Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Forget the "Other" to know your Own.



I woke up on Sunday morning to a furious rage - my heart sank to the pit of my stomach as I watched the tragedy unfold on CNN. Even though I am not religious, I can understand a person's need to find religion, to find peace with something that is untouched by the world, its ugliness, immorality and instability. I can understand a Diaspora's need to find culture and a sense of their home at a place of worship - the need to find refuge in the confines of the known and the familiar. So, answer this - how does a soldier who was dishonorably discharged from the army who was known to be a skinhead  legally buy a semi automatic pistol in your country? How does a man purchase military issued bullet proof attire, 4 different guns and 600 rounds of ammunition on a website in your country and not get flagged? But then, this isn't about gun control or access to firearms. I digress. I'm not one to trample on one's right to bear arms.

Let's get this straight - the shooting at the Gurdwara on Sunday, wasn't a case of "mistaken identity", and no it can't be remedied by educating Americans about Sikhs, why they wear turbans and when their faith started. This is a case of orientalism, racism, xenophobia, white supremacy and a general lack of awareness, culture and open-mindedness.

The fact of the matter is if you're going to continue to open your doors to people from other countries, you should be changing your societal rubric from a melting pot to a salad bowl. If you force your own culture onto those who are new, your people will not  learn to appreciate the foreign, learn from them and about them - you have to open your minds, you have to welcome the new, and accept the other with an open heart and mind.

When the rhetoric is choke-full of hate for "immigrants" it will only fuel the fire that is in the mind of crazy, deranged people like the shooter - especially when the country doesn't know how to take care of mental disease effectively.

When your politicians sit in office and speak into microphones about "terror babies" and "anchor babies", about "immigrants taking jobs away from Americans" you create the problem.

When you talk about "American Values" and "American Customs" And "America the Land of the Free", as if America's values are the only ethical and moral ones and no other country in the world has freedom or democracy - you do a great disservice to your people - because you consciously or subconsciously appeal to those Americans who think that America is only for the visible majority of Christian faith.

There exists in your America a palpable fear and distrust of people who look different, speak a different language, go to a different house of worship instead of a church. If America were so inclusive how come CNN, the go to source for news (for the sane) in America does not have a single person of Indian origin who was able to clear the facts about Sikhs (this I'm assuming, because CNN"s initial coverage was probably the most uneducated reporting I have ever seen in North America). When Sikhs woke up to a horrific nightmare which reminded them of a past that they dare not dredge up how come they had to sit through that appalling thing they call "coverage"? How come - what I would assume to be - hundreds and thousands of Indians stared in disbelief at the TV set when they repeatedly mixed up Hindus and Sikhs or just took the safe route and called them "Hindu Sikhs",  and kept calling the Gurdwara a "church"? How come they repeatedly insinuated that perhaps this was a misdirected attack on Muslims since Sikhism is a peaceful religion - as if they were making the statement that if this were a Mosque it would have been okay? How come the first official message read out on air was from the Indian embassy, and not from the American President? How did it not occur to them, that these Sikhs were mostly Americans, who have given up their Indian passports to sing your National Anthem, and hoist your National Flag?  NBC didnt even bother to look away from the Olympics for a minute to inform their viewers of this horrible tragedy, and Fox covered it for a while, before they went back to their usual Democrat bashing.

At least we should appreciate CNN's full day coverage of the event, its ensuing investigation and the opportunity it took for a much needed Sikhism 101 lesson. But, the very fact that this needs appreciation is kind of sad and disheartening. I won't even bring up the almost absolute lack of coverage about the mosque being burnt down in Missouri a day later.

