Not that fifteen years of 9/11 is anything different from fourteen years, or sixteen. It is just a number.
For those who lost their loved ones on that fateful day here in New York, their pain and sorrow will remain exactly the same. We — those who were lucky not to go through their traumas — will not understand how intense their bereavement is.
I personally know at least five or six different friends and families who have never been able to escape from their loss. They have done their best to move on. Some of them have moved on, assuming tasks that others would not have the courage or energy to perform.
But unlike them, a vast number of Americans have not been able to understand peace. They have not tried to understand the reasons behind terrorism, and they have not tried to understand the global game of war, repression and economic exploitation, promoted and perpetuated by war corporations, military complexes, their politicians, think tanks, and media. They have misplaced their anger, and the war-mongering people in power have made this world a much more dangerous and violent place to live, much more so than what it was before 9/11/2001.
What we see in ISIS, Boko Haram, Jamat Islami or other extremist-terror groups now, we could not even imagine them until we began to hear about Taliban or Al Qaeda, really after the 9/11 terror took place. Yet, no serious media or government discussion happened ever as to explain where these groups came from, who gave them funding, political and military support, and how these terror groups recruited so many young men and women — people who are ready to kill any number of innocent people, anywhere in the world?
It is extremely unlikely that Hillary Clinton, if and when elected president, will do anything different from what Obama has done over his eight years. And on the other hand, Donald Trump who is perhaps not going to be the next U.S. president (I do hope not), will unleash new reign of global warfare, causing massive, new bloodshed. A pro-peace Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein candidacy is now a dream vanished in thin air, thanks to the manipulative election game in the U.S., one that few people understand or pay attention to.
On the home front, within America, hate crimes are on the rise again. Even here in New York City, a so-called safe refuge for immigrants, just in the past couple of weeks, two Muslim priests were shot and killed, followed by a sixty-year-old Muslim woman knifed to death. Their belongings were not taken, and they were all wearing traditional garbs, making it all but certain that these were acts of hate crime.
Many Hindu Indians who hate Muslims or communists or “low-caste” rarely made any effort to know them. Many Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims have similar hate against Hindus.
Recently, Hindu fanatics in India, and Muslim fanatics in Bangladesh, have killed a number of people who came from the minority communities. They also killed free thinkers and intellectuals.
In America, Christian hate mongers hate other religions they have never wanted to know. Whites who hate blacks or immigrants never took the time to know them.
Hate comes from ignorance, the ignorant resort to violence supported by political powers, and ignorance rises out of a broken-down society with no real-life connections. Virtual society such as corporate media, Facebook or Twitter takes over, and dictates peoples’ lives with illusions, fake analyses, and false hopes.
Liberals in particular, and leftists in many cases, have done their best to create an heightened indifference, and failed to understand the ordinary peoples’ social and spiritual needs. Right wing and fanatics took advantage of this emotional void, and rallied the ignorant around their agenda, based on supremacy and exclusion.
Political powers used the hateful environment to divert peoples’ attention from their economic woes.
What we see in India today (RSS-BJP, etc.), or USA (Trump and Tea Party) are poison fruits of this poison tree of elitism and rabid individualism. Ayn Rand must be happy. Or, is she?
Is there any way to stop the advancing fascism?
Yes, there is, if the ordinary, working men and women reject extreme left and extreme right on one hand, and elite, individualist center on the other.
This is my life’s lesson — both from working as a grassroots organizer in India and USA, and also in the classroom.
Just back from India. Posting pages off my Calcutta Diary here, in short segments. Hope you read. Thank you.
Brooklyn, New York
Calcutta Diary, 2016. Page 2. — Thanks to Western media, very few people in America and Europe know about this city’s incredibly rich cultural tradition. The air is filled with music, poetry, art, literature, dance, film and theater. And you don’t need to find it at concert halls, academies and festivals only. Every neighborhood, every household carries talented individuals. Men, women and children who crave for artistry. People save up from their paltry earnings to buy books, and then perhaps travel once a year, if they can.
Westerners know about France, Spain and Italy and their cultural heritage. Calcutta is, to them, a city of the destitute, only to be saved by Mother Teresa.
Last night, my sister organized a two-hour program at our home where neighbors came, sang songs, played the esraj and tabla, and recited Bengali poetry. I sang a Tagore song, and read from my memoir “Ghotikahini.” My 92-year-old father, recovering from a health crisis, enthusiastically sat through most of the program. He could not hear most of the performances, but his face glowed with happiness and pride.
CALCUTTA DIARY, 2016. Page 3. — It is unbelievable how the one percent here in India are building up on a new war game, with enthusiastic, highly profitable support from their media. The so-called Pakistani attack on Pathankot air base. Every newspaper and TV (the indian version of New York Times, CNN and Fox) are busy proving how anti-Pakistan, and pro-Indian military they are. And people are absolutely delighted that their long-held animosity against the “arch enemy” Pakistan, a country that of course had long history of harboring terrorists and military dictators, is once again validated, without ever questioning why in the world Pakistan would want another war now, unless there is provocation from CIA and the war industry.
Nobody even cares to know: both Hindus and Muslims are so blind and polarized. Yet, the Indian economy is exploding, with health care and education being two most corrupt, privatized businesses, and the rupee at an all-time low, nearly catching up on the Bangladesh currency. No discussion.
And yes, by the way, a low-caste, poor girl was gang raped by soldiers of this glorified Indian army when she made a mistake and got on a reserved army car in a passenger train. I am trying to understand the reasons behind such arrogantly flexed stupidity of Hindus, Muslims, communists and anti-politics majority here.
I want to thank you all who took time to read what I said about Sandipta. It was nice to see so many thousands of readers came to visit my little blog. I want to thank those of you who commented on it. It was reassuring to know that people still care about life, and death. Through this very unfortunate experience, a small group of people came together, and shared their pain and sorrow. It was a matter of the soul. It was a spiritual experience.
Thank you so much for your compassion for this young sister who left us so suddenly, and so untimely.
Then, I found some Twitter messages Sandipta wrote in her last few days. One message was a re-Twit about Shiv Sena, India’s KKK, and its just-deceased chief Bal Thackeray. The message Sandipta re-Twitted was on 17th November. “[Shiv Sena chief] Thackerey’s … editorial very sweetly compared women journalists to prostitutes.”
This was from a 1991 editorial Thackeray wrote in his Marathi-language publication Saamna. This is just before the time when SS butchered poor Muslims in Bombay, right after the Babri Mosque demolition that took India into a new bloodbath. Sandipta reposted the message for her friends — without any personal comments.
It gave me the courage to write again. It made me remember the young, vibrant, Tagore-loving Indian journalist Sandipta Chatterjee whom I knew for five years. I remembered how in many Facebook conversations, we often talked about and shared our similar opinions on rights, justice and dignity for all — especially Indian women. I kept tagging her on my blogs — particularly the ones that talked about racism, bigotry and lies.
Most of the time, she would simply not comment. Once in a while, she would, in her usual soft, subtle way. Being a part of the Indian corporate media world, she did not want to be too explicit, and I always honored that ethical boundary. She was not nearly as political as me, either. But I knew she had support for honesty and truth. She had to: she was a graduate from Tagore’s university.
I am afraid I still don’t have enough energy to write too much. I just had to write something because it’s so relevant right now. My apologies if I sound too abrupt and too brief. I invite you to read some of the other articles I posted here on my blog over the past few months, if you’re interested to know indepth about these subjects. I invite you to read what I wrote about India’s corrupt sell-off political leaders, role International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Wall Street are playing in India right now — puppeteering profiteers as I call them — to destroy the Indian economy once and for all, and how Indian corporate media are cheer leading the ruling class without ever exposing the horrendous truths from a global point of view.
There is hardly any comprehensive discussion on Indian media (which is now officially a clone of global corporate media organizations and their profit-only business) on how IMF, World Bank, Wall Street corporations such as Wal-Mart, Disney, Monsanto, General Electric, McDonald’s, Exxon-Mobil or Coca Cola have destroyed economies and environments across the world. There is no discussion on Indian media about the connection between the thousands of farmer suicides in today’s India and the hundreds of young women burnt to death at garment sweatshop factories in Bangladesh just two weeks ago. There is no conversation to correlate these gruesome tragedies with the Union Carbide worker slaughter that happened in Bhopal three decades ago: to show that the global profiteering saga at the expense of poor peoples’ lives has reached a new low.
There was no discussion on the fact that for the first time in a very fractious India, political rivals such as CPI(M) and the left, BJP and the right, and grassroots Congress-breakaways such as Mamata Banerjee the West Bengal chief minister came together on an economic platform to stop the aggression of sinister, global corporations and their devastating profiteering — in the name of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Very soon, just like Indian farmers have been killing themselves in thousands — the largest number of farmer suicides in human history — small businessmen and farmer’s market vendors sitting for centuries on urban and rural markets of India will perish with their familes and children.
Congress Party and its media blast this coming together of right and left: they call it hypocrisy. Yet, just a couple of months ago, Congress got crucial support from India’s KKK Shiv Sena to elect its IMF-sponsored president Pranab Mukherjee. There was no comprehensive discussion of that scandal either!
Finally, before I run out of steam, a word about India’s cricket. This is of course the one of the largest, thriving, for-profit industries in India now. In fact, it is the only sports industry in the entire world that has a major portion of the country’s wealth played into the hands of mafia, underworld bookies, media corporations, politician-turned-administrators, and cricketers who keep making billions in a country where at least three out of four people do not have enough to eat, can’t send their children to school or sick parents to a hospital, or must walk miles every single day to fetch water to drink.
Here, this one game India invests so much money on, and a game only ten countries play (and nobody knows about it outside of the past British colonies they now call Commonwealth). There is no accountability for failures and no media discussion on how much money these players and administrators and underworld bookies actually make.
