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%.

President Obama: Gun Kills. Gun Kills Everywhere. Wake Up!

Connecticut Mother grieves. Gun and violence took away her child.
Connecticut Mother grieves. Gun and violence took away her child.

December 14, 2012. — Another scary, sad and traumatic day with a new gun rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, USA. At least 18 children were killed by gunman in an elementary school. I wrote on my Facebook page: This is not a civilized country. And God does not save the innocent.
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August 6, 2012. — Another scary, sad and traumatic day with a new gun rampage in Wisconsin, USA. This time, a number of innocent Sikhs fell victims to this hate. I pray for the victims’ families and express outrage.
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“The NRA is an organization that is adamant about no controls on weapons, in spite of the fact that we have federal laws that say you cannot sell guns to minors, to people with psychiatric problems or drug problems, or convicted felons. And yet they pressure Congress and the White House, and they’ve been doing it for decades, to not fund enforcement of those laws.”

— Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York. Quoted from The Hill, July 23, 2012.

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I hope you forgive me for being so undiplomatic today. But first, I want to say a prayer for the victims and their families and loved ones in Colorado.

Also, I remember Trayvon Martin. A few weeks ago, I wrote: “Trayvon Martin Would Still Be Alive If Zimmerman Had No Gun. Simple.” I hope you read it too.

Now, after today’s gun horror in Aurora, where a mass killer killed and hurt a large number of innocent people, President Obama said that the tragedy serves as a reminder that “life is very fragile.”

“Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another,” he said.

I am very happy to know that President Obama still did not lose his poise and eloquence even after this gruesome mass killing that shook the entire world. Really, he should not because he is the president of USA; a president must keep his poise and emotional balance even under extreme circumstances.

I congratulate him for his calm.

However, I am not a U.S. president and I have no power to change the way things happen here in America or anywhere else in the world. I cannot change the way Obama sends drones to drop bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan — bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. I have no power to change Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy in Iran, Egypt or Syria and new war drumbeats in the Middle East — just the same way I could not do anything to change the policies of Bush and Cheney that started this millennium’s first genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan. I could not do anything to stop New York Times and other powerful media from publishing bogus reports on Saddam Hussain’s so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction — reports that helped validate the genocide and eventual rat-trapping and killing of the tyrant despot. Similar fate happened to Osama Bin Laden, and I had to no power to know what exactly happened to him during that military raid in Abbottabad.

Of course, I am not comparing terrorists in other countries with mass killers here in America. I have no power to make such a comparison either. These are apples and oranges that could not be compared.

I am a powerless man with no money, no media, no military and no mass support. I am a powerless man who can only imagine what went on with those fear-stricken people in that Colorado movie theater today. I can imagine their scared-to-death, white faces before their death. I can only imagine what those poor victims thought just before the mass killer who armed himself with guns and explosives and ammunition mowed them down — one after the other.

I can imagine placing myself in that crowd of horrified, screaming victims of gun violence. I can imagine placing my family and my children there too. I can imagine the hit and the hurt and splattering blood when a bunch of ultra-modern, powerful, lethal bullets pierced through my heart and blanketed my world with one final darkness. In the final moments, I can imagine I was praying to God that my wife and children be left safe. I was only wanting that they be left alone.

In those final moments before my deaths, I imagine I was praying to God that this be the last gun barbarism, ever.

President Obama, contrary to some of his predecessors, always says something that somehow resonates and stays back with you. In fact, he said this today (and so, yes, a very powerful man that he is, his thoughts were not much different from those of me, a very powerless man):

Upon learning the Colorado gun violence news, the president said he thought of his own two daughters.

“My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children,” he said. “But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.”

[Mr. President, I would include some little facts here — facts of lives of very powerful people and their families — like the presence of secret service and combing operations and VIP security and bomb-sniffing dogs and all other such paraphernalia, but I won’t. Because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe you’re being honest about your wife and daughters.]

Congratulations again, President Obama. That’s exactly the type of words that won the hearts of millions of poor and powerless people like me four years ago, around this time. I am not sure what’s going to happen this November; however, if somebody asked me to vote for your calm, poise and eloquence today, you got my vote, Mr. President, one more time.

But I would positively vote for you if you thought about not just Sasha, Malia and Michelle and my children here in America, but the millions of children who’re losing their parents and siblings and uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces every single day — because of bullets shooting out of mighty guns and tanks and bombs dropping out of the wide-open holes of those drones.

I would definitely vote for you today if you stopped that violence once and for all. Those children are hurting too. They’re hurting and bleeding and crying and writhing in pain. I can  imagine that as well.

With your very sharp mind, critical thinking and eloquence — totally unlike your predecessors — couldn’t you imagine that, Mr. President?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not ever going to take away the grim, dark reality in Colorado today. I am praying for the victims and their families and loved ones. I am shaking in fear. I am not being able to sleep tonight: just the same way I could not sleep when Columbine, Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech happened. I could not sleep when Trayvon Martin was killed this February. I am bleeding deep inside. I am imagining over and over, again and again, myself and my family and children in the middle of that barrage of bullets in that movie theater today.

But President Obama, you have not done anything to stop this gun barbarism here in America, either! In fact, you refused to do anything about it.

With your indifference, gun lobbies and gun markets and NRA’s have flourished even more in these four years. All of these powerful people and organizations are now likely working for your defeat this November. So, wake up!

With your indifference and support from your own administration and political allies for gun lobbies, gun violence has spiraled out of control. So, wake up, would you?

Gun has no place in a civilized society. In no other place in the world — First World or Third World — free guns have taken so many innocent lives.

No other country in the world — First World or Third World — media and movies and video games have glorified violence, killing and guns and bombs. Don’t you get it: this violent mindset is a direct result of that glorification! Would you please wake up?

President Obama, think about your powerful children and family, and think about our powerless children and families. And think about those millions of hapless children and families all over the world.

Stop this violence now! Stop this barbarism!

That’s all I wanted to pass on tonight. I hope you take it seriously.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Do I Look Like Saddam Hussain?

Scares 2 and 3

Courtesy: PoliticalMasks dot com

I never thought I looked either like Saddam Hussain or Osama Bin Laden.

In fact, some of the people I like a lot tell me that my face shows kindness and compassion. They say it’s actually quite comforting to look in my eyes. They say I’m a good friend.

I’m always delighted and pampered to hear such compliments; a forever teenager in me savors the praises, and daydreams about more. Silly, but that’s how I am.

At least, I know I definitely do not look like a fanatic killer or a tyrant dictator.

Enough sentimentalism. Let’s get back to business. I promised I’d tell you three of my relatively small and insignificant post-9/11 brushes with racism, stereotypes and ignorance here in New York. So, here they are. If you haven’t read the first story already, just click here. Note that my family and I had other small and big, very difficult experiences to deal with bias, prejudice and mistreatment throughout our twenty-five years of living in America (and guess what: we thought we were escaping them when we left India); some of these experiences either could’ve killed us quickly, or at least suffocated us to despair and slow but sure death. If not anything else, they could’ve easily driven us away from this country that we opted to be our own — where we worked very hard to prove our worth 110 percent.

(Of course, a large majority of our American friends and colleagues — black, white, brown or yellow (what a terrible way to describe them) — embraced us and treated us with equal respect. They’ve become our new family. But that’s another story.)

At present, I’d like to stick to my 9/11-related personal scares. And I’ll be brief again. Like I said before, compared to the Kafkesque, horrifying experiences some of my Muslim, South Asian and other poor immigrant brothers and sisters went through since 9/11, my little tales are pretty boring. But these are my real stories, and I might as well tell them as vividly as possible, before they completely slip out of my memory (even though, chances are, they never will).

In the Scare 2 car chase story, the scenario was like this. My family and I were riding our old, beat-up Dodge to some community event a few months after 9/11. We were held in a Saturday afternoon traffic over Brooklyn Queens Expressway, an area from where you can see the Statue of Liberty against the famous backdrop of Manhattan skyline. As the driver, I should have noticed that a big gray van was following behind our car too up close. As we started descending off the bridge, the traffic became easier. Just at that time, the van passed by us with a screech, came dangerously close to our car on my left, honked loud at us, and then the passengers — a white man and a white woman — rolled down their windows, and screamed, “Hey you…Saddam!” “You M…F… terrorists!” Then, they rolled back up their windows, and sped away. It didn’t take them more than a few seconds to do it, but for us it was a dangerously nerve-wrecking experience. I was stunned and shaken. My family members in the car were petrified.

It can Kill You!

The Baseball Bat

Scare 3 episode happened when as the 9/11 community organizer, I helped my grassroots immigrant rights group NICE organize one of our many anti-bias-crime meetings in Queens. On the day Saddam Hussain was captured from the rat hole in Iraq and entire American media was rejoicing, we had a pre-scheduled organizational meeting in a school building in Corona. It was, I remember, in the middle of a harsh New York winter, and I believed it had snowed that morning. We were running late. Our executive director activist lawyer Bryan Pu-Folkes and I got off the subway at Corona, and started walking as briskly as possible toward the school building; we knew our team members Nashla, Diana, Jessica, Shirley, Cheryl and others were waiting for us there. Bryan probably ran into someone and walked along with him; I for some reason waited back perhaps in anticipation that he would finish his brief conversation with his friend and then we’ll go on together again.

Just at that time, a group of Hispanic youth circled me, and started laughing quite strangely. One of them, I noticed, had a baseball bat on him. The group kicked off an impromptu conversation. It was like this:

Them: “Hey buddy, are you Muslim?”

Me (quickly being defensive): “No I’m not.” (I knew about my journalist friend Haider’s falling victim of a hate crime before; to a similar question, he replied yes, he was Muslim and from Pakistan. Next thing was somebody collected his bloody, unconscious body with teeth and lips broken from uppity Park Slope in Brooklyn).

Them: “So you’re sad they got Saddam. Did you know?”

Me (using all my presence of mind): “Yes, I know. But why should I be sad? I’m not sad.”

Them: “He’s your guy, right?”

Me (now afraid): “No he’s not. I’m happy they got him.”

Them: “Yeah, right!”

Then they chuckled. I very quickly but calmly left their association, and walked toward Bryan whom I could see from a distance. I caught up with him and told him the story.

A group of youth hanging out near a rundown New York subway station with a baseball bat with them is not a place where you want to be held up in any conversation. Not too long ago, a Bangladeshi journalist Mizanur, on his way back from his weekly Bengali newspaper office late at night, was mistaken by a similar group of people for somebody else, and with a baseball bat, they broke his skull into pieces.

I did not want to be a repeat statistic at all.

Nothing major had happened to me, and I escaped unhurt. But my pride and ego took a bad hit on those days. I could not get a chance to tell those people about my lifelong, sincere work to promote peace, rights and justice. I could not champion to them about my humble beginning, family education and very-hard-earned three masters and a Ph.D. (as if it’s too important to advertise; who would give a damn!). Further, I never got a chance to tell them that I was in fact one of them too: that I belonged to their class and their experiences, and that there was no reason for us to fall victims of this mutual exclusion and hate.

In one unfortunate moment, Mizanur’s brain splattered on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Mine could have too.

Hate and ignorance would not wait to kill. They’re intrinsically violent.

So, now, ten years after 9/11, are we any better? Tolerance…interfaith…diversity…cross-cultural harmony…?

Let’s ask ourselves.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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They Yelled: “Sikh…Sheik…Sick…Whatever! Get’em.”

Rajinder Singh Khalsa, hate crime victim

Rajinder Singh Khalsa never thought men less than half his age, who could be his son’s friends and call him uncle, would beat him up bloody and swear dirty!

They were drunk. They shot out of a pub and yelled (something like it), “Sikh…Sheik…Sick…whatever. You SOB Osama Bin Laden…Get’em!” They pulled off his turban, threw it on the street, and kicked on it.

Then, they started punching in his eyes.

Singh never thought they’d call his religion terrorist. He never thought anybody could desecrate his faith here in America.

Of course, he didn’t know that even most New Yorkers probably didn’t know that maybe even Osama didn’t know what Sikh’ism was. (They still don’t know.) Anyway, that’s another story government officials, elite diversity advocates and social science teachers would deal with.

The first time when I went to see Mr. Singh at his Queens Richmond Hill home, he was badly injured, shook up, and weak. He couldn’t speak well. He was scared and could not drive his taxi because of his physical pain and mental anguish. His left eye was still badly swollen like a plump plum with blood oozed around broken bones and veins. He thought he was going to lose sight on that eye forever.

But he and his family took time to talk to me and a few of my 24/7 hate-crime vigil colleagues from NICE. He told us how he was even more depressed because of the outrageous, uncalled-for insult to him and his sacred religion. He told us how nightmarish the whole experience had been.

Rajinder Singh Khalsa was one of the dozens of Sikhs who fell victims of a hateful post-9/11 New York and New Jersey. In fact, we had large community vigils, press conferences and rallies to protest these crimes. I promise to find some of those precious reports and photos to post later.

By the way, even though I am writing this blog about crimes against Sikhs, Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Arabs and all the others who according to the criminals, deserved the assault because they “looked liked terrorists, acted like terrorists, or talked like terrorists,” never would I claim sole credit for the grassroots anti-bias mobilization work during those turbulent, difficult days (in fact, I find this statement itself to be superfluous). Hundreds of small and big groups and individuals came together to save and protect lives and honor of the innocent. I want to take a special moment to acknowledge them all.

First, I acknowledge NICE’s founder-director Bryan Pu-Folkes; for years, we worked together, and became good friends.

Bryan and I in that NICE basement office

Then, to work with a number of Sikhs like Rajinder Singh who were unfortunate targets of bias attacks, frontline organizations were Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs, Sri Guru Ravidas Sabha of Woodside, Singh Sabha and Sikh Center of New York, and Sikh Cultural Society. In fact, although the circumstances were sad and depressing, it was a great opportunity to visit a whole bunch of gurdwaras on Sunday morning and get to know big, strong, powerful, kind and innocent Sikh men and women from various neighborhoods of New York. Amardeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition lawyer who needs no introduction, became a good friend (watch him testify before U.S. Congress). I came to know Santokh Singh at Ravidas and other individuals who came forward to rescue the honor and dignity of their insulted faith.

Brother Santokh was forced to cut off his hair and beard to look like an “American.” at the insistence of his then “American” employer. But that’s another story.

Rabbi Robert Kaplan and his organization Jewish Community Relations Council, as well as Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz and Queens borough president Helen Marshall also took significant steps to curb hate in the city. John Liu, then city council member and now comptroller, participated in our rallies, along with a few other elected leaders. In fact, I remember, David Weprin, New York City council member who’s now running for Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat, was with us too. I remember meeting Msgr. Marino at the Archdiocese of Brooklyn Catholic Church at a number of occasions around these issues.

I also want to thank big and small media organizations whose help was enormous. The New Yorker magazine, with special effort of its editor Pam McCarthy, put out an extensive photo essay portraying the faces of 9/11 victims: they featured Rajinder Singh. New York branches of CBS and NY-1 TV, radio shows such as DemocracyNow!, and Community newspapers such as Queens Tribune and Queens Chronicle printed cover-page stories on the grassroots resistance we were able to build against violence on innocent men and women. Ethnic papers such as India Abroad, News India-Times or Indian Express (New York) as well as Punjabi-language papers from New York and New Jersey all publicized our work; it created enormous impact among the average New Yorkers and most importantly, government officials, who then came forward and through jointly-held news conferences, denounced such crimes of hate.

For years, I wrote columns and news stories on our human rights work and justice for immigrants in Bengali newspapers such as Ekhon Samoy, Thikana, Sangbad, Bangali, etc. I believe these papers deserve a special note of thanks for their courage to print courageous stories and analyses.

New York Police Department also held a number of special task force meetings with us, and we worked together to publish anti-bias-crime materials for various communities.

I kept in touch with Rajinder Singh Khalsa for a few years even after I moved on to work as the executive director of New Jersey Immigration Policy Network. Then, I lost touch. I hear though that he’s doing better now.

I also hear that a number of these hate criminals, after the initial media hype was over, slipped out of the criminal dossier, and they’re now doing even better than Mr. Singh.

Now, that’s mighty American 9/11 justice!

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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