admit her past mistakes.

A good way to begin will be by facing the Donald’s latest accusations, namely, that Hillary was an enabler of Bill’s infidelities. She might not have been an enabler, but she was certainly a defender of her husband, first labeling the rumors about Monica Lewinsky as “a vast right wing conspiracy,” and later telling a friend that “Lewinsky was a narcissistic loony tunes.”

Even as recently as 2014, when Diane Sawyer asked her about Lewinsky, Hillary’s tone was unforgiving and defensive.

Some words of sympathy for Monica’s youthful indiscretion are in order. As are some gestures of derision of Bill’s exploitation of the young woman’s naiveté.

The media will no doubt continue to offer Donald Trump free coverage. All we minorities can do is remember that Hitler, too, came to power in Germany under not too dissimilar circumstances.

We must therefore unite to defeat Trump. We must believe that America’s strength lies in its ethnic diversity. If the Indian-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans joined with the African-Americans in a coalition, Donald Trump will have no chance of winning the general election.
I will contribute to any movement which aims to do just that.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

Dreaming of Delaware

For years, I have been asking the question, “Where is the outrage?”

When George W. Bush took America into never-ending wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, I asked the question, “Where is the outrage?”

When it became clear that the wars were motivated by the military-industrial-governmental complex’s greed for oil and military contracts—think of Halliburton and Blackwater—I again asked the same question, “Where is the outrage?”

When, after eight years George W. Bush’s reign, the financial industry brought the world to the brink of collapse, I again asked, “Where is the outrage?”
Why weren’t people marching in the streets, I wondered.

The answer, I think, was that my children and their generation got accustomed to an unpromising economy so very insidiously that they didn’t realize what they were missing.
Until Bernie Sanders came along and told them.

And suddenly, income inequality took center-stage in the 2016 election.

I am glad the outrage is finally here, against the exploitation of the powerless by the powerful, against a system that doesn’t care if Americans get educated and find good jobs or not, against the political dynasties who take money from the rich and bend over backwards to accommodate their agenda.

It is not purely coincidental, I think, that the Panama Papers were leaked this year, right when the American primary season was heating up. The papers once again reminded us of how billions of people around the world were being exploited by a handful of oligarchs, be it in Russia, Britain, or Latin America.

Pundits thought the 2016 election would demonstrate the influence of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave corporations carte blanche to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

What happened instead was that the public turned against big money, so much so that after squandering over one hundred million dollars from his Super Pac, Jeb Bush won only four delegates. And Bernie Sanders collected twenty and thirty dollars from average citizens to outdo Hillary’s fund raising from Wall Street.

With perfect timing, Verizon workers went on strike just as the primaries in New York neared, protesting the more than two hundred and twenty million dollar compensation packages their CEOs got, while they faced cuts in health care, pensions, and wages.

To top it all, as I write these words, the government issued a report saying that the five biggest banks, including Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo, were inadequately protected against bankruptcy and would need a bailout again in case of another crisis.

There was definitely change in the air.

Even as Western Europe directs Syrian and Afghani refugees to sub-human camps in Turkey and the world bursts at its seams, common people like you and me realize that such unstable conditions cannot be sustained indefinitely.

The Republican dominated Congress remains paralyzed by its sexist, racist, and free-market—read sucking up to the rich—ideology however, denying not only climate change but basic science. And citizens around the world take solutions into their own hands, implementing the Paris accords city-by-city and state-by-state, in a desperate bid to save our planet.

2016 is a year when the election of a president propounding an American system of European style socialism has suddenly become possible.

Newton’s third law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So it is that Donald Trump’s popularity has risen too, as if to counterweight Bernie Sanders. Donald is the leader of the “poorly educated,” whom he professes to love. Donald’s candidacy not only proves that elections cannot be bought, but that people are discontent and will do anything to jilt the seasoned politicians.

But the outrage is finally here, even if, at times, it finds outlets in strange ways. One encouraging way in which the outrage is finding an expression is through big data leaks, bringing us information the one percent would never share with us.

And I am hopeful that perhaps a revolution in our political system is at last possible.

