This Is Brooklyn, New York. Not Your United States!

Courtesy: http://warincontext.org

These days, I am trying to keep my patience and save my energy as much as possible.

I keep telling my students, colleagues, family and friends that one of the biggest challenges in life has become how to keep calm in the face of the numerous reasons you could otherwise be angry. I keep telling them that this is one of the top lessons we need to teach our young generation and children — i.e., those who still want to learn from oldies like us and have some faith and confidence in our wisdom. Honestly, we the older generation is leaving behind a horribly messed-up world for them; its up to them to decide whether they want to clean it up or destroy it even further. If they want to clean it up — and I hope they do — they need to learn how to stay calm, composed and focused in spite of the many provocations and turmoils caused by the people in power. They need to learn how to be stoic, and sift through small, mundane things to deal with the real important ones.

Now, what the heck does it have to do with the title of this post: This is Brooklyn, New York. [This is] Not your United States? What does it really mean? I mean, look at the sentences: on the surface, together, don’t even make any sense!

It has a little, real-life story behind it — as a vast majority of my blogs have had some kind of real-life connection. What happened was that this morning, I went to do some small groceries at a locally-owned store here in Brooklyn. I picked up some fruits and vegetables and stood in the line that had perhaps three or four people in front of me, and no one behind. It is a small store and there is not much space to move around near the cashier’s check-out machine. This is a store run by a Hispanic owner; most workers, if not all, are also Latino women and men.

So, waiting in the line, I saw an old white woman pushing her cart full of stuff she bought and she was tentatively looking at me as if she was trying to find out if she could get in front of me, or behind, in the line. I would have no problems letting her come in front of me especially when I was the last person in the line; in fact, my deep-rooted Indian courtesy for older people often makes me do such little acts of benevolence. So, I said, “Would you like to come in here?” Or, maybe, I thought, she was trying to sneak by me into the isle for milk and dairy products.

And then the old woman said something that was quite out of the blue. She yelled at me, really yelled at me on top of her voice, “This is United States. We don’t do it around here. In the United States, we do not come that way. This is United States…here…”

Oh my Gosh, why did I even bother to be nice and polite to her, I thought! I was so taken aback (a mild way) that I even told the cashier girl about my feelings. Of course, she didn’t want to comment: after all, she wouldn’t want to remark on another customer’s behavior. Maybe, she was all too familiar with such incidents happening regularly in her workplace.

Courtesy: http://diversenyc.blogspot.com

Obviously, this was an old woman who was probably quite a bit on the crazy side and didn’t know what she was talking about; it’s likely she was upset at something else and took it out on me at her first opportunity. It could be she thought she had reached that age where she thought she had the right to yell at anyone she met. Or, it could be that she thought I didn’t know the rules of “her” United States: obviously, with a brown skin, mustache and beard, and with a “non-mainstream” look, I definitely did not fit her traditional concept of someone who belonged in “her” United States, and she thought she could tell me that she was not happy that “we” invaded “her” United States.

I know I’m making a big deal out of it. Sure, I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, so to speak. But I am doing it for a reason. I know that living in Brooklyn, New York, this is not a totally extraordinary incident; in fact, I have had such experiences — more memorable in nature — over the past few years. (No, I’m not talking about the post-9/11 anti-immigrant hate crimes and violence that I wrote about on this blog before; I’m only talking about small, personal, hard-to-deal-with experiences here in New York City, the so-called paradise of diversity and tolerance).

I know such things happen in life, and it was not in any way that bad or hurting. Living in a mega-city like New York, Calcutta or London has its pluses and minuses. We need to know how to deal with it and ignore the insignificant. But the incident still troubled me a little. I would not remember this morning’s experience for too long; but I would want to remember it for at least twenty-four hours before it slipped into oblivion.

I would not even want to say too much on it. But I would want to remind ourselves and our young generation about the absolute necessity to stay calm in the face of provocations — big or small.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Courtesy: http://www.nickloper.com

My Last Letter To President Obama

NOTE: I wrote this article using my own time and resources. This is purely my personal opinion.

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I hope you read it. It might help you.

October 12, 2012
New York

Dear President Obama:

This is my last letter to you. I don’t know if you have time to read it. But I hope you do.

I’m not going to say anything revealing to you; I’m going to say things that many of us tried to say to you over these four years since we worked hard with huge excitement, energy and enthusiasm for your victory in 2008. We were euphoric when you became the president of the United States. I played my small part to celebrate: I wrote a number of articles and spoke at a number of seminars, conferences and meetings to congratulate you, and explain to my audiences the significance of your election. An entire generation of young people shared my excitement; for me, I shared the ultimate vindication of my black brothers and sisters.

Guess what, I still have the Obama-2008 bumber sticker stuck on my old American car.

We all thought you were going to use your enormously powerful position to drive this country and virtually the entire world back to the direction of the ordinary working people and families, promote economic equality, hold the corporate criminals accountable and bring them to justice. We thought your leadership would stop global warfare and bloodshed, and bring some peace to mankind especially after the horrors of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft.

I am very sorry and dejected to tell you that you have not fulfilled our hopes, dreams and aspirations. You have let us down.

Two months ago, I posted an article on this blog where I had predicted you were going to lose in this November’s election. I analyzed some issues I thought were responsible for your likely loss. Some of my Democratic friends were angry reading it; they thought I was playing the role of a party pooper. Some of them unfriended me from their Facebook.

Yet, at the same time, I challenged the Romney-Ryan ticket with maximum force. I posed some questions to your Republican opponents — questions I thought media should have asked them but never did. Please visit the questions here if you are interested to know.

Of course, at that time very few people thought you could lose; and I wrote the article even before that scandalous and racist “47 percent” Romney speech Mother Jones magazine broke: speech at a $50,000 per plate fundraising dinner Romney had in Florida ($50,000 is the average annual income for an American family; in many Third World countries, it’s the annual income for an entire city, perhaps). When that exposé came out, hardly anybody thought you could ever lose; in fact, even diehard Republicans thought Romney threw the elections straight in your lap; the Florida speech was so devastatingly damaging for him and the Republican Party. But who knows, maybe, that episode had made you overconfident, and you took the first presidential debate casually with no preparation whatsoever; your election prospects since then took a nose dive. Boy, how quickly things turn!

You took that debate with your now-familiar demeanor: you took your audience — your supporters and sympathizers and onlookers across the country — for granted. That non-performance in the debate was really symptomatic of your four years of non-performance. That abject failure to rise up and overpower your fierce, well-oiled opponents and their media with measured documents and reasons was symptomatic of your four years of abject failure to rise up and do the right thing at the most critical moment.

You’re going to be paying a hefty price for that non-performance. And you’re going to drag us all down with you, by your non-performance and lackluster presidency. Your elite circle of advisors — dubious and ill-reputed political insiders who are really part of the now-infamous 1 percent, exposed because of Occupy Wall Street’s resistance and challenge — have ill-advised you. You believed in them, and took us for granted. Your drones killed many innocent people overseas; your political actions killed hopes and dreams of many here in the U.S.

I can never vote for racists and bigots.

President Obama, let me be clear. I would be very sad and disheartened if you get a shock defeat in this election. I would get a chill in my bones if someone like Romney whose racism and hypocrisy is now exposed becomes the president of America. I know he’s going to start another devastating war in Iran: the war industries and Karl Rove are working hard for his victory. I would be frozen to death if a social and economic extremist like Ryan with his Tea Party Glenn Beck doctrine becomes the vice president of this country. I know he is going to kill off the last remnant of the New Deal, including Medicare and Social Security as well as collective bargaining and such precious rights of the working people of America. His party will probably overturn Roe v Wade too, destroying women’s precious reproductive rights. Corporate America, NRA and Koch Brothers as well as organized bigoted groups are working hard for his victory.

Even though I have serious, major issues with your presidency and every single day, I feel cheated by the promises you and your administration didn’t keep, just because I NEVER want a racist and a bigot become the world’s top leaders, I would want you to win.

The only problem is that deep inside, I feel you are not going to win. And you can blame nobody other than yourself for this looming, historic defeat. Your likely loss would be the final letdown of the billions of people — particularly the young generation here in America and peace and democracy soldiers all across the world — who believed so much in your message of hope. They believed in YOU!

You let them all down. How terrible this letdown has been!

Sincerely Writing,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Obama vs. Romney: Seriously, What the Heck is Going On?

One face or two faces? That is the question.

Over the last few weeks, I asked some hard questions I thought we should all ask Romney, Ryan and the Republicans. I did the same with Obama and the Democrats.