Perhaps just as the shooter killed the other on Sunday, You, America should kill the idea of the "Other". Believe that it is the "Other" that enriches your culture, opens your eyes and weaves a beautiful cultural tapestry for you. Make the "Other" not so different, know them as your "Own". Perhaps America should learn that yours is not the only culture, religion and lifestyle that is desirable - that you are in fact not the greatest country in the world (that's a pretty sweeping statement to make when you have so many issues giving rise to so many problems - but that's another blog post on another day) and that there exist other people on this earth - their religion just as desirable as yours, their lives just as valuable as yours, and their country just as great as you.

(Image originally found here.)

21 comments:

  1. Unlike most people (and that include me), you actually have a voice. Write more, write bolder, write stronger, hit them harder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ill try to keep writing! Thank you Abhishek da! And,if you didn't have a "voice" - I should simply stop talking (something which will be very hard to do)

      Delete
  2. I share your outrage to the core, even though, as Abhishek says, I don't have a voice. Your assessment of the situation is astute and to-the-point. You write well, and I hope you continue to write (I am looking forward to reading that 'another blog post on another day').

    Just two minor quibbles: (a) The Olympics are being covered by NBC, not MSNBC. MSNBC doesn't do live coverage usually. (b) Is it possible to tone down or change the fierce décor of your blog page? The sans serif font (Verdana I presume) ain't good looking, and at that size, the white on black bleached my retina!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Ummm, you both have a voice! Im a big fan of your blogs - which I have recently started reading. Hopefully, I keep working on mine.

      I changed MSNBC to NBC, cos you were right. And I tried to redesign my blog so it doesnt look that crazy anymore. I agree with you, there was too much going on.

      Delete
    2. Erm... Thanks for the change. It's now much easier on the eyes. However, you probably would need to get into the settings of this template and change the font color of system links (such as 'Reply', 'Add Comment' etc.) and/or hyperlinks to a contrasting color such as white, which is currently set as the mouse-over color. Otherwise, none of the hyperlinks can be easily seen.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for this blog. You covered several salient points. All levels of government, law enforcement, community organizations and media owe it to their citizens to help understand each others cultural differences, be tolerant, have an open dialogue, be vigilant and keep everyone safe.

    I hope you send this write-up to several news media. Wonderfully written!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post rini didi.. look forward to more posts on mind boggling topics..

    ReplyDelete
  5. very well said Rini.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Adil! Read my new post on Bangla. And, become member, so my member count can go past the number 1. :)

      Delete
  6. very well written rene...... its sad, but even today when we talk about exploring "MARS".....many cant let go of racism.Would love to read more of your writting.

    piya, toronto

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I'd love for you to read more of my stuff, as I slowly pick up on the pace of writing. Please become a member, so that you will find out as soon as I post on my blog! Also, check out my latest post on my love affair with the bengali language. :)

      Delete
  7. Ranjini,a hard hitting blog which encompasses so many facets in one fell swoop.
    Written so very well. Your skill with words & your tendency to take on everything head-on comes through. Do continue- u express your thoughts & anguish clearly. - Shikha Miss

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Miss! I'm so happy you found it and checked out my post. I have a post on here that I had written about Rathin Sir. I hope you have read it. Also, maybe you can subscribe, or become a member so you can keep on my writing, since I hope to do that frequently from now on. :) - Ranjini

      Delete
  8. I got to know your blog from Mou(Anuradha Sen). It is an excellent write-up and I agree with Mou you must send this write-up to several news media. In America there are so many crazy and ignorant people out there and they can expolde any time. Last month you have seen what happened in Aurora near Denver. That guy was higly educated yet he killed so many innocent people for no good reason. I think he was insane person as well as depressed guy. More than 50% Americans need anger management course in order to live a normal life. Please keep up the good work. Ranen Banerjee(Toronto, Canada)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much for your comment Mr. Banerjee. Moumashi was very kind to forward this out to her friends. I never got around to sending this out to media outlets. Maybe as I keep writing, and get critical pointers, I'll muster up enough courage. Please subscribe or become a member so you can continue to give me helpful feedback. My most recent blogpost is about the Bangla language. Please read and share. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete