Fifteen Years of 9/11: Have We Progressed?

freedom-towerNot that fifteen years of 9/11 is anything different from fourteen years, or sixteen. It is just a number.

For those who lost their loved ones on that fateful day here in New York, their pain and sorrow will remain exactly the same. We — those who were lucky not to go through their traumas — will not understand how intense their bereavement is.

I personally know at least five or six different friends and families who have never been able to escape from their loss. They have done their best to move on. Some of them have moved on, assuming tasks that others would not have the courage or energy to perform.

Adele Welty lost her firefighter son on September 11, 2001. But she did not cringe in fear. She did not preach violence against violence. Instead, she and some of her friends such as Valerie Lucznikowska established a group called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and went from place to place — both in the U.S. and across the world including Afghanistan and Iraq — to promote peace. These are leaders who showed me how peace and tolerance vis-a-vis war and violence is the only answer.

But unlike them, a vast number of Americans have not been able to understand peace. They have not tried to understand the reasons behind terrorism, and they have not tried to understand the global game of war, repression and economic exploitation, promoted and perpetuated by war corporations, military complexes, their politicians, think tanks, and media. They have misplaced their anger, and the war-mongering people in power have made this world a much more dangerous and violent place to live, much more so than what it was before 9/11/2001.

What we see in ISIS, Boko Haram, Jamat Islami or other extremist-terror groups now, we could not even imagine them until we began to hear about Taliban or Al Qaeda, really after the 9/11 terror took place. Yet, no serious media or government discussion happened ever as to explain where these groups came from, who gave them funding, political and military support, and how these terror groups recruited so many young men and women — people who are ready to kill any number of innocent people, anywhere in the world?

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, has prolonged the war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in a way no other U.S. president has ever done. Even though U.S. media do not want to report it this way, but even the New York Times, a staunchly pro-Democratic, pro-status quo mouthpiece of corporate America had to admit that “Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.” 

It is extremely unlikely that Hillary Clinton, if and when elected president, will do anything different from what Obama has done over his eight years. And on the other hand, Donald Trump who is perhaps not going to be the next U.S. president (I do hope not), will unleash new reign of global warfare, causing massive, new bloodshed. A pro-peace Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein candidacy is now a dream vanished in thin air, thanks to the manipulative election game in the U.S., one that few people understand or pay attention to.

On the home front, within America, hate crimes are on the rise again. Even here in New York City, a so-called safe refuge for immigrants, just in the past couple of weeks, two Muslim priests were shot and killed, followed by a sixty-year-old Muslim woman knifed to death. Their belongings were not taken, and they were all wearing traditional garbs, making it all but certain that these were acts of hate crime.

We — those of us who worked on the ground against anti-immigrant hate crimes after 9/11 — have seen the ugly face of racism, bigotry and violence. We have seen how innocent lives were taken away, and their families were shattered. We have seen how innocent men were taken from their homes at gunpoint, and detained and deported. We have seen how places like Midwood, Brooklyn — aka Little Pakistan — looked like a ghost town, with many of the men taken away and put in prison, and their wives and children eventually leaving America. Their dreams for a better, safe future ended there, summarily.

We are going to observe fifteen years of 9/11 — the tragedies and terror. Let us question ourselves: have we learned anything from our experience in these fifteen years?

Have we progressed as human beings?

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

aunt-nypd-stabbed-queens

Another innocent life fell victim of hate and violence. Here in New York. August, 2016.

Photo Courtesy: pix11.com

Why USA Is Olympic Champs, and India Is Not

US olympics

At the outset, I pay my enormous tribute for the great athletes in both countries. This post is NEVER to take away their incredible achievement.

But the question remains. How can USA, or Jamaica, do so well in Olympics, and India cannot?

There are several reasons.

(1) There is no concept of gender equality in India, while boys and girls grow up together in the U.S. and Jamaica. They play together, fear-free, from early childhood.

(2) India has no serious sports program, and all its resources goes to cricket. Billionaires profit even more from cricket, and Indian govt. — run by sports-illiterate people — get their share. There is complete undermining of anything but cricket.

