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Entries in politics (15)

Thursday
Feb092012

Drinking the Kool Aid (and Gatorade)

Thing is, I have some sort of stomach flu and am subsisting on nothing more than Gatorade and Saltines.  I'm on the mend, but feeling uninspired in terms of writing.

But, hey, look!

I watched this for the first time tonight and am officially back on the Barack Obama Kool Aid. I'm not going to lie, this made me swoon more than that one time he yelled at Congress ("You need to be here...I'm here...I've been doin' Afghanistan, bin Laden... the Greek crisis...")

President Obama sings Al Green? Play only if you can handle the awesome.

Monday
Jan232012

Mujahideen Plunder

Afghanistan


It was 1996.

My father had recently returned from a trip that allowed him the unusual opportunity of venturing beyond Lahore. He and my cousin went on a road trip and wandered through Peshawar and areas bordering Afghanistan. During that excursion, my father met and conversed with some Afghani "mujahideen."

The word mujahideen has become synonymous with "Islamist" and “terrorist.” For Americans knowledgeable on the topic in 1996, though, a mujahideen was something different. Mujahideen means "one who fights in the way of jihad," and this is not the post 9/11 "jihad" that Muslims in the United States are quick to point out as a spiritual struggle. It's am actual reference to battle.

In 1979, the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and Afghanis fought back. The defense of Afghanistan proved significant to Pakistan and the United States by virtue of a enemy that was perceived to be shared. Many of the young men who battled tanks  with hand held weaponry strongly felt that God had contributed to their victory. The most famous mujahideen we all know was a Yemeni man named Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden never directly fought the Soviets in combat, but instead funded and supported training facilities and medical camps during the war. In this way, he seems less representative of Afghani mujahideen than most conservative talking heads are willing to admit.

By the time the Soviets were defeated, over 2 million Afghanis had died. That was the beginning of the death toll, though. In the next ten years, a complex series of battles, both physical and ideological, within Afghanistan would create circumstances that would lead to the rise of a Taliban government. Ultra-orthodox interpretations of Islam of this religio-political faction would lead to repeated violations of basic human rights to education, justice and even mobility. It also provided fertile soil for the development of an ideological movement that has contributed to the deaths of over one million people all over the world.

But back to 1996.

My nineteen year old self's sense of awe at the mujahideen victory claimed against the USSR with little more than borrowed training and ammunition from its neighboring nation of Pakistan and funding from the United States was likely naive.  I was just a kid and couldn't have foreseen how the stories of these victorious underdogs would contribute significantly to an ideology that would change us all forever.

I knew at the time that these were people who had fought to save their homeland, and that both of the countries I called home, America and Pakistan, had helped them do that.  It was childlike on my part, but when I listened to those stories in 1996, I felt whole.

One story my father told me of his visit had to do with shopping in makeshift markets that former mujahideen had set up.  Many of the goods weren't the usual fare.  When my father inquired about the origin of certain items that looked more eastern European in nature than south Asian, the sellers gave mysterious smiles and assured him that he was lucky to have the ability to acquire such quality merchandise at such a low cost.

I don't know if it was my dad's addiction to getting a good bargain or that he felt sorry for the guys, but he bought some stuff and brought it home. When he presented my mother with some of the things he had bought, my brother and I laughed at how gaudy it was, made jokes about it belonging to the Romanovs and feigned horror at my dad's purchase of what was essentially "war plunder."

After getting married, though, I took a few of the things with me. Maybe I wanted to hold on to the innocence that led me to believe that Pakistan and the U.S. had worked together to make something good happen.  Or maybe it was just that no matter how gaudy those things were, they reminded me of my parents and I wanted to take that with me to my new home.

The item deemed "most gaudy" in 1996 sits at the entrance of my home today. I don't find it tacky anymore, but tremendously beautiful and significant. On dusting days, when it’s given more attention than usual, I pass my hands over its delicately beaded surfaces and wonder how far this item has journeyed. I imagine the places and the homes that it once occupied.