Because the so-called mainstream media is not asking them, I thought the onus is on us.

Even though it’s an American election where U.S. citizens vote to elect their president this November, actually it’s an election that has serious impact for the entire world. In a way, it’s a global election. Therefore, politically enlightened people from all over the world need to understand the various aspects of the election as clearly as possible. For the entire world, the stake is too high.

I was happy to see the level of reaction to my posts. A surprisingly high number of readers of this blog — now from near and far corners of the world — read the questions I asked to the Democratic and Republican candidates. Some wrote their comments directly on the blog, and some others sent me their feedback personally. Some of these friends had a strong disagreement with my position on Obama; they were also unhappy to see how a super-excited 2008 me turned into a less than enthusiastic 2012 me. These friends challenged my political acumen when I asked some critical questions to the Obama campaign. When I said I was not feeling excited at all for Obama, they warned me not to pop their excitement balloon. They said my wet blanket to douse their party bonfire might hurt Obama’s chances.

I felt delighted — by the thought that my little, no-name blog had so much power!

Of course, this is almost an academic discussion. Neither Romney nor Obama is going to read my blog, let alone answer my questions. But this is all I can do. I have said it many times before: other than my writing that I use to make my readers, friends and sympathizers think, I have no power. I have no money, no pedigree, no political connection and no real hope for publishing my thoughts for a wide mainstream audience. Therefore, this is really the extent of my political activism. This is the best use of my experience, analysis and energy.

Ronald Reagan pushed french fries and ketchup for vegetable for school lunch programs. Did McDonald’s serve?

I try to make people think. I try to challenge their minds. This is my only non-violent weapon.

Now, for the sake of time, let’s select only a few issues that are critically important both for an U.S. and global audiences. Food, clothes and shelter: these three have always, historically, been the most primary for the ordinary people across the world. In today’s globally-connected society, some other issues have become critical: I could perhaps select war and violence, energy, environment, education and health for the list. Then, we could perhaps include the subject of labor, immigration and society. I’m sure you quickly see a few other issues that you would want to include in your first list. I am sure I myself would later reflect on it and include a few more that I might have missed this time around.

But at least for the time being, not to make this post unnecessarily long, let’s put together our first list of issues and compare the two big parties and their two big candidates on these issues. It might help us to understand the nature of the electioneering process as it is heating up here in the U.S., and determine objectively what exactly is going on. Often, these critical issues do not surface our way — the ordinary, powerless people’s way — in the 24/7 conversation on big media done by their big experts. I call it Journalism of Exclusion.

Therefore, again, the onus is on us to do it. We must do it. Questioning is democracy. Analyzing is too.

So far, we have identified the following issues to be critical to compare the positions of Obama and Romney and their two big parties.

(1) Food

(2) Clothes

(3) Shelter

(4) War and violence

(5) Energy

(6) Environment

(7) Education

(8) Health

(9) Labor

(10) Immigration

(11) Society

Of course, the all-encompassing, all-pervasive, overarching factor would be economics and money. Given its overlapping nature, I decided not to itemize economics as a separate point. The discussion of money would feature quite prominently when we take up these points — one point at a time. Foreign policy would be another such aspect: it’s going to be interwoven in the discussion of all the other points — one way or the other. And obviously, jobs, wages and unemployment would be another — if not the most important — all-pervasive subject. It brings us to the question of poverty, exploitation and injustice.

Millions of Americans seriously believe even in 2012 that global warming is a hoax and even if it’s true, God who created this earth in seven days will take care of all the problems. Can we include this topic in the presidential debate?

But in this intricately-connected world society of the new millennium, where political boundaries have become almost meaningless, especially when we consider how economics and money (and work) can move from one part of the globe to the opposite part — with a speed of light, and considering how the people in power are using the global connectedness to their advantage, I believe that perhaps we could add one more item on our list. And that item would be:

(12) Globalization.

There! I believe we have come up with a good list, at least for the time being. Now let’s see if we can briefly discuss and compare the positions of the two candidates and their parties on these issues. I’ll try to do it as simply as possible, without making it sound too academic. I’ll try to do it with a language most of us — including myself — would understand. You tell me, please, if this language works for you.

If we think carefully, there is practically no way we can discuss one of the above twelve topics exclusively: they are all overlapping. What role does food and water play in today’s politics? Food prices, food quality, water sources, water quality — and the politics of U.S. government and its two big parties — one that media hardly talks about? Coca Cola’s capturing of natural water displacing millions of poor people from their land (and putting a famous movie celebrity as their PR)? U.S. seed company Monsanto’s forced replacement of Indian farmers’ traditional seed banks with their one-crop, genetically engineered seeds forcing those farmers to go bankrupt and commit suicides in hundreds of thousands every year? McDonald’s food colonization with substandard, unhygienic food that caused obesity and serious harmful effects in the U.S. and throughout the world?

What about the foreign policy around the clothes we wear — where and how are they made? How many of us know how Wal-Mart manufactures its imported textiles from China and Bangladesh, Disney manufactures its fancy DisneyWorld costumes from Haiti or Dominican Republic, driving poor laborers like slaves and depriving child workers of their childhood and education? What about those cool i-Phones manufactured at China’s Foxconn where a large number of desperate, young Chinese workers have killed themselves — because of the horrendously oppressive work conditions and toxic environment?

Where is the discussion either at the huge, confetti-covered RNC or DNC? Is there going to be any discussion at the presidential debates? Will New York Times, NPR, PBS or CNN talk about them between now and November?

Anybody want to talk to Obama or Romney about Orwell and Newspeak?

Now, let’s see. war and violence are two subjects where the two parties’ positions are different, they say. Okay, it is true that Romney, Ryan and Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party openly talk about a new, imminent war on Iran (or Syria, or Yemen…it doesn’t matter); on the other hand, Obama and Hillary Clinton talk about how they have finished the Iraq war and how they’re going to withdraw from Afghanistan in two years. And then of course comes Joe Biden and gives a war-drumbeat speech at DNC…as if John McCain or Joe Lieberman (remember him?) was speaking. And there is rousing chants all around at the convention…USA…USA…USA…

But let’s see: was there any reason for U.S. to be in Iraq in the first place after six or seven years of destroying an ancient civilization, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and looting their oil, gold and other treasures? It’s almost like the British colony withdrawing from India after total plundering, brutalizing and partitioning a once-prosperous civilization, putting their handpicked, subservient, “Gandhian” feudals in power. The aggressors were going to leave sooner or later anyways: there was no more reason either for the British to stay in India or for the U.S. to stay in Iraq. Where is that perspective?

Can we talk about it in a straightforward way? Oh yes, can we also include the politics Israel has always played and has been playing in this incredible mess? Isn’t Iran or Syria or Egypt or Libya or Saudi cards used in the same game?

And then come Obama’s hit list and the drones and the relentless bombing…the war is over?

And then comes Julian Assange and Wikileaks and Bradley Manning…didn’t they say whistle blowing was actually patriotic?

Would New York Times, NPR, PBS or CNN talk about them? Would anyone throw these questions — this straightforward way — in the presidential debate?

We’ll now talk about globalization, immigration, labor and the economy — and their interconnectedness. We need to know how these two parties and their candidates are different on these issues.

I hope you come back to participate in that discussion. I need you in that discussion.

(To be continued…)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Who will talk about the globally-imposed cultural conformity? Mr. Obama? Mr. Romney? Mr. Limbaugh?

President Obama, Why Should I Really Vote FOR You?

Change? Really?

Related post. (Click on this link) — Questions Media Won’t Ask Romney and Ryan.

Related post. (Click on this link)– Occupy Wall Street: Ordinary, Working People — Moderate Left and Moderate Right — Must Come Together, Empower and Fight Back Against Both the Elite Center and Far Right and Far Left. Because there’s way too many overlaps as opposed to differences. Believe me: this is where the real strength is.

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NOTE: I wrote this blog using my personal time and resources.

Recently, I wrote two articles on this blog — both on the subject of the U.S. presidential elections. They were both popular — beyond my expectation. I want to thank all the readers — practically from all over the world — for their kind interest. It’s been a gratifying experience.

In the first article (click on the link here), I expressed my fear that Romney and Ryan — the Republican ticket — would win (that was before the Mother Jones “47%” expose broke out). In the more recent article I posted just a few days ago during the Republican National Convention, I challenged and asked some questions to the R&R ticket. You can read it here too.

Readers visited both articles with surprisingly high interest; particularly, the newest post where I challenged Romney, Ryan and Republicans to answer my questions got a very high number of readers. I was delighted. Of course, I never got any response from the Republicans at all; my doubt is that they never even heard my name, let alone read my questions. I wish they did.

But it was reassuring that so many readers took a moment out of their busy life to think about what I had to say on the political and economic scenario — of USA and almost by default, of the entire world. Given that my readership — especially my American readership — has a more liberal tilt, and that too, perhaps with a Democratic affiliation, I felt happy that my questions reached them and that they had the opportunity to use and share those twelve bullet points in their own circles. Who knows, maybe, some of these people are going to attend the Democratic National Convention that’s happening in North Carolina this week; chances are, at least a few of them who perhaps heard my name and about my OneFinalBlog through grapevine, Facebook and Twitter would talk about the issues I addressed in my articles, and have some productive, positive discussion.

At least, that is my hope. With that hope in mind, I’m now going to ask a few questions to President Obama and his Democratic Party — again, on the current political and economic scenario of America, and almost by default, of the entire world.

Republicans are now asking the American voters, borrowing the famous line from Ronald Reagan: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Actually, even though I have absolutely no soft spot for the Republicans and I said it loud and clear that I would never vote for Romney and Ryan, I believe the question they’re asking is not irrelevant at all. In fact, that is a perfect ask any voters should ask themselves: are we now better off or worse off? And, what is the measure of being better off or worse off? Is it economic, is it the war and violence situation, is it domestic repression, is it the elitist status quo, or is it something else?

Remember them? No? No wonder media makes so much money making you forget stuff so quickly!

The only problem is, Republican leaders are asking the question disingenuously, and cheating their ordinary Republican (or undecided) voters who may or may not remember the whole story. If these leaders — most of them affluent and powerful and with deep ties with Corporate America and its powerful lobbyists — were not so dishonest and if they didn’t have an equally disingenuous media on their side, they would rather phrase the question this way:

“We know eight years of Bush completely destroyed the American economy, created an astronomical budget deficit, gave obnoxious tax breaks to the super wealthy, bailed out billionaire bank executives and corporate criminals, waged catastrophic genocides in Iraq and Afghanistan killing millions, looting oil and destroying history of ancient civilizations and bleeding us the U.S. taxpayers here to death, and tarnished the American superpower image once and for all across the world, but still, we believe that we are better than the Democrats to run this country. So, would you not vote for us? Please?”

Neither the Republicans nor the disingenuous, gloss-over U.S. mainstream media would frame their question to the voters this way. They don’t have the guts or honesty to do it.

(And Bill Clinton, in spite of his jackpot speech at the DNC, forgot to tell us how he destroyed age-old American welfare especially for poor women, imposed NAFTA with majority help from Republicans drastically cutting U.S. manufacturing jobs in the U.S., overturned landmark Glass-Stegall, rehired Greenspan to destroy the economy even more, and deregulated financial derivatives with help from Rubin and Summers. He also forgot to tell us how he and war criminal W. Bush have been great buddies ever since. Maybe, he’s preparing us for a Hillary 2016 and a Jeb Bush 2020. Who knows? Nobody but the elite knows anything: it’s all elitist secret. And they call it a democracy!)

Too disturbing to digest!

In any case, we can never believe that Obama-Biden and the Democrats did a wonderful job in these four years and should be able to put all the blame on those eight years of a Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Ashcroft presidency; hence, we should all be happy and happily vote for another four years of Obama-Biden. Not so easy. We have some serious questions for President Obama and his Democratic Party, and here they are. Again, for the sake of time — both of my esteemed readers and Obama and the Democratic leaders who are busy and important people, I’m going to ask only a handful. I’ll save the rest for later.

You know what? I like Barack Obama as a person. I like Michelle Obama too. They are two of the smartest and modernest first couple America has seen for the first time in generations. And I know for sure that just because they are black, a large number of Americans (and Indians — from India) hate them. It’s unbelievable that even in 2012, millions of people especially in USA, Europe and India believe blacks are inferior to whites (and to browns and red and yellows and olives and purples and grays…) and a black president is a disgrace for this God’s Country called USA.

Well, let me tell you this. I think these people are pure racists and sexists and bigots and jerks too; and just because I know them so well from my own long experience to be with racists and sexists and bigots and jerks, I think at the end of the day, I’ll come out and vote for Obama, even though I think his Democratic administration has cheated me of my hope, expectation and enthusiasm for a change. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to vote FOR a presidential candidate FOR him, and not AGAINST his racist and bigoted and sexist and lying opponents.

So, at this point, without annoying my patient readers to death, I’ll ask a few questions to Barack. Mr. President, Sir, would you please be kind enough to respond, or at least ask one of your colleagues to do it? It would be much appreciated. My questions are not prioritized in any particular fashion.

Question 1. (I asked this to Romey and Ryan too). — Rachel Corrie, a young American woman, in 2003 stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer to protest against Israeli government’s demolition of houses of Palestinian civilians. The bulldozer crushed her to death. Your Democratic Party leaders such as Hillary and Bill Clinton had blasted Chinese government’s human rights violation when its tanks threatened to kill Chinese protesters at Tienanmen Square a few years ago. Do you think your Democratic Party can show the same resolution to protest against the action of the Israeli government when they killed Rachel Corrie? (You might also add here the drama of including Jerusalem as the Israel’s capital in the Democratic election platform.)

Question 2. (I asked this to Romey and Ryan too). — Multinational, U.S.-based companies such as Monsanto, Union Carbide, Coca Cola, Chevron and Disney (among many others) have caused havoc in many other countries because of their ways of doing business. For example, over the past decade, 200,000 Indian farmers (yes, you’ve heard it right!) have committed suicide — the largest in human history — because of Monsanto’s permanent seed replacement with their own genetically engineered products and false promises of crop yield. Union Carbide’s infamous toxic gas leak in Bhopal in 1984 had killed thousand of poor workers and their families; women who suffered are still delivering crippled babies. Are you going to bring these companies to justice and compensate the victims for the disasters they went through?

Question 3. (I asked this to Romey and Ryan too). — Have you ever visited an agricultural or industrial farm in California, Tennessee, Arizona, Florida or Texas where owners work immigrant workers like slaves in a toxic situation — with zero human rights? Many of them die of cancer, tuberculosis and such diseases — because of their inhumane work conditions. Do you see any difference between their condition and that of the black workers and their families in a cotton plantation during the slavery days? Your government has detained and deported more undocumented immigrants — many of such poor workers — than even Bush and Ashcroft government did.

Question 4. — Why did your administration let Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest corporate criminals in the history of modern human civilization, off the hook even after their criminal activities were exposed beyond doubt at bipartisan Congressional hearings?

Question 5. — Why did you include people such as Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Jeff Immelt, et al.  — some of the worst-known corporate elements responsible behind the financial disaster — in your administration and would not purge them in spite of repeated pressure even from the pro-people sections of your own party? Why did you not stand behind the Overturn Citizen United campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders — 100 percent?

Question 6. — Why did you not take up, let alone pass, the Employee Free Choice Act when labor unions have always been such an ardently faithful ally? Isn’t that one of the worst examples of not keeping your 2008 campaign promises?

Question 7. — President Jimmy Carter has condemned your drone attacks and hit lists that killed thousands of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan (and recently in Yemen too). Isn’t that one of the grossest violations of international peace treaties and human rights laws? (And we all know you also backtracked on closing down Guantanamo.)

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Post Script. — This is from New York Times tonight (click for the news story here). Obama’s top strategist, David Axelrod, said, “We’re in a better position than we were four years ago in our economy.” But Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a Democrat, answered “no” on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” though he blamed Republicans. Other aides equivocated.

I’ll tell you this. Martin O’Malley and the other aides are honest. David Axelrod is dishonest and arrogant with his answer. And that is my problem with this Democratic Party and its top people who run the show. If you tell me we’re better off than four years ago, you’re kidding me. If you tell that to an ordinary American voter — Democrat or Republican or undecided — you’re going to lose their vote. Remember, many of these people didn’t watch Bill Clinton last night: they were working a late-evening shift to make ends meet.

We, the ordinary people who live and work in the U.S., who lost their jobs, health care, life’s savings and houses, and who can’t afford to play the stock market, are not better off. People like us do not see light at the end of the tunnel. President Obama and Mr. Axelrod, you must face the truth. You must tell the truth.

Most importantly, tell us why should we vote FOR you, and not just against your bigoted, lying, racist, sexist opponents?

Thank you, Sir, for your valuable time and kind response.
Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Youth Unemployment Hit a Record 30%.

Questions Media Won’t Ask Romney and Ryan

Yeah Baby!

Related post. –President Obama, Why Should I Really Vote FOR You?

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I came up with a list of questions that I think media — big media, corporate media, multinational media, mentor media — should ask Romney and Ryan. But I have a feeling they won’t do it.

So, I guess the onus is on us. Let’s do it ourselves.

(Update on September 18: Especially after today’s breaking news that progressive publication Mother Jones exposed Romney’s gravely disparaging comments that 47% Americans love to live on government entitlements and don’t pay any taxes, mainstream media such as New York Times are jumping all over it, and conveniently ignoring many other issues. Hence, it’s even more important to address these issues now. The political debate is getting shifted from economy to race, etc., and while race is extremely important, this election should be primarily about the economy and the 1%. We must not let vested interests to shift the debate from the economy.)

American media’s coverage of the Republican National Convention was as usual shallow, superficial and sentimental. Just like the previous conventions I’ve seen since Reagan, corporate media didn’t provide any serious analysis on any serious subjects. Its big-name journalists and experts did not show any critical thinking at all. It was all glossing over, spinning, twisting and distorting.

Question: Why is it always that way? Answer: Either they are stupid or they’re not doing their job on purpose. I think it’s the latter because these otherwise well-dressed and articulate (and definitely well-paid) people and their [very well-paid] bosses do not want to lose their tons of ad dollars and traditional viewers that might switch channels once real debates, controversies or unpopular, unpleasant narratives are brought in. It’s like, if someone on TV presents serious research data that among ALL the developed countries, USA has the highest income inequality and also highest social and health problems because of the grotesque divide (these are all facts — look it up here), most people would not like to hear it. They have been brainwashed for decades. They would switch channels.

It’s pathetic to see how American media have totally degenerated especially since Reagan. There is no hard-hitting journalism at all! There is no real analysis that matters to real people and their real lives. The whole RNC 24/7 coverage was, just like before, done almost in a vacuum — as if, it was a fantasy world out there! I have a feeling the Democratic convention will be this way too.

I also have a feeling we’ll see another pathetic repeat of the above when time comes for the so-called presidential debate with similar hoopla and meaningless moderation. I have a feeling it’s going to be another exercise of naiveté, glossing over, window dressing and scratching the surface — with exclusion of critically important issues.

The Real Puppet Master? Is that you, Karl?

Maybe, Karl Rove and Koch Brothers, among others, are watching over these media establishments. That’s why they’re so afraid to ask the right questions!

However, if I were one of these big-name media personalities with big privilege to work with these politicians, I’d ask them some straight-shoot questions. But because I do not have that privilege and I have no other power than writing them down in this blog for my friends, readers and sympathizers — now surprisingly from many near and far corners of the world — I’m writing them down here. My hope is that you find these questions worthy of asking; and in case you are one of those privileged journalists with access to these big-name politicians, please see if you can ask some of these questions — and get some meaningful answers that everybody can understand.

So, without further ado, here’s my short wish list. I know, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, you are extremely important and busy. Therefore, I’ll only ask you about a handful of topics. I’ll save the others for later.

Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan, either of you can answer them. Considering you are planning to be commanders in charge of not just America, but de facto of the world, consider people like me all over the world are eagerly waiting for your honest, thoughtful and straightforward answers. Don’t haze it. Don’t faze it.

Thank you for your time, Honorable Sirs.

This is Reaganomics. It never worked for us. It never will.

Question 1. Trickle-down economic policies have failed us the middle majority, working people. Giving tons of money and power to the rich at the top of the pyramid didn’t work. It has caused enormous income inequality, and the middle class has suffered greatly. What is your plan to change the course of our economic policy and actions?

Question 2. You propose more tax cuts for the rich — individuals and corporations. And, in fact, richest corporations now Supreme Court-validated as individuals — such as General Electric — do not pay any taxes. Don’t you think it’s unfair that we the ordinary, low-income people are paying about 33% federal income taxes (some say, to pay back to Federal Reserve which is a private, all-powerful entity that nobody really knows); yet, the richest corporations are not paying any taxes? For that matter, you said you paid only 15% income taxes yourself. Isn’t that outrageous discrimination against us who make so little?

Question 3. You propose cutting taxes for the very wealthy such as Koch Brothers, the Bush family, Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch; yet at the same time, you want us to believe you’re going to reduce the enormous debt Bush govt. left for us and our children (thanks to the wars, tax cuts for the rich and bank bailouts). You also want us to believe that your no-taxes-for-the-rich economic policies will spur growth. Don’t you think by default it’s impossible to do both at the same time?

Question 4. Bush-Cheney’s brutal genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan has destroyed world peace, bled American taxpayers (i.e., us) to death, caused a catastrophic budget deficit, and tarnished the American image (whatever was left) worldwide. Now you’re drum beating another war as soon as you come to power — perhaps against Iran (or is it Syria?). How do you think that would promote either peace or economic prosperity — two things you frequently talk about?

Gandhi and Tagore taught us exactly that: to stand tall and protest.

Question 5. Rachel Corrie, a young American woman, in 2003 stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer to protest against Israeli government’s demolition of houses of Palestinian civilians. The bulldozer crushed her to death. You blasted Chinese government’s human rights violation when its tanks threatened to kill Chinese protesters at Tienanmen Square a few years ago. Do you think you can show the same resolution to protest against the action of the Israeli government when they killed Rachel Corrie?

Question 6. At the RNC in Tampa, you and your party’s top leaders such as Chris Christie have championed the cause of the American workers and families who are going through a horrendous time because of high unemployment that some compares with the situation during the Great Depression. Especially younger people, according to some research, have 30 percent joblessness, which is a record in American history. The economic situation our young people are in is simply horrible — check these facts. Are you going to create new jobs within America by supporting traditional job bases such as manufacturing and construction, and stop U.S. corporations’ massive outsourcing of these jobs to China, India and other countries? Are you going to take on Wal-Mart or Apple and their massive outsourcing?

Question 7. Multinational, U.S.-based companies such as Monsanto, Union Carbide, Coca Cola, Chevron and Disney (among many

2000-2012: Monsanto caused largest in human history farmer suicides in India!

others) have caused havoc in many other countries because of their ways of doing business. For example, over the past decade, 200,000 Indian farmers (yes, you’ve heard it right!) have committed suicide — the largest in human history — because of Monsanto’s permanent seed replacement with their own genetically engineered products and false promises of crop yield. Union Carbide’s infamous toxic gas leak in Bhopal in 1984 had killed thousand of poor workers and their families; women who suffered are still delivering crippled babies. Are you going to bring these companies to justice and compensate the victims for the disasters they went through?

Question 8. It seems both of you and your colleagues such as Chris Christie, Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal — and of course, Scott Walker — have fiercely anti-labor-union position. Can you please tell us if you’re in power, are you going to destroy organized labor once and for all? Are you going to take away their non-violent weapons such as collective bargaining?

Question 9. Are you going to overturn Roe vs. Wade and bring American women back to the coat-hanger alley days, with help from a partisan Supreme Court?

Question 10. Are you going to follow the dictates of your party’s “mainstream voice” Tea Party and abolish the separation between the church and state? Are you going to mandate Biblical prayers in U.S. public schools?

Question 11. Are you going to destroy Social Security and Medicare? Yes or no?

Question 12. Have you ever visited an agricultural or industrial farm in California, Tennessee, Arizona, Florida or Texas where owners work immigrant workers like slaves in a toxic situation — with zero human rights? Many of them die of cancer, tuberculosis and such diseases — because of their inhumane work conditions. Do you see any difference between their condition and that of the black workers and their families in a cotton plantation during the Jim Crow days?

Again, thank you for your time and honest, thoughtful, straightforward answers.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Women fought for generations, and are still fighting, for their rights.

How Many Ways Have You Been Cheated In Your Life?

But they said life would be good in America!

Related post: please visit Ever Lived on Two Sides of the Globe…Exactly at the Same Time? (Click on this line)

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“Oh God,” some of you — my friends, sympathizers and global readers — might grunt. “This guy is again writing a depressing note.” Some of you might say, “Doesn’t he get it? Nobody wants to read his depressing notes anymore!”

Honestly, I can’t blame you if you felt that way. Because, feeling cheated all my life is definitely not a happy feeling. It does make me depressed. It would make you depressed too if you thought about it, and asked yourself the question, and challenged yourself to come up with the most honest, no-inhibition, straightforward answer. (Perhaps that’s why many of you do not want to talk about it.)