India is not serious about the Olympics. It has never been. USA has always invested massively to succeed in the global games. There was a time when Soviet Union, East Germany and other communist countries were very successful. Now they are not. China is now catching up, but it still has a long way to go.

(3) USA, on the other hand, siphons incredible amount of money from academic programs, into sports programs. You can easily cut a science or arts program from college, but never basketball or swimming.

(4) Billions of dollars are also taken out in USA of health care, libraries, public transportation, environment, etc., to be put into global sports endeavors such as Olympics. Result: many gold medals in this highly-watched, prestigious event.

With help from media such as NBC which is owned by GE, the top rank every four years creates an aura of global supremacy.

shelly-ann-fraser-pryce-elaine-thompson

But there is a HUGE, huge price to pay for this. And nobody knows.

Nobody either in USA or across the world cares to know how miserable America’s ranking is, among the developed, capitalist nations on social and health problems. See the chart below.

Nobody knows how many Americans drop out of school or college, or how many people are rotting in U.S. jails. Media kept it a secret.

There are other reasons. One blog post cannot say it all.

Again, just for those who would immediately label me anti-USA or anti-India, my rant is not against the great athletes of either country. Since my childhood, I have ardently followed the likes of Bob Beamon or Dick Fosbury or Dona Schollander or Carl Lewis or Greg Louganis, and always wanted India to be a leading sports nation.

My purpose is to expose the reality about India — my first country, and USA — my adopted country, reality that corporate media in both countries do not tell us. My posts are my own alternative media. It is based on 100 percent truth. And the truth is based on long, real-life experiences in both countries.

Do we care at all for the truth? That is what I ask, repeatedly.

You answer. Would you?

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US social and health problems

Rio Olympics, and India

India USA flags

Media hype, and hollow nationalism


So far, as of today, India got a TOTAL of 26 Olympic medals since 1930. Zero — NONE — in Rio, 2016. So far. Michael Phelps got more than that, all by himself.

But first, U.S. media.

One of the reasons I stopped watching the Olympics coverage is definitely Bob Costas and NBC. Two weeks of extreme bias for USA, zero respect for other countries especially Russia, China and Cuba (“communists”), and this flexing of ultra-nationalistic muscle sap any enthusiasm out of me! American corporate media is truly nauseating! There is every attempt to put down and denigrate major athletes from African and Arab countries, and everybody but American players is seen as a potential dope user. The Bahama runner who dived to get a gold medal was scandalized in U.S. media. If I were in charge of news, I would glorify her. Do a major story on her. I would do a major story on Dipa Karmakar, who came 4th in gymnastics. I would tell their stories of beating all odds — starvation, social stigma, death. In the name of this global sports event that was once amateur, but has now turned a profiteering drumbeat for corporate America, I would not use it to declare U.S. supremacy.

Trumps do not happen out of thin air. Think about it.

__________

Now, about India.

How can people in India expect that it will get Olympic medals? India has NO serious sports program for the international arena. About 80-90 percent of its resources is spent on cricket, and people think we’re world champions, even though only 10 nations play it.

The country gives its highest civilian honor Bharat Ratna to a cricket player, who is a billionaire, and hasn’t spent a dime to promote any other game. Football (soccer) was once international standard; now it’s a joke.

Not just China that has achieved miracles in the Olympics, small, poor countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and of course Cuba have created such a wonderful Olympic legacy. My childhood friend who has worked as a sports medicine doctor all his life reminded me even Thailand and Indonesia have medals in Rio, but India does not.

Indians love media-created hype, and are zealously sentimental about the country. Great! But what about looking for the reasons for this colossal failure for generations? If someone like me challenges, not just the people in power, but really the ordinary, brainwashed Indians ostracize him.

Sure, we are bad people. Why don’t you make these billionaire cricket and Bollywood stars spend a very, very small fraction of their money, and help build a sports culture from now? One Dipa Karmakar or Sania Mirza or Saina Nehwal would not be your sentimental card year after year.

Make an environment so that young women can break free of social and religious taboo, and play together with young men, with zero fear. Feed them well. Train them. Help and support their families. Get money out of cricket, and force government and corporate houses to invest in Olympic sports. Kill the corrupt administrations and power houses. Transfer power to honest and dedicated sports mentors. Do a national conference on Olympics 2020. Make short-term and long-term plans.

And immediately replace that sports minister of India. He is a national disgrace!

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Dipa

Dipa Karmakar, Indian gymnast who got fourth place in Rio. With NO money, no sponsorship, and no media support. Now, Bollywood and cricket stars Tweet for her. As if they really care.

August 15, India’s Independence Day

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Many people here in America think India has advanced a lot in recent years. Media created this illusion.

Of course, India’s elite have prospered beyond imagination, and middle class Indians now spend a lot more money than they did before. Many of them have cars, and spend hours stuck in traffic, coming home from work — just like here in America. Many of them now have fridge, TV, computers, dishwashers, new furniture, cell phones…and are neck-deep in loans. Just like America.

Even India’s poor — slum and street dwellers included — have cell phones.

But is that truly the measure of progress? I wish India had prospered for everybody, and even after having lived here in USA for thirty years, I am still passionate about my motherland. I want India to prosper: everybody should be free, fear-free, and debt-free too. Everyone should be healthy and educated.

I don’t need anybody’s stamp of approval on my love for the country that I still consider my own. On 14th August, 1985, I left India to come to America as a foreign student to do a Ph.D. in science. America has given me a lot: I am now a completely transformed man with acquired knowledge, experience, abilities, and analytical powers. I changed careers from science to humanities to human rights, writing, and education. It would never have been possible had I lived back there. I have a lot of gratitude for America.

Yet, that place I left behind — with all its people, history, heritage, traditions, languages, music, literature, film, politics, and everything else you can think of — is deep inside me. My Tagore, my Vivekananda, my football, my cricket. My family. My friends. The teachers I loved. All my precious memories. All the books I read in school, college and university. All the exams that brought tears to my eyes. All the successes, and all the failures. All the girls I wanted to be with. All the girls who loved me, and all those who did not.

An entire identity I carry with me. It’s an Indian identity, and it’s a Bengali identity. I may have become an American, but I am still very much an Indian. An insult on India hurts me, angers me.

India has progressed on the surface, but deep inside, it’s a traumatized, divided, fragmented, hurt country. And it’s not just India: the entire subcontinent is bleeding. India is falling apart on religious lines: Hindus and Muslims don’t trust each other anymore. India’s caste divide is now more pronounced than ever before. India’s poor now may have a cell phone, but they can’t send their sons to school, or their parents to hospital. In most places across the country, there is not even a school or hospital.

Monsanto farmers are committing suicide — every thirty seconds.

India’s daughters — a vast majority of them — live a life full of fear; their dignity is always in danger. Indian’s children are always afraid — of their schools, their syllabus, their exams, and their teachers’ red eyes. It’s an education system that is still not based on encouragement and free thinking; it’s still very colonial where questioning and challenging are not okay.

This is India’s 69th year as an independent country: Britain colonized, brutalized, and permanently wounded the country before they left. Worse, they purposefully planted seeds of hatred and division among the people of the subcontinent, after taking away from them the ability to think, and analyze, and question authority. People who have ruled India since 1947 — in the three divided nations — have failed to solve any problems of the common people, either on the social or economic front.

The Indian subcontinent is now perhaps the most corrupt place on earth, when it comes to its ruling class. India has created an extremely unequal society, where there is no gender, religious, or caste harmony. For nearly fifty years, a dynasty of extremely elite, corrupt and inefficient rulers and its followers ruled India, bringing it to the verge of destruction. Then, the power got transferred to a group of bigoted, fanatic, and hateful people; a politician whose visa was once revoked by the U.S. government — on charges of masterminding a genocide in Gujarat — is now the prime minister of India. His party’s mentor organization RSS was once implicated in the assassination of Gandhi. How quickly history is forgotten!

India now ranks very, very low on the issues of human rights, child mortality, female infanticide, corruption, violence on women, and environmental degradation. People who have their eyes open and an honest heart will tell you nowhere in the country’s history, such inefficient, illiterate or corrupt people went to the seat of power — across India. And with an out-of-control population that nobody cares to address, this trend will continue through my lifetime.