People have wondered why the Panama Papers have not exposed any Americans. Americans don’t need Panama, experts have explained; we have our own Panama, called Delaware, the state Vice President Biden represented for many decades.

So, I wonder when we will learn what is hidden in the tax shelters of Delaware? Of course you can bet your life that the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and who knows what other government entity, is doing its best to keep us from getting our hands on the secrets that might just topple our home-bred oligarchs.

But in my fantasies, I imagine an Edward Snowden or a John Doe—a la the person who sent an encrypted email to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung—to tell us how the one percent is keeping its grip on money and therby power.

Come on Delaware, give us the goods.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

Why I Want to Hang Up My Pen

Like many technical professionals who have always made a comfortable living, I have spent a lifetime fantasizing about the artistic life. I have made pronouncements like, “If I had to do it all over again, I would go to Columbia Journalism School.” Or “I wish I had graduated in filmmaking.” For, you see, my nine to five profession has never been journalism, but rather, energy technology and policy. Journalism was something I simply stumbled upon. As a “third world” female immigrant who was trying to find her way in the world, I thought I had important things to say, and lo and behold, a column I sent over the transom to the Oakland Tribune got published nearly twenty-five years ago.

Since then, my faith in the power of the written word has never wavered. So much so that three years ago, I took early retirement from my job to write.

But recently, I changed my mind and decided to take on a part-time energy-consulting job.

The answer, simply, is Adolf Trump. Or rather, Adolf Trump’s adulation by the American media.

I am so disgusted by the media’s non-stop focus on Trump that I am now ashamed to call myself a member of that elite group.

For, make no mistake. The Republican Party is not the only entity responsible for creating this fascist dictator, this Frankenstein monster. The media is as much to blame.

From the beginning, the media treated Trump as an entertainment vehicle designed to boost ratings. When he talked over his opponents and called them foul names, instead of objecting to his on-air behavior, the debate moderators let him bully them. Why did they not warn him that he would be expelled if he crossed boundaries of civility? Why did they not disconnect his microphone?

Trump has gotten so used to getting a free pass from the press that a day after he was forced to cancel his rally after the riots in Chicago, he complained that HIS first amendment rights were trampled on.
And what about the rights of the press?

Well, from the beginning, he hasn’t acknowledged that the press has any. Do you know that at every Trump campaign event, members of the media have been literally imprisoned in a metal cage and forbidden to mingle with the crowds? That members of outlets like the New York Times and NPR have accepted the humiliating treatment without even a whimper, let alone a legal complaint? Do you know that Jorge Ramos, the news anchor for Univision, was evicted out of a Trump news conference months ago?

Washington journalists have long dubbed the kind of campaigning Trump practices as “red meat,” but I wonder, was there a part of these bleeding heart journalists that was also secretly, subconsciously falling prey to Trump’s coded racism early on? Was that why they did not try to rein him in for a long time and even then only half-heartedly?

I hadn’t watched any of the Republican debates until Trump won some primaries. It was then that I tuned in to the tenth debate. It was appalling enough, but what struck me was the hour-long CNN program that followed afterwards, in which Anderson Cooper and his cronies sat in a circle around Trump, groveling to him like he were some Yoda.

There has been no fact checking during the Trump debates, no questioning of his baseless assertions, no challenging of his smooth-talking one-liners like “I’ll make deals,” or “We will create jobs.” Not once have I seen a journalist ask Adolf how he will create the jobs or to explain what kind of a deal he would make.

No one has even dared to question how relevant the size of his penis—about which he incredulously boasted during the eleventh debate—or his bank account is to his ability to hold the office of the presidency.

Instead, the journalists have only chosen to talk of “the anger Donald is tapping into.” Why? Because they are lazy and this line of argument gets them off the hook from doing any serious research or fact checking.

The truth of the matter is that Adolf Trump is not tapping into anger, he is inciting it.

If, years ago, the media had denounced Trump for using the coded language of racism to ask for President Obama’s birth certificate, he would not be quoting Mussolini today and threatening to change libel laws in order to sue the press. He would not be acting like Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Un.

The media has the responsibility not only to report events to the public but also to educate it.