But I say: have courage and try it, my friends, sympathizers and global readers. Answer my question in the most mano-to-mano, womano-to-womano way (and in all other possible variations). Then come back to me and tell me if you still think I am the only person feeling cheated all my life and feeling depressed because of feeling cheated.

I would most sincerely — “cross my heart and so help me God” way — use all your honest feedback once you told me about the results of your soul searching.

But let me first tell you in a few minutes what the results of my soul searching have been.

Now, as soon as the word “cheated” gets in the mix of any conversation, the automatic knee-jerk reaction is “Cheated? So, are you talking about infidelity? Like, the husband cheating on the wife, wife cheating on the husband ( and all other possible variations)?” And then the automatic response would be, “Ah well, that’s too personal. I’m not gonna tell you about my personal life — for you to put out there for the rest of the world to see.” The response would be, “No Sir, I’m not gonna. It’s my personal life and it’s my privacy.” And who doesn’t know that America is too big on privacy? India, my other country, is also coming up fast and getting bigger on privacy. India’s elite and aspiring-elite upper middle class are getting bigger day by day on privacy — on an American mental Viagra.

No, I’m not talking about this cheating.

But, please, rest easy. My question “How many ways have you been cheated in your life?” has nothing to do with your marital relationship or love life. So, don’t worry. I am never going to pry upon your private life. You can pump in more Viagra to get your privacy even bigger. I won’t bother you.

My question is about your non-private life: life’s other aspects that not only you, but all your immediate family members, friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, students, teachers, well-wishers, cursors, haters, bashers, blasters and such people can see. You might think they are not able to note and judge these elements of your life, but believe me, they can. They do. They are. So, don’t fool yourself believing that nobody knows. It’s obvious. It’s apparent. It’s transparent. It’s vivid. It’s not private at all. It’s already out there for the entire world to see.

Embarrassed? Confused? Don’t be. Take my example. It’s going to be much easier for you to understand the question.

So, the first cheat is that the leaders of my two countries — USA and India — kept telling me that if I worked hard and lived my life honestly and had a lofty goal to be somewhere, I would be somewhere. Just because I was born poor would not make me die poor: the leaders said I would be somebody. To support their claim, they gave me some evidence where a very poor man through hard work and honest living with a lofty goal actually became rich and famous. No, I’m not talking about the lottery winners. I’m talking about their examples where in America, Roger Sherman, who helped to write the American Constitution, was a cobbler; in India, a very poor low-caste woman recently became the principal of a college, and so on. Then, you have Barack Obama, et al…

Problem is, it doesn’t happen that way. People who show you those examples never tell you that they are exceptions and statistically insignificant. What is statistically insignificant? Simply put, if in a population of any random sampling, more than 95 percent of the people have one kind of trend and less than 5 percent have another kind of trend, then the trend that only happens in less than 5 percent of the population is statistically insignificant. That means, that trend is an exception: an aberration. You can’t say that trend is something that is legit or valid for the general population.

In this aspect of life, which I’d call social mobility or upward social movement, those people whom the leaders of my two countries tout as valid examples of upward social movement are too few and far between. Their numbers are so small that statistically they are absolutely insignificant. But neither the leaders nor their mouthpiece media would tell you the real story. The real story is that in this social and economic system — one that America practiced especially since Ronald Reagan and is now devoutly picked up by India and its neoliberal, IMF-sold leaders — if you are born poor, it’s very likely that you’d die poor. Or, if you’re born unknown with no pedigree or uppity country-club-type connections, you’d die more or less the same way.

That is reality. I am a living example of that reality. And I worked very hard in my life, lived honestly, and that too, with a lofty goal. I’ll tell you — kind of hesitantly — what some of those things are I’ve done in my one hard-working, honest and lofty-goal life. I must. Otherwise, you would not believe me at all.

But before that, let me show you a graph on upward social mobility — country by country. It’s important to put it here because I know some of my readers from various parts of the world are quite erudite and are not going to accept my argument unless supported by serious research. So, here we go.

India does not even feature in this graph. It’s pathetic there.

The graph from the now-world-renowned book The Spirit Level shows that among all the developed and prosperous, capitalist countries, USA has the worst upward social mobility especially when graphed against income inequality (i.e., rich-poor divide) of those countries. In other words, USA has the highest income inequality (which means, the rich-poor divide is the widest) and it’s upward social mobility for the poor and middle class is practically non-existent. In India, it’s even worse: the one or two percent rich are extreme, filthy rich, while at the same time, the poor are miserably, haplessly poor. Recent IMF policies imposed by India’s ruling class are making the economic and social misery even more desperate. I wrote about it before (you can look it up here).

But our leaders and media and their advertisements always create this impression that even if you’re born poor, in this system, you can definitely be somewhere in one life.

Problem is, they’re lying. In this system — one that I’ve lived half of my life in each of these two countries working very hard, with a honest lifestyle and lofty goal — I will never be able to be somewhere. In short, the so-called American Dream propagandized in America and now in India is a myth.

In his new book The Price of Inequality, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has also said the same thing. He said, the American dream is an illusion. He said, if you’re born poor in American, the “overwhelming possibility” is that you’ll stay poor. If you want to read more on it, visit this link. It has a video of the Stiglitz interview too.

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/american-dream-myth-joseph-stiglitz-price-inequality-124338674.html

Okay. Now, some other friends, sympathizers and global readers might now get restless and ask me not to get too bogged down with hard research and statistics. They might say, well, what is YOUR personal experience to support that you’ve been cheated all your life? What is the real-life hard evidence?

So, here we go. Off of books and papers and research data. On with personal life — of this no-name, no-pedigree, born-poor, die-poor’s experience.

I was the first biology professor in a Sundarbans Delta college. I began the department there. They loved me.

When I quit my more or less lucrative, totally stable and highly respectable job of a biology professor in India (I wrote about that place also in this blog — click here if  you’re interested to know), and later forced my wife to do the same — only to come to America, the U.S. university that responded positively to my application to be an M.Sc. student in biology, never told me about the short-term and long-term consequences to immigrate into America. They never told me about the social and economic shocks my wife and I were going to be in. Two highly respectable, young biology professors surrounded by friends, family, familiar society and a large number of admiring students and colleagues, suddenly became extremely impoverished, culture-shocked foreign students the American society (especially outside of the university campus) was unwilling to accept as one of their own. They never told us that we’d have to live with their initially-offered $380 per month to survive (in a few months, graciously, they raised my graduate student assistantship to $420 of which I would pay 10 percent as income tax — percent-wise not much different from what Romney and Ryan paid last year). Two immediate consequences (other than feeling like Neil Armstrong when he first landed on the moon — perhaps even more alienated and blue than he was): (1) we could not return to India in nine years — we had no money to pay for the airfare and other expenses; and (2) because of the shocking, sudden departure of my wife from her parents who were never ready to see their only child leave forever, her parents lost their health quickly and did not live long — and my wife the only child so close to her parents could not go to see them one last time before their death.

Okay, enough sentimental stuff. Some of you — my friends, sympathizers and esteemed global readers might say (and I’m sure authorities of that university that took me in as a foreign student would say the same, even more emphatically): well, nobody forced you to come to USA; you came on your own. Why didn’t you do your own research and find out about the consequences? Plus, aren’t you happy that you did migrate? Aren’t you grateful that because of that decision, in spite of the initial culture shocks and economic hardship for yourself and your family, you did well, got two masters degrees (one in journalism from the coveted, Ivy League Columbia University) and one Ph.D. from reputed American institutions, became so proficient in English that you now effortlessly teach your American students (and write reasonably well in two languages), brought up your children in a developed education system, and earned a lot of respect from your friends, relatives and colleagues — both in India and here in America?

I can’t deny the above. But the feeling that I was a victim of brain drain, lack of comprehensive information and shortchanging my talents, experiences and energy for slave labor (and they wouldn’t let my wife — a foreign student’s spouse — work at all), sacrificing a number of very important years of my life — is simply overwhelming. Sure, both my wife and I came a long way and perhaps improved a little bit on the economic front too (never to be rich — always stayed in the middle of the money graph). But the price we had to pay  was unbelievably enormous. And to see my wife’s parents die so soon because of the departure (other than the many emotional distresses, extreme alienation and being forced to be away from our familiar world in India) was brutal.

And then, there were SO many deaths of people we knew so well and loved so much! Almost felt some of those deaths we could perhaps prevent if we didn’t leave India!

(to be continued…)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Couldn’t do anything for them either! That’s another lifelong pain deep inside.

Hate Me Twice, But Obnoxious Akin Is A Non-Issue.

Don’t fall for their new illusions.

I am posting some select segments of a Facebook conversation I had today with some friends. I am also editing the discussion minimally — only for a better read — without ever changing any contents or points of view.

Here’s the Todd Akin controversy with his outrageous comments on rape. Basically, he said during his senate election campaign in Missouri that “legitimate” rapes cannot make the victim women pregnant; thus, according to him, abortion is not necessary (and the question is moot) for the victims of rape and incest. He is a far-right, conservative, anti-abortion (“pro-life”) Republican. Don’t ask me why so many American politicians are so dumb, let alone illiterate, arrogant, ignorant, offensive and uncaring.

You can read some news on the above here. Click on this line.

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Now, I posted as my status update: “Obnoxious [edited from “stupid”] Todd Akin and his primitive, outrageous  rape comments actually helped Obama for now. Thanks, “liberal” media. But, hate me for saying this: it is a non-issue, and for most voters with no jobs or money, it don’t matter.”

Immediately I got some serious disagreement — some from longtime friends.

PH wrote: “Wow, you’re going to have to elaborate on how its a non-issue when someone running for public office on a major party ticket in the US in 2012 makes offensive and ignorant comments about rape, and uses it as a basis for curtailing women’s reproductive rights. All this in the context of everything else going on with regard to the issue of reproductive rights (cuts to Planned Parenthood for example, which, for many low-income women and girls is the only source of information and access to reproductive health). How is it a non-issue Partha? Or maybe I misunderstand you.”

Quite legitimate concern about my concern. And she is someone for whom I have always had a lot of respect, for her pioneering work with immigrants and minorities. I could not take her criticism lightly.

I replied: “PH: Clarification: it’s a non-issue not because it’s not critically important for the society and especially [for] women, and of course it has long-term consequences. It’s a non-issue for this election which is (should be) primarily about the economy and how corporate America has stolen both the economy and democracy from us — with help from Republicans and Democrats alike. Liberal media will do more of such diversion in the coming months, and at the end of the day, both parties would love to fight it out (as in a bullfight with a red piece of cloth and sword dangling) on those other issues such as guns, God, gays, and such (with no denigration of these values whatsoever). Media love this diversion, because it also sucks people into these two parties, with practically no room to talk about a third alternative.”

Another Facebook friend HB whom I recently came to know and immediately understood her major talent, wrote:

“It is very much an issue because who we elect (at any level of the government) impacts funding and public policy and the way the social contract in this country is drafted. We must be attuned to every elected official’s attitude towards women and minorities as combined we are the MAJORITY! Our issues are the country’s issues and our well-being is the country’s well-being. Now, being familliar with your politics Partha, I know you agree with this basic sentiment. So please explain why this is a non-issue to you? Is it because it is a smoke signal to not talk about the war and the economy in this election season? If so, I agree. However, it is important to address Akin’s comments because he has a say so in our country’s politics as an elected official.”

Absolutely. I have no disagreement with her either. I just wanted to clarify my controversial position a little more. I responded:
“[HB]: But if there is no money at all because the Federal Reserve, banks and Wall Street stole all the money with help from the two big parties, where is any funding going to come from? I knew it would be a sensitive topic to discuss, and I have no regrets that I brought it up so bluntly. Point I’m making here is, what’s the root cause of all the liberal-conservative debate (if there was one)? Answer is: it’s the economy. That is the discussion the two parties, media and Wall Street do not like us to discuss. Hence, the frenzy.”

In this major meleé, who’s mighty merry? (Note: I did not draw this cartoon and do not endorse the full connotation, if any.)

Then, in my usual, narcissistic way, I went on [for which you must hate me: in fact, I hate myself a lot for this inability to restrain myself and my ego, as if it is the end of the world and that I must win over any argument — and I call Akin stupid?]:

“Emotions will not get us far. A level-headed discussion on economics and the current political system’s exploitation of the economy will. If there is one, we’ll see how bankrupt this two-party system is, and how it has stolen the democracy from us the ordinary people. If there’s one, we’ll see the absolute need to create a third choice. Corporate America and its political establishments do not want us to get into that discussion. Hence, the frenzy.”

I wrote:
“Who we elect matters, of course. But then what? Are they going to change the economic structure, or are they going to make cosmetic changes to perpetuate the status quo? Don’t go any further: just look at Clinton and Obama. We had SO much expectation from them! Has anything changed at all? Has democracy returned to We the People? We need systemic change, and not cosmetic change. Economics is at the heart of it all.”
That is the introductory conversation I thought I could extract from Facebook because of it’s urgency and relevance, and post here on my blog — for the many other readers who don’t keep track of my Facebook activities [believe me: you are better off not doing it].
I hope you think about it and let me know your thoughts. Criticize me as much as you like. But think before you do.
Sincerely Writing,

Partha
Brooklyn, New York
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Post Script.
— I also wrote this one last comment to sum it up: “Finally, I did not include a cursory note such as “I didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings…” etc. because I thought that would be superfluous, especially for people who have known me for years.”
Zero in on this conversation. Period!

Death Is A Very Special Experience

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Have you seen death closely? I have. In fact, I’ve seen death up close too many times.

I have written about death on this blog. I’ve written about my mother’s death in India, when I lived there. I’ve written about my dear uncle Buddha’s death, a few years later, when I was still there. Then, I wrote about my childhood friend Subrato’s death in Calcutta; at that time, after already being in the U.S. for fifteen years, I switched my career from science to humanities, and was studying journalism at Columbia University here in New York.

I wrote about other deaths too — both on this blog and elsewhere. Death is not a new experience for me.

I’ve written about Lord Yama, the God of Death. I’ve talked about him: how he visited us like an unwanted guest — like a distant village uncle who would show his face every now and then, inviting himself to a family that does not want to see him at all. Then, he’d invite himself over and over again, knowing his vulnerable, fearful host family that didn’t know how to say no in his face. He would come, he would stay, and then he would leave whenever he liked.

When you see death so many times, and when you see so many untimely deaths, you stop thinking of death as a rare or special experience; you don’t care about the spirituality aspect of it. Seeing Lord Yama frequently is neither pleasant nor religious. In fact, you pray to your other gods to remove this horrific curse. It’s too traumatic. In fact, after seeing a number of untimely deaths, even the pain doesn’t affect you too much. At that point, you don’t hurt anymore. You desensitize.

Then, there are deaths that still come as a rare and special experience. It brings your soft feelings back. It brings your human senses back. The experience is sad, but wonderful. It touches your soul.

In an immigrant’s life — and I’ve written about how we new immigrants live on two, opposite sides of the world exactly at the same time — many precious experiences bypass and elude you. Leaving your familiar, home country behind, you don’t get to see your nephews or nieces growing up. You don’t get to see them going to middle school and high school, and then to college. You don’t get to see them getting married.

You don’t experience any of the little joys and sorrows of the people that you left behind. You don’t participate in the social and cultural events that were once so near and dear to you. You don’t go to those temples or join in those exciting political rallies anymore. You don’t get to chat with your school buddies anymore; you miss their reunions every single year. You don’t get to eat the Hilsa fish at family gatherings in the monsoon months or play chess, carrom or badminton at fun picnics in early January. You don’t get to see the cricket or football games you once craved to see.

You don’t get to sing with them the songs you so much loved to sing.

And you don’t get to be present at the death bed of someone who loved you so much.

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My wife lost both her parents when we were here in America. She could not be with them when they wanted to see her one last time. She was making the last-minute preparation to fly to Calcutta to see her father; just the night before her departure, news came that he’d passed away. She left the next day, only to be held up by British Airways in London for three days for some strange reasons; they did not or could not make any alternate arrangement for her to reach Calcutta right away. She did not get a chance to see him or perform his last rites at the funeral. It left a permanent scar on her.

The same thing happened when her mother died four years later: she could not arrive on time to see her alive. She passed away quite suddenly. But at least at this time, we made arrangements with those relatives to preserve her body; my wife was able to touch her mother one last time and was able to be a part of the rites at the funeral by the Holy Ganges.

It’s painful and traumatic, but nothing unique for new immigrants like us. At least, unlike many other immigrants who could never return to their home countries because of problems with money or documents, we could fly back and spend a little, precious time with the family. I have seen too many times an immigrant from Bangladesh, Punjab or Pakistan weeping inconsolably with their friends trying to calm them down: they just got news that a parent or a brother or sister died and they could not afford to go back at all. The feeling of helplessness tore them apart.

I know that’s been our fate all along since we decided to migrate out of India. I know I’m going to go through exactly the same experience my wife went through, when time comes to say goodbye to my father. He is now eighty-eight years old, and is not doing well at all. Last week, I got news from my sister that he fell on the floor, hurt his feet badly, and also had a deep cut on his forehead.

I know his time is coming to an end. I know when it’s all over, it’s very likely I won’t be able to be on his side.

Gutubaba loved children.

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When our rabbit died this Sunday at 10 P.M., we were all by his side. This little creature — we called him Gutke or the little brat (rough translation from Bengali) was with us since the tragedies of September Eleventh; he was a rescued bunny. We called him by many other names, such as Gutubaba, Gersh, etc. etc. My sister during her visit from India called him Gutu Kumar. I even gave him a proper name in case we ever decided to send him to a rabbit reform school: the name was Lal Mohan (borrowing the immortal character from Satyajit Ray’s detective stories), even though the little brat never managed to go to school. Ah well, if one decides to remain a lifelong illiterate, what can you do?

The Irish-American lady here in Brooklyn who gave him to us said he was then about a year old back then; therefore, going by her, Gutubaba was about twelve years old when he died; calculating that into human age, he was a very, very old man — of 120.

Now, because most people don’t keep a rabbit for a pet, even here in New York City where almost every other American man and woman have a dog or cat (I once had a bird in Calcutta), they don’t realize how beautiful, happy and loving these rabbits can be. I don’t know about the emotions and intelligence of the typical snow-white rabbits with ruby-red eyes that we used to see back in Calcutta (the ones that never lived long), our Gutubaba was exceptional. Before him, we had another, kind-of pedigree bunny named Chicory, but she only lived for eight years; we loved her too, but never quite formed the bonding we developed with this little street rascal.

When he was young, we had to put up a makeshift wooden door at the bottom of our staircase; still, at every possible and impossible opportunity, he would sneak in and hop up the stairs to go up to the second or even the third floor of our house, and would not ever want to come down. We always had to lure him out of the places he’d hide — mostly from under the bed — by using his favorite cereal, crackers, raisins or grapes. He would always be outside of his cage except for the few times he went back for food or water; and believe it or not, he was almost potty-trained. Well, sort of.

Gutubaba loved children. All our friends — American, Bengali, Indian and all whoever came to our place with their kids — would be amazed to see how friendly he was; in his younger years, he would jump over from the floor onto the couch and sit there for hours, with children and adults alike. He would watch TV with us (sometimes facing away from the TV if it’s a movie that we saw many times before), and listen to Tagore songs with much respect and attention.

The End Came Fast.

Then he got old and slowed down — quite rapidly. He could not move around; we removed the makeshift wooden door from the bottom of the stairwell because he could never go back up. He got arthritis on both front legs, and then he got cataract on his eyes. He gradually stopped eating. Still, he would respond whenever there was smell of freshly made tea because he knew there would be cracker pieces for him, or occasionally, a piece of raisin. The children in our home were extremely attached to him and his love; this brat would lick his favorite children and not stop.

On Sunday, July 15, Gutke breathed his last. We were all present by his side. He started taking very fast breaths, and then he slowed down. He went back to his favorite cage and stayed there one last time. We carefully took him out and lay him on our living room carpet. We rubbed our fingers slowly and softly on his head and his salt-and-pepper fur, and called out his name over and over again. He took a few last sips of water — as if water from the Holy Ganges.

He opened his mouth and took in a few last gasps of air. Then, he stopped breathing.

Gutubaba left us — in peace.

My wife wept inconsolably. She said she had not seen death so up close in her life.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Andy Griffith: A Sheriff Without A Gun

The Happy Family

-One-

I normally do not get emotional about a movie icon.

But this Fourth of July, I can’t keep emotions totally out of my system. Because I’m writing about an icon who I thought was somebody I could remember for the rest of my life. This is someone who makes me happy every time I think about him and watch his shows. He gives me reasons to believe in sanity, moderation, common-sense life and human compassion. He gives me reasons to love and keep faith in love.

I am writing about Andy Griffith. I’m trying make a connection between him, Middle America and yes, the Fourth of July.

Of course, it’s not just about Andy Griffith as a person; rather, it’s about a way of life he iconized through mass media. This is a value system he established even deeper in American soil. That is critically important to remember today because today’s America and American media do not talk about the way of life Andy Griffith, his shows and his friends, colleagues and co-actors talked about. This America and this media today have made a 180 degree turn from the philosophies that his prime time shows in the sixties popularized: philosophies that took deep roots in Mid-America and its moderate, loving and caring, smiling, ordinary, working men, women and children.

They were the philosophies of non-violence, social togetherness, inclusion, equality, modern outlooks and a greed-free lifestyle. Those were the American values that made America an exemplary nation throughout the world. Those were the values that brought millions of immigrants like me to this country — with high hopes and optimism.

Andy Griffith, a small-town Southern sheriff named Andy Taylor, never carried a gun. But he carried those eternal American values we terribly miss now.

Those are the American values we want to remember on this Fourth of July.

-Two-

Of course, he is not the only one who preached and practiced and popularized sanity, society and peace on media and entertainment. Around the same time — in the sixties — icons such as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Robeson or the Beatles were more or less doing the same in the Western world. It was a tumultuous time. The glorious civil rights movement on one hand and a few years later, the valiant mass resistance against the Vietnam war shook America to the core. Countless artists, poets, singers, filmmakers, actors and actresses joined in on the peace movement globally and the civil rights movement within America. Brutally violent rulers across the world and brutally repressive rulers across the U.S. were struggling to put down the civil disobedience tempest. American young generation was waking up to fresh air of new realities. They were embracing the concepts of peace, justice and equality. The Berlin Wall of color, race and religion was crumbling.

Fishing for Family, Fun and Friendship

Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Robeson or the Beatles’ styles were, however, different from Andy Griffith’s. The simple sheriff in the Southern small-town of Mayberry did not join in on a civil rights protest march or gave a speech about the futility of war. He wasn’t even remotely interested about politics, although he had to run for elections every few years to keep his paid position as the sheriff. He also took sides on local mayoral candidates, and once opposed his own Aunt Bee who stood for mayor, causing serious domestic strife. But he was largely a non-political man: his job was to run the small town of Mayberry as smoothly as possible, with help from his laughably inefficient deputy and a group of awkward country simpletons (or even a town alcoholic he was rehabilitating).

Doing this, however, a widower with a small boy Opie, he wouldn’t have no lack of time to engage in several affairs (one affair at a time) with local belles, go fishing regularly with the son, organize and sing in the church choir, or occasionally visit for dinner Mount Pilot, the nearest big town seven miles away. Sheriff Andy Taylor refuses to leave his birthplace Mayberry even when an old-time, high-school sweetheart attempts to lure him away to Chicago. No he wouldn’t leave: he loves his relaxed lifestyle and rural lads and lasses.

-Three-

That is his real America. Here, a group of Italian farmer immigrants with no English-speaking skills gets a hostile bunch of “mainstream” Americans — to the point of being driven away. An innocent man for absolutely no valid reason is suddenly ostracized by the entire town because the people with their superstition think he is jinx. The old barber Floyd spreads rumors about anything and it catches on like wildfire. Local ruffians engaged in illegal trading threat the weakling deputy. Sinister outsiders stash drug money in the barber shop. A bank is going to get robbed by armed robbers faking a film shooting. A dangerously violent criminal jailbreaks and hides in Mayberry, stealing the deputy’s gun.

The “Innocent” Barber!

And in all instances, it falls on the shoulders of Sheriff Taylor to interfere, mitigate and resolve the issue. And he does it with the use of his head — a head of a genius strategist and game maker — with absolutely no intention to use his gun. I take it back: he never had a gun (not even at his North Carolina home). He always thought problems could be handled nonviolently if he’d acted with determination and had the support and confidence of the society. And he did enjoy the support and confidence of the society.

In fact, he had had a society and they all cared for one another.

Sadly, that sane and moderate America is taken away from us. Extreme inequality, war, violence, hate, bigotry and economic exploitation have pervaded this land once again.

-Four-

Sheriff Andy Taylor would never spare opportunities to sit down with his motherless child for his homework, sort out the small boy’s small but significant problems growing up, go fishing with him whistling away, talk to his school teacher Helen Crump who would later be his girlfriend, and attend church meetings and evening dinners religiously with Aunt Bee and son Opie, with frequent presence of childhood friend Deputy Bernie Fife who as a concerned family friend would also attempt to educate the boy, however inadequately. Andy would not miss an opportunity to play his guitar sitting out on the front porch, with Bee, Opie, Ms. Crump, Fife and sometimes Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou joining in. The country music would be slow and soothing, with soft and subtle strumming of the nylon guitar. The full moon would look down upon these simple, honest creatures; its soft and subtle silvery light would flood the Mid-American little town Mayberry — as if it had brought the divine blessings from the Almighty who is sending down his message of togetherness, love, compassion and peace.

Opie, Ron Howard, is now a big-time filmmaker; he is, I guess, my generation. A celebrity in his own right now, does he remember those soft, love-laced days from the sixties? I do. I wish I had an opportunity to go fishing with Sheriff Taylor. Only once…that’s all.

I wanted to play a small part in Andy Griffith’s message of love, social togetherness and nonviolence. I wanted to be a small part in the Grand-Ole American message of hope, togetherness and nonviolence.

Mr. Sheriff, I’m going to miss you. I’m going to miss the Middle American values you lived and died for.

This Fourth of July, I swear to God, Middle America is going to miss you too.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Pa, Can We Go Fishin’ Tomorrow Again?

“Those Lazy American Workers!”

For those who need more clarification about this blog below (especially after some questions I got about my purpose to write it — with the “dirty” words and everything): the point of this article is that, this is how many otherwise decent people (because of their own prejudice without first-hand knowledge and stereotype in corporate media) paint poor workers, even though these workers keep the economic machine running day and night, and the privileged (such as me) take advantage of their hard work, sweat and blood, and often behind-the-scene, 24/7 efforts. Very few of us appreciate what they do for us, and how they do it. This slant, ridicule and denigration now turned out to be a global phenomenon: work and workers are generally looked down upon. Media especially here in the U.S. rarely paint a positive picture about our workers and their enormous contribution. Working men and women — especially the blue collar and poor workers — are almost always taken for granted. Their hardship, pain and struggle are rarely mentioned.

This post is a response to the name calling and stereotyping — written with a sarcastic flavor. I do not ever want to hurt the feelings of these workers, their families, or anybody else. I apologize if somebody gets hurt: it could be my wrong word choice. But I wrote it this way on purpose — to drive a point home.

I have worked with American workers for many years now. All I wrote here is from real-life experiences I gathered in bits and pieces at various places and opportunities to meet, teach and work with these unsung heroes.

______________________

Can You Believe that? Geez…!

-One-

I met a bunch of American workers. Lazy, illiterate, fat, foul-mouth, stinky American workers.

Those parasites! No work and big pay. Lifelong life support by our no-good big government.

I didn’t spare no words. I gave them a mouthful.

I said, “Hey! Come! Look at this photo (worker in hard hat taking a nap on his tractor). This guy is sleeping on the job. And that too, on his CAT.” I said, “I mean, how stupid this jerk is! Would you believe! He could be squashed and killed between those big wheels.”

I said, “this guy is what you are all about, you know? Lazy. Idiot. Illiterate. Don’t get it between good and bad. Don’t you see?”

They didn’t protest for once. Good, I said. How could they protest? What could they say? They didn’t say a word. Ha! What can they say, I said. They were busy eating their lunch. One guy even finished his bologna sandwich and coke, climbed up his pickup truck, and lied down by a bunch of garbage-filled plastic bags — on a piece of plastic — with his stupid, dirty jeans on. Another guy got into his parked Ford Taurus, and started takin’ a nap in the back seat. He started snoring after just half a minute, right in front of my eyes!

So uncivilized, I said. Not only they’re lazy and stupid, but they got no manners too! They’re snoring in public!

Lazy! Fat! Overeaten! Overdrunk! Can’t do no job without taking a big break.

And do you know how much money they earn? A big, fat bundle. I didn’t ask, but I know they make big bucks.

I know they’re all overpaid.

I also heard that they wake up everyday at 4 A.M., get out to work at 5, and in the evening they even go to school. Some labor college, they said. And their union pays for their college. See, that’s the other problem. Why do you waste so much time going to some no-name college? I know many of us didn’t go to college. We’re doing okay. Why can’t you?

Wake up at 4? Why? Like, is there a special reason you need to get up so early? You don’t show up to work until 9. And then you take a break at 12…and take a nap too!

And think about these rich, fat unions? Think how much money they have! No wonder they have so much power. Money and muscle. Isn’t that what American labor unions stand for? All fat liars and crooks.

Makes me sick!

___

No Wonder People Make Such Cartoons! There’s a Reason.

-Two-

Those stupid plumbers. Man, they smell so bad! And they tell such filthy stories.

I saw them once. And I saw them all. Man, these people are really dirty! And oh yes, they’re really stupid.

I knew it all along.

So, I met a bunch of plumbers in Long Island City, Queens, and in ten minutes into meeting them, I know why people do such cartoons about’em. I mean, look, there’s a reason for it. They tell such filthy stories and say such filthy jokes!

And they smell so bad! Now, why in the world do those plumbers smell so bad especially when they’re on the job?

Like, just ten minutes into our meeting, one guy started telling his buddies how they were forced to work on some Goddamn thirty seventh floor of some Goddamn Manhattan building with no bathroom anywhere, and they were on an emergency twelve-hour shift, and they had to pee in a bucket. And then the other guy said he saw a coworker shitting in a plastic bag and stuff! I mean, WTFH, don’t they have no shame? He said there was no bathroom, the water was turned off for their big plumbing work, and the elevator was shut off, so they had no other choice.

I said, oh, man! I said, no man!

I said, yeah right! So, why don’t you stop overstuffing yourself with so much food and drink so much Heineken on the job? I mean, if you knew there would be no proper place to pee, why do you have to keep drinking your booze all the time?

They said they didn’t drink beer on the job. But I knew they were lying in a straight face. They drink, they smoke, and they do stuff you can’t even imagine!

These people were not just foulmouthed, smelly plumbers, they were big liars too.

No wonder people have such bad impression about American workers. Just look at the cartoon. You’ll know.

I saw a handful. And I saw them all.

And, why would people go into that stinky plumbing job in the first place?

___

-Three-

Are They Going on a Mars Trip or Something? Huh!

Asbestos Removal: What Bullshit!

I then met a bunch of asbestos guys. Man, what bullshit they give you 24/7. As if your life depends on their stupid asbestos abatement! I just laughed and laughed hearing their crap.

So, they dress up like astronauts…you know…the guys landing on the moon and stuff! I mean, just look at them…don’t they look funny!

They said they were removing asbestos flying in the air in some old, dilapidated building in East Brooklyn. Now, why in the world do you have to wear those stupid clothes? And what are those on your face…are you ghostbusters or something? Gosh, don’t get me started!

They said asbestos was so dangerous that unless removed properly, it could cause lung cancer and all…in your lungs. You can cough blood doing asbestos work. And you can like…die. Yeah, right! So, wear a white filter paper cap on your face and cover up your nose. Worried about your hair? Cover it up! Use a pair of rubber gloves. Don’t talk while your work, right? Nothing can get in unless you breathe it in! Take a shower when you get back home.

Simple!

See, this is how they really jack up the price tab on the employer and then force them to buy those fancy suits and masks and stuff. Respirator, negative pressure pump, HEPA filter, three-layered plastic, loads of duct tape, helmet, amended water and all those expensive items. Then, the special landfill. I mean, gimme a break. I know what you’re doing: you’re blasting your employer and your contractor with a huge bill. And then you’ll charge us big bucks too. Don’t think for a moment we don’t get that.

I know how you do it, make big money, and then get those pols to pass laws to save your little white, black or brown asses. I mean, who cares about what the employer sacrifices for you? Nobody!

How many people actually died of asbestos black lung…just tell me?

Many? Thousands? Since when? Where?

Here in the U.S.? Cananda? China? India?

Not here in the USA, no siree. Not here. We always took good care of our workers.

And they never complained too. And never showed us those OSHA, EPA and HEPA stuff.

Enough is enough!

Parasites. No work. Lazy. Big breaks. Stupid jokes. Still get lifelong support by our no-good, big government.

And the illegal aliens? They’re the worst.

I’ll tell you more stories later.

###

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

The Worst Parasite, Ever! Killing Our America!