I go back to my motherland every year, and touch my father’s feet. He is now 92, and can’t go outside of his third-floor apartment. He does not want to believe it, but I see sadness on his face, when he reads the newspaper and watches the TV. The India he dreamed of, and sacrificed all his life for, is now replaced by a greedy, materialistic, and rabidly individualistic society.

In fact, copying America’s rabid individualism and materialistic lifestyle blindly, India lost its society altogether.

Just like America.

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Something Personal

illinois-state-quad-north
Illinois State University. My journey in America began here. This is the quad where I saw my first snowfall.


After thirty years of living in the U.S.,
and going through countless experiences working with ordinary men, women and families from so many different communities, colors, religions, nationalities and lifestyles, I have developed a fair amount of knowledge and wisdom about this country.

I have worked with students and teachers in various parts of the country — both as a student and teacher. I have worked with many immigrant communities — both as a grassroots organizer and policy advocate. I have worked with big and small media — both as a journalist as well as someone their journalists spoke to. I have worked with NAACP, ACLU, Catholic Charities, NYPD (to help them work with innocent people, and also to bring dissent to some of their actions), big and small labor unions, peace groups, environment groups, poets, musicians, authors. I have worked with Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras, Christian churches, Muslim mosques, and Jewish synagogues. I have worked with gays, lesbians, atheists. I have worked with socialists.

I have supported Bernie Sanders’ candidacy when he ran for president. I found his message of democratic socialism the best possible thing America could have.

Not a single time, I have had any negative encounter that has left a bad taste in my mouth. Never with the ordinary people I worked with. I have gained countless friends, students, supporters, and well wishers.

Yet, I have had my share of explicit mistrust, hate and racism, and I have had my share of subtle dislikes and distances — as if I am never totally, completely, unequivocally “one of them.” If I criticize the U.S. foreign policy based on global war and exploitation coupled with media lies, some call me too un-American. Some openly ask me to go back to India; some others tell me that I need to know this country well enough before I opened my mouth. If I blast the U.S. economic policies based on international and domestic oppression and media lies, some people call me un-American; some others raise eyebrows about my allegiance to my new country.

Some frequently ask me why do I still have so much love and nostalgia about India, country that I left behind three decades ago? (And my Indian brothers and sisters question why I criticize India and Bengal so much: don’t I have any feelings left for them?)

Some question why I still speak about old history, and “fail to move on?” Why do I speak about Hiroshima, or the British partition of India, or slavery in America, or Vietnam, or Iraq, or the Bangladesh genocide in 1971? Why do I not forget about Modi’s massacre in Gujarat, or police brutality in the U.S.?

Ironically, most of my critics (fierce, outright critics and subtle, soft critics alike) are ordinary men and women, both from America and India. In spite of the fact that I keep repeating that my dissent and reservation are never about them. It is always about the elite, the one percent — the people in power.

The biggest and strangest twist in all this is that the one percent I save all my criticism for couldn’t care less about what I say. I have no name, no fame, no money, and no pedigree. I am no Noam Chomsky. I am no Cornel West. I am no Amy Goodman. I am no Victor Navasky. I am no Donna Lieberman. I am no Khizr Khan.

And the biggest irony is that I get all my overt and covert hate, mistrust and doubt and apprehension from the ninety-nine percent — people who I have always worked and spoke for.

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Dallas Police Killing — Racism and Violence in USA

By Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York

LadiesLiveandLearndotcom

Photo courtesy: LadiesLiveandLearn.com

A black man has shot and killed five police officers in the city of Dallas. Seven people were wounded. 

Naturally, the incident has inflamed America.

Killing policemen? In America? That too, five policemen? That too, by a black man?

Those of us who live in America, and work with people on the streets – manslaughter, getting hurt, getting raped, thrown in jail, police brutality, gun violence, deportation, getting entangled in lengthy judicial processes, etc. are not new. These are commonplace incidents. People who do not live in America do not know the extent of violence in this country.

Ten million black Americans rotting in U.S. jails. Men and women. Even children — twelve or fourteen years of age. A large number of them are in prison without committing any serious crimes. Because they are poor, and so could not appoint a good lawyer. The lawyers government allotted to represent their cases failed the victims.

Here in USA there are more blacks in jails than in colleges – even today. Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition published this information a while ago. A scandalous fact for any nation.

Indians, however, do not want to know about these facts. We stay away from blacks, and in all practicality, choose to detest them. We are afraid of them. Many of us avoid places where blacks are a majority. We look down upon them. Many of our family friends are terrified to visit our home in Brooklyn. They refrain from saying anything but come up with excuses for not visiting. Those who find the courage to come, want to leave before night. Almost all of our neighbors are black. For so many years we have been with them. We never had any untoward incidents. When we travel to India, we leave our home keys with our next-door black neighbor. The look after our house when we are away.

Yet, the incident in Dallas will reiterate the fear and hatred amongst Indians, against black Americans.

I do not support this mindless killing. Like any American with social consciousness, I strongly condemn it. Like President Obama said, we are all aghast about this “planned, horrific act of violence.”

Across the U.S. — from New York to California, from Chicago to Dallas – people are condemning it. Candidates for the upcoming presidential election in November – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, or Green Party’s Jill Stein — all have labelled it as a dark chapter in America’s recent history.

Of course, Trump has always been bizarre in his remarks. He said that this massacre happened because of the “black adulation” from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. He said Democrats do not find it to their taste to uphold the use of “justified police action” over blacks. He said Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary’s support to “Black Lives Matter” movement has been indirectly responsible for this attack. Otherwise, Trump said, no one would have dared to kill these policemen.

Right-wing ralk show host Rush Limbaugh branded BLM a terrorist organization. He supports Trump.

The twenty-five-year-old killer, Micah Johnson said he hated white people. He hated the police. He said that indiscriminate violence by the police on black people forced him to show his anger like this. Now he’s dead. Killed by a robot bomb set up by the police. What was astonishing was that before he was killed he said that he also hated “Black Lives Matter” movement. The reason? He said BLM was only about big talks and no real action to bring an end to this rampant police violence.

Innocent people are getting killed every day in this country, in the suburbs, in the cities — in police firing or gun violence. The violence in daily lives has increased manifold due to the presence and easy availability of guns. No country, unlike USA, has so many guns, pistols, rifles, automatic weapons available randomly. An added fuel is drugs and racism.

If you start thinking about this, you will lose your sleep. We who live in this country can get killed any time anywhere from gun violence. They say there are more gun stores than gas stations in America. You can buy a pistol and large number of bullets along with your bottle of Coke and bag of potato chips from the same store, come back and have a barbecue party on a Sunday afternoon. No background checks done or police verification taking place – in many states.

Some of the recent mass killers got to use their guns bought and kept by their family members. Micah Johnson also did the same. Police found a large amount of arms in his Dallas home.

We do not support violence, murder, bombing, gun violence or war, ever. At the same time we are also against the barbaric, violent racism that has continued for more than two hundred years in USA.

Is this a civilized country, where everyday somewhere or other a black person dies from police brutality? To find the lifeless body of a black youth on the steps of a housing project, or on the dark side of a road, or highway, left in an old car – how disturbing, how distressing! The killer police is never caught, or rarely, if caught, they are readily released, acquitted by the trial judge, making a farce of justice. Surprisingly the documentation of these ruthless, mindless killings do not stir the collective minds of the judge or jury.

Blacks are getting killed one after another. Just a few days ago, similar incidents happened in Baton Rouge of Louisiana, and one in Minnesota. Brutality is rampant in places like New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Saint Louis, and Los Angeles, in almost all the black-majority areas. Even black women are being killed by the police.

For people like us who are associated with the struggle of common people, when we see the pictures of these atrocities, these brutalities, at times we also freeze. We see that everyday the barbarism photos online, sometimes the people take to the streets to fight for the rest of the body, the mind becomes numb. This is the celebrated concept of American equality? This is the much talked about American pride – the model of diversity?