The game’s star player Sachin Tendulkar is now a Congress Party-nominated parliament member. Now, here is one interesting fact to reflect on.
During the very important FDI debate in Indian parliament, where Congress Party allegedly bribed some small, caste-based politicians to get their crucial, numerical support to pass the Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch’s foreign direct investment, Sachin Tendulkar was supposed to be present in New Delhi during that vote. But he was playing cricket in Calcutta exactly at the same time! Even though he was not able to pull the dismal Indian cricket out of a defeat by England (critics say he has hardly ever done it in his entire career: to pull the Indian team out of an imminent defeat!), he displayed perhaps one of the most egregious breaches of workplace ethics (I wonder if it’s illegal too), by working for two employment places exactly at the same time — also perhaps making money from the two places exactly at the same time!
And this entire breach of workplace code of conduct was done in front of one billion Indian people. Like, he was naked in front of all of them.
Well, I have said enough already. I am a poor, powerless man. I should not say so much. People are angry.
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?
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!)
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.)
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,
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
Brooklyn, New York
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m going to tell you three of my own, honest-to-God, real-life, personal, New York City stories of live-together with racism and stereotype. Or, you can call it something else. It’s your choice.
I simply titled it Laugh 2 because I called the most recent story I told you Laugh 1. These three stories are so dry, down ‘n dirty, straightforward and unfunny that you might start suspecting my basic literary prowess. Heck, I seriously doubted it myself when I went through those little experiences; in fact, when they happened — one event at a time with a gap of a couple of years in between — the only thought that came to my mind was how to save my little brown Indian butt, and go home with a non-disfigured face (or in one instance, go home at all).
And I didn’t laugh.
I just thank God I did not become a post-9/11 FBI or NYPD statistic of hate-crime victims (or in one instance, a permanently disappeared U.S. citizen). I just hope and pray to God that, however insignificant my scare was compared to the grotesque, horrific, nightmarish and bone-chilling experiences so many people I know have gone through, none encounter experiences even as small as mine. I don’t know about you the rough, tough and diehard, man, I nearly peed in my pants. And a grassroots, 9/11 community organizer turned immigrant and labor advocate, I am not particularly known as a wimp.
How do I rank these stories? There is no way I could do that. So, like they write experiences on the resumé with the most recent cited first, I’m going to tell you my stories with the most recent one first. Is it the most stand-out one? Not sure. I leave it up to you to decide on the poignancy indicator of it.
Let’s just cut to the chase. I’ll be brief.
So, about this time last year, on one late morning on a slow, sunny, early fall day, I was waiting on a downtown NYC subway platform for the E train. I was going to college to teach an afternoon class. I had my trademark brown backpack on my brown back, I had a light jacket on, and I also had my hands in my coat pockets.
A woman — she was likely watching over me for some time — walked up to me, just before the train arrived. She smiled strangely at me, and said, “You’re not carrying a gun on you, are you?” Then she gestured at my hands in my pockets, and smiled again, as if she actually had doubts if I was carrying a hidden gun.
I was so surprised by the suddenness of it that I didn’t know what to say. First I thought she was just joking, however bad and stupid the joke was. But then I realized she was serious. The train came and she and I boarded the train; I now felt quite annoyed that she kept looking at me and my brown skin and my “Islamic-terrorist-looking” face and beard (she didn’t know I was an American Hindu, involved with the American peace movement, and preached global non-violence all my life). I realized she was quite nervous by the possibility that either my backpack or my jacket could indeed carry a gun. And then she walked up to me and repeated her question: “You don’t have a gun on you, do you?”
I had a little interaction with her after that — a non-violent one — and it was lucky I only had one station to ride on the E train. But that one-station, three-minute ride was more than enough. It was pretty long.
I am not CNN or Fox or some tabloid paper, and I don’t mean to make too much of a big deal out of it. But I’ve actually thought about the incident quite a bit afterwards, and in hindsight, I believe it could’ve been much worse under a slightly different set of circumstances.
Think about the incident happening on a Greyhound bus or maybe, a commuter train (I’m excluding airplanes because they’d have body scans and all). I very likely “look like an Islamic terrorist” with my brown skin and pronounced beard based on the profiling and flagging they’d had on countless innocent Muslims, South Asians and Arabs since 9/11. What if this crazy woman walked up to me there, challenged me if I had a gun in my backpack (remember my NYPD-NYCLU bag search lawsuit story?), and then perhaps called the “see-something-say-something” police? I know people who were picked up by the police and FBI and other law enforcement on such charges by “responsible American citizens.” I also know of at least one real-life story a young Sikh friend from New Jersey told me where a busload of Americans started heckling him on his way back home from Philadelphia, called him Osama, and followed him off the bus to the public bathroom, and threatened to beat him up black and blue.
Any of the above could’ve happened to me. That was really the scary part.
Glad in this case, it was “small and significant.” And I came back home in one piece to report it on Facebook the same night.