So I wonder, will I make a better contribution to humanity by improving the world’s energy policy and thereby mitigating climate change?

And I look back upon those surreal days when my columns used to appear beside big names like Molly Ivins and Mike Royko; days when journalists were not hacks clapping at clowns prancing in a three-ring circus but our society’s conscience.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

My Hillary Dilemma

For all her self-aggrandizement, Hillary can’t seem to inspire or lead. She never talks about her dreams for our glorious country, just anlaytical details ….

This election season has revealed a strange reality to me, namely that a large proportion of the American public shares my distrust and dislike of Hillary Clinton. Polls have shown that in almost all age groups except over-sixty five, women prefer Bernie Sanders to her.

I can understand why.

Hillary has an attitude of entitlement that is almost nauseating. Time and again, in her speeches and debates, she makes allusions to her suffering because of Bill Clinton’s dalliances, the most blatant example of which was Monica Lewinsky. “I have worked hard, I have endured, and now I need your support,” is the gist of her argument. It is never about the people, or the country, or the world. It is always just about Hillary and how we owe her something.

As if she is some uneducated, third world dowry bride who would have been stoned to death had she left her husband. As if she had no agency or power or free will whatsoever.

It is this victim attitude of hers that many women including myself find off-putting.

We do not identify with her. How can we? Most of us have been through real struggles, like raising children on our own, making ends meet, fighting patriarchy at home and in public life, striving just to retain a semblance of self-esteem and sanity.

What did Hillary suffer from? Going to Yale law school, finding a gorgeous, smart, and capable man to marry, becoming a Governor’s wife and later moving into the White House? Are these things we need to feel sorry for?

Sure, she suffered the humiliation of the Monica Lewinsky affair, but that was because she chose the Faustian bargain of staying with a man who was publicly unfaithful.

You might say that this was her personal choice, her personal life. If it was, then I don’t want Hillary to remind me of it. I want her to run only on her talents, abilities, and track record.

For all her self-aggrandizement, Hillary can’t seem to inspire or lead. She never talks of her dreams for our glorious country, just analytical details along the lines of how many billions she would need to implement this or that policy. Which is precisely why Bernie Sanders’ stock has risen.

Bill can compensate his flaws with his smarts, charisma, and oratory, but for all her experience in public life, Hillary remains a third rate speaker. Her words do not move. Her delivery is often flat, with emphasis on the wrong words or syllables.

She is just not honest. Take the example of her private email server. At first she claimed that she did not know that it was inappropriate to use it. Really? The head of the State Department didn’t know that her communications were sensitive and needed to be secure?

Then, when the issue wouldn’t go away, she eventually apologized, but long after she should have.

Which brings me to my next point, namely, that she is arrogant. When Anderson Cooper asked her if she needed to be paid $675,000 (for giving three speeches on Wall Street), she replied, “I don’t know. That’s what they offered.”

First of all, knowing that she was running for president, she might have chosen to distance herself from Wall Street. But if she was so greedy, she could at least have been honest about her motivations; she could have come up with a better explanation than “I don’t know.”

Ironically, the Huffington Post has now pointed out that the amount was in fact her regular fee.

Watching her, I sometimes wonder what universe Hillary lives in. She seems to severely underestimate the American public’s intelligence and sensibility.

Several months ago, my twenty-six year old son told me that he was going to vote for Bernie Sanders. Now, I find myself agreeing with him. After all, I had never imagined that an American politician, let alone a presidential candidate, would utter the word “socialism” in a public forum. Bernie might be pie-in-the sky, but a revolution has to begin somewhere, right? If the forces of history are beckoning to us, should we not heed their call?

But then I get cold feet. I worry if Bernie will be able to get the democratic nomination. I wonder if he will ever be able to beat the Republicans in a general election.

And then I think, perhaps Hillary can win. Perhaps she has some secret ability that escapes me.

“Bill and Hillary are seasoned politicians,” a Sierra Club member pointed out to me the other day. “They will be able to fight the Republicans and move their agenda forward.”