I had spoken to Noam Chomsky on this. He said that this is the shameful history of the United States of America. It has encouraged the growth of a polarized society. This polarization is the weapon of the ruling class – to rule. His words reminded me of the eternal division between Hindus and Muslims in India. This division has been used for political gains. Or for that matter take the politics of caste in India. It’s the same.

Micah Johnson’s hatred against whites is much the same. His massacre is also similarly abhorrent. His killing of innocent police officers is also a horrible crime.

But who will speak up for the deaths taking place in the streets, in projects, in all corners of the country, simply because the colour of your skin is black? Or, rotting in jail forever without a reason? Who is there to redress these crimes?

Let there be justice for all the sufferers. Let there be punishment for all the criminals.

(Translated from Bengali.)

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Eid and Muslims — A Reflection

 

eid-mubarak-2016
Photo Courtesy: thereligionplanet.com (One-time, non-profit, educational use)


Today is Eid al-Fitr.

In Bengali, we pronounce it Eedulfitor. The monthlong fast of Ramadan just ended. Of course, we Bengalis call Ramadan Romjan. Ha ha: we and our flat-tongue elocution.

We also call Muslims Musalman, Jews Eehudi, and Christians Khrishtaan.

I love my Muslim friends. I really do. And I am a Hindu who grew up with RSS and BJP, Hindu fundamentalists in India. In fact, before I came out of their clutches, I was the West Bengal state secretary of ABVP, their student wing. My father is a lifelong, hardcore whole-timer of RSS, and has known their stalwarts personally — like former Indian prime minister Vajpayee.

That was then. This is now.

I have some Muslim friends that are like my sisters and brothers. They have been with me — in thick and thin, rain or shine, or here in America as they say, in snow and ice — for many years. They have stayed with me, supported me, indulged me, loved me, and even scolded and chastised me when they saw my incoherence and indiscretion.

A Muslim brother published my Bengali memoir online — week after week. The first couple of people who first thought my Facebook rambling about my life could actually merit a well-done book included a Muslim doctor-cum-journalist, whom I first met in California. A Muslim sister, who married a Hindu brother, published it as a book. We first met in Calcutta.

A Muslim brother from Dhaka published my collection of political essays on 9/11 and terror. Another Muslim brother from Pakistan, who suddenly passed away in October, 2015, first told me that I needed to know black America well, and since then, I’ve done it, and found his advice invaluable. I love my black brothers and sisters too.

A few Muslim sisters gave me the opportunity to teach Bengali at a weekend school here in New York. A few Muslim brothers and sisters first told me that I should record my Tagore songs, before I lost my singing voice completely. A Muslim brother helped me to buy our Brooklyn home from another Muslim brother, and also helped me to travel Bangladesh for the first time. A Muslim sister took me from Dhaka to her home in rural Kumilla, and showed me the famous Bengal rivers Padma and Meghna. She also showed me the place in Kumilla, where rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote some of his famous songs.

I never knew Muslims until I taught at a rural, remote college in India, just a few years before I came to America. For over twenty years, my knowledge about Muslims was practically zero. I had two Musalman friends in the Scottish Church Collegiate School in Calcutta: I wrote about one of them in my memoir (and the hatred I had developed against him only because he was a Musalman). The other acquaintance was a privileged one: my tabla teacher Chitto Ray’s mentor was the celebrated artiste Ustad Keramat Ullah Khan, whom I met once at his Calcutta home. Of course, I never had anything other than goosebump-reverence for Muslim maestros such as Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, or Ustad Bismillah Khan. But I never considered them as Muslims in the first place.

The first time I got to know Muslims is, as I said, when I started teaching in a very rural, island college in West Bengal. I had the privilege to know those co-professors, students, and support staff. Some of them have become lifelong friends, ever since.

I have worked the best possible way to help Muslim brothers and sisters and children during the dark days after 9/11, when U.S. powers were yanking them out of their homes at gunpoint, and jailing and deporting them en mass, destroying their work, dreams, and civil liberties. I did my best to be on their side when hate crimes were destroying their lives. I did not do it alone: in fact, I consider myself a foot soldier in the fight that many of us fought together, and a fight that many of them are still fighting tirelessly.

I do not like Muslim women wearing borkha (or hijab) since they are in their childhood. I do not like the fact that a large section of otherwise nonviolent, innocent Muslims are becoming even more conservative than they ever have been, and falling prey to mullah and secretive mosques (clarification: not all mosques are secretive: in fact, very few of them are). I do not like the fact that many educated, liberal Muslims are not coming out strongly enough against the savage Islamic terrorists like Taliban, Qaeda or today’s IS, and against their barbarism, murders, rapes, and enslavement. I do not like the fact that many Indian Muslims would not abide by a secular, non-religious Indian constitution (but take advantage of all the secular benefits) — yes I know some of my BJP-RSS friends would jump up in joy. The brave widow Shah Bano’s watershed civic lawsuit for alimony and compensation was sabotaged by Muslim orthodoxy and a corrupt and scandalous, liberal Indian government.

Fake liberalism, rotten corruption, extreme greed, and scandalously inefficient governance — in India, USA, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and elsewhere — have made fanatics even more powerful than ever before. Without at all supporting their violence and savagery and oppression on women and other minority, I know what extreme frustration it can cause when you and your family and children have to go through generations of neglect, undermining, inequality, injustice, and ridicule — with no light seen at the end of the tunnel. That made even many otherwise ordinary and naive Muslims anti-government and anti-1%. With help from divisive domestic and international forces, it turned some of them violent, and some of the violent became terrorists.

I have written a lot about the above in my book In the Belly of the Beast: Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India. This is my analysis, and I keep expanding it all the time, with new, earned knowledge and experience. The one percent and their economic savagery are responsible for creation of the religious savages.

On this beautiful, peaceful, happy day of Eid, I invite all my Muslim brothers and sisters to reflect on the current state of affairs, and send a message of solidarity across the globe that would forge peace and togetherness, and defeat both the global, economic savages, as well as global, religious savages.

Together, together, we can create and sustain a society that can find a peaceful, violence-free, terror-free, oppression-free, war-free, equal world.

Eid Mubarak to all.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Happy Father’s Day

Brother Key

One of our best friends and neighbors here in Brooklyn, New York is Mr. Key. We call him Brother Key. He has been a person we’ve put our faith and trust on, for many years.

He is over 70 now, and is losing health, but still works so hard that is mind boggling. He is by profession a construction man, and is a strong believer of equality, peace and justice.

Brother Key marched in Alabama where he grew up in the 50’s. His extended family still lives there, and he goes at least once a year to visit them. He has fond memories.

He was a Vietnam soldier, and has many war stories to share. He is also an artist. He paints beautiful paintings.

Brother Key is my personal tribute to Black America.

Happy Father’s Day to you.

Brotherly,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

Catalpa

Summer in America

Catalpa

In America, Summer has its own smell. I can’t quite describe it.

But it is there. You need to have a special moment to your own to find it. Unless you have a little peace, and calm your nerves, your senses are too numb to appreciate its delicacies.

Summer is too short here in America. And that makes it so much more precious. Flowers bloom in a lightening speed. And they are gone before you know it. Yesterday, or was it the day before, I saw a bunch of Catalpa flowers down on the sidewalk in our Brooklyn neighborhood. I looked up the tree. It’s a tree I pay close attention to every summer: I know the flowers will come and go in a flash. I looked up the tree. And the tree was empty again. In a matter of days, all the flowers were gone.

As if the tree was smiling a mischievous smile down at me. As if it says to me, “Gosh…I tricked ya, didn’t I?”

When I lived in Calcutta, I did not understand what sunlight meant to me. I took it for granted. I read Tagore’s rhymes, and loved the pictures he painted with his words. But I really did not understand how much they went into my heart, and stayed with me forever, only to come back much, much later.