Suddenly I saw a ray of hope. I thought that perhaps everything was going to be all right. For, let’s face it, in spite of my reservations about Hillary, I would never vote for a Trump, or a Cruz, or a Rubio, or a Bush.

And therein lies my Hillary dilemma.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.


I was browsing the web recently when I realized that someone whose posts I used to see regularly had been flying under the radar lately. Curious, I checked my profile and discovered that indeed, the person was no longer listed as my “friend.”

My heart missed a beat. I hadn’t actually paid a lot of attention to the woman’s posts, still the idea of being “unfriended” rankled. What crime had I committed to deserve such a snub? Was I no longer hip? Was I too old? Had I offended the person in some way?

Or heaven forbid, had I unwittingly clicked the wrong icon and “unfriended” her?

And what was I to do now? Was I to go back and beg to be let back into the fold?

Was I to ignore her, not only on social media but elsewhere too?

I considered closing my account and opening a new one.

I pondered how much I resented the social media.

Shall I count the ways?

One. Social media encourages us all to become Mrs. Bucket—pronounced Bouquet—the main character in the PBS comedy Keeping up Appearances. We are all forced to display our best china and post pictures of candlelit suppers with the upper crust. The pressure to keep up with the Joneses—or rather the Buckets—is so intense that we no longer know who we are and what is important to us.

Two. Our “friends” on social media aren’t actually our “friends,” but rather a collection of people who a web algorithm told us we might know and who we “friended” simply because we were too afraid to offend them by declining their invitations. As opposed to our actual friends who we might sometimes see in real life and have some kind of a relationship with.

Three. On social media, people no longer talk to one another, they simply swap jokes. Where people find these gems, I have no idea. There must be a deep, deep mine somewhere on the hidden Internet, I imagine, where poor jokes are hidden. Here is a typical posting on WhatsApp, a site Indians are crazy about.

Dear Ladies: There are two types of husbands ….
First: Calm, handsome, responsible, understanding, caring, loving, and one who listens to his wife
Second Type: Your own husband.

Huh? Are we scraping the bottom of the humor barrel now?

Four. Social media makes no distinction between close friends who might know our intimate secrets and people who we have never even met. In real life, we might moderate our behavior based on whom we are talking to. In social media, our life is an open book anyone can read.

Five. Social media forces you to peek into other people’s bedrooms regardless of whether you want to or not. Take the example of an acquaintance who has been posting the progress of her medical treatments. TMI, I want to scream at her. Too much information! Please! Don’t tell me so much! I don’t want to become a peeping tom, a voyeur, a fly on your wall.

Six. Most of us who have any qualms about privacy can’t share honestly on Facebook so we are reduced to sharing only the good times. The result is that we have all become a brand name, an advertising slogan, a commercial. If Don Draper were to rise from his grave, he would cringe at the evolution of his industry.

Seven. Social media requires us to no longer have any original thought. What with the sharing of news clips, jokes, political propaganda, music, videos of cats, dogs, and little children, not to mention old photographs of our parents and grandparents, there is no space left in which to share our actual lives or feelings or thoughts. The masthead at the top of these social media sites might well announce, “No thinking required.”

Eight. Social media gives us the illusion of connection without any real camaraderie. We see pictures of mouth-watering foods, gorgeous children, men and women in love. And we crave for more. But we can’t eat them or touch them or embrace them. All we can do is salivate.

Nine. Social media has made us all stars of our own TV shows. When Andy Warhol coined the phrase fifteen minutes of fame, he had not imagined the existence of social media. Today, we have attained, not only fifteen minutes, but fame twenty-four-seven. We have become Truman, the poignant character in the Jim Carey movie the Truman Show, who does not know that his life is a TV drama in which everyone is an actor.

Ten. In what world is one able to get away with “unfriending” someone in such a blasé fashion? And what does that say about the “friendship” that existed before such an act of cruelty? In the town I grew up, you couldn’t look your neighbor in the eye and “unfriend” him or her. It was just not done. And with good reason too.

Eleven.  If I don’t post, do I exist? This last one frankly frightens me. So I go through the motions. I am afraid to go off the grid, to sign off, to be vanquished.
Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.