Tagore wrote:

“Midday on a holiday
Far out there on rooftop
A little girl hangs a violet sari
in the summer sun…”

Calcutta roof

Here in America, nobody hangs their clothes on the rooftop to dry. Here, nobody goes on the rooftop. Here, we don’t have a rooftop to go to. Here in America, we don’t have much of a summer. Here in America, we don’t have a holiday when we don’t do anything, but look out…far out…

On my work this morning, I got off the bus, and walked to my usual little shop run by a Chinese woman named Lydia, to buy my usual croissant and coffee. And I immediately noticed it. I found the smell. I can’t quite describe it. But it’s there. I know it is.

A dry, sunlit pavement with urban, uncared-for cracks. An unknown bunch of weeds raises its head through the cracks. I go back down memories, all the way to my botany excursion days, and desperately want to remember the look-alike plants I knew in India. Or, at least want to remember the family of the plant. Is it the sunflower family? Is it the ipecac family? Is it the nightshade? I look at the dry, paperish, unattractive leaves, and the beautiful yellowish white flowers that spring up from those bracts of leaves. Oh, only if I knew the name of the plant…only if I could identify it…

But just the same way I desperately try to identify a raga when I hear it, but can’t, not knowing the plant and its flowers also leaves me with a deep sigh of incompetence. I did not get my education. In this life, I could not learn much. I know I am an incomplete, half-educated man. I did not know India before I left for America. And I did not appreciate the summer in Bengal when I was there.

Tilia

And now, after having lived in America for thirty years, I still don’t know what this country is like. I don’t know its plants. I don’t know its insects. I don’t know its men, women, and children. I don’t know its summer and fall. They go by too fast. I try hard to hold them back to me. But I fail.

I try to love them all. India’s memories. And America’s present. But just like that smell of summer that I want to describe but can’t, I don’t quite figure out how to own it.

I haven’t quite figured out how to identify a way to love: love what is precious.

Summer is here, however.

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Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York

Why I Won’t Vote Hillary Clinton

Hillary is not a stolen election. It’s a lost democracy.

The one percent and their Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Exxon and GE and CNN and New York Times made sure we lose it.

The “wise and pragmatic” would say to me, “Look, it is what it is.”

But because I’m neither their kind of wise nor pragmatic, I’d say, “Enough is enough. Let’s build our people’s party.”

Today, at the “How Class Works” confernce here at Stony Brook University, I had an opportunity to talk to two African-American sisters. One came from Fredonia, New York, and the other came from far away Seattle, Washington State. We had breakfast together, and talked politics, among other things. The sister from Seattle told me that now that Bernie Sanders is probably not the presidential candidate, we should all support Hillary Clinton, to defeat Trump and consequences with social situations in the U.S. She particularly mentioned the situation with the Supreme Court.

So, I mentioned to them about Hillary’s support to and from four multinational corporations that I consider some of the evilest in the world. I told them about (1) Monsanto and how it is devastating farmers in India, and how literally millions of farmers committed suicide in the past ten or so years, because of Monsanto and its GMO. I told them about (2)  Goldman Sachs, financial giant that destroyed the economy in the U.S., followed by devastations across world — more recently, in Greece. I told them about (3) Wal-Mart, where Hillary has been an executive board member for many years; we all agreed how Wal-Mart has destroyed jobs, particularly union jobs in the U.S., and how it has helped destroy the American middle class. Finally, we briefly discussed about (4) Exxon, and its role in global climate change, pollution, and its presence in the American war industry.

We spoke about it before we heard a panel of three notable speakers, on the subject of class and climate change. One of the speakers, a leader at NAACP, in her remarks, mentioned Monsanto and India’s farmer suicide. She also mentioned Goldman Sachs. Naturally, the two sisters had a smiling glance at me, when they heard those remarks.

At the end of the panel, the woman from Seattle came to me said, she is now thinking differently about her support for Hillary in the general election. She said she agreed with me that even though none of wanted Trump — a racist, xenophobe and bigoted man — supporting Hillary is not truly a great idea. It’s definitely a better choice (now that Sanders is perhaps not the presidential candidate) when it comes to America’s future, but if we think about the future of the world, and how Hillary’s corporate sponsors are directly responsible for the global destruction of the poor and their lives and environment, we must think twice before coming out to support Hillary Clinton in November.

I was very happy that I was able to change at least one intelligent, educated mind.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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