I worry for the people who first owned it and I wonder what it might have meant to them. I also worry for the people who sold it (stole it?) and wonder if they are even in this world now.  I think of countless yet imagined hands that have touched this odd item and wonder about the hopefulness of the hearts to which those hands belonged.

As I wipe the dust, I think of how best laid plans and intentions often end in despair. I remember that small moment when I thought all was right in the world and then I'm suddenly shoved back into the present reality of being a grown up where nothing is ever simple and things seldom make perfect sense.

Life is tragic, fleeting, unpredictable, and yet it is, like this item, extraordinarily beautiful in the most complex of ways.
Friday
Nov042011

Lyrical Life: Occupy Memphis

It's an interesting time to be an American.  Oh, let's face it.  It's always interesting.





Newspaper stand on Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee




Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,


Lord, don’t they help themselves, y’all!


But when the taxman comes to the door,


Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.


-- "Fortunate Son" by John Fogerty (performed by Credence Clearwater Revival)



Friday
Feb042011

Weekend Reading

Oh, who knows if I'll do this again next Friday?

This is good stuff I read online this week, and that may or may not be blogged by me next week.  You could consider it preliminary reading.

Or not, I might not even bring it up at all.  Whatever.

That was a lovely introduction, yes?

I may have already twittered some of these links, but in case you weren't paying attention (WHAT?!) or are a card carrying member of The Last of the Great Twitter Holdouts Association...

Health (and slightly tame Internet drama linkfest) | DEAR HANNAH | Anthony Bourdain at No Reservations Blog

AWESOME Recipe |Last But Not Least, Lamb Meatballs with Couscous Feta | RW at Version 53

Oh, No You Didn't | Fake Kenneth Cole Twitter Laughs In the Face of Political Upheaval | Racked

Parenting | What Nobody Says About Bringing Second Baby Home (or) The Greatest Gift You Can Ever Give A Child | Kate at Perpetually Nesting

Politics...Sorta | Violent Language | Neil at Citizen of the Month

I'm Not Even Sure Why This  Matters | Babies Learn That Size Does Matter | JLister at GeeksAreSexy

And, finally, I'll be finishing up the very clever and humorous book The CEO of the Sofa by P.J. O'Rourke which I highly recommend to people interested in (somewhat dated pre 9/11)  political humor.

Have a wonderful weekend!
Monday
Mar022009

Can We Please Stop Calling Jindal An Indian Now?

Louisiana governor and the GOP's "great beige hope" for 2012 Bobby Jindal was on CBS's 60 Minutes Sunday night.  So great is the Republican hope for Jindal that we've already begun discussing it less than two months after the inauguration of President Obama.

At 37 years old, Governor Jindal is an impressive young man.  By all accounts, I think he's the kind of Republican that I respect. I don't agree with most of what he believes, but I respect him.

Educated, ethical (as ethical as a politician from Louisiana can get, anyway) and ambitious, Jindal represents the mirror image to President Obama.  A Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker.  Or maybe more like a Faith to Buffy.  Or a Spike to Angel.  Thankfully, I'm just shy of being geeky enough to come up with something clever here.

Many of you probably already know that he declined when asked to submit his name for the McCain vice presidency.  Like the good ol' boy Southern politicians of the 19th and early 20th century, he's going to have to be asked several times until he offers a reluctant, yet highly calculated, "Well, alrighty, if y'all really, really want me to, I'll serve ya'."

(And please don't let that drawl confuse you, the man is an Ivy League educated Rhodes scholar.  This only proves my point that gifted minds can and do use the phrases "alrighty" and "y'all").  I think this act is slowly ingratiating him into the heart of the American people... mind crushingly boring rebuttals to Presidential addresses notwithstanding.

And, now, let us finally get to the point.

In case you haven't noticed, Bobby Jindal, born "Piyush (prounounced pee-yoosh) Jindal" is of the Indian ethnicity.

He picked up the name "Bobby" while watching "The Brady Bunch."  (Do you even remember Bobby, Governor?  He was the youngest one who tattled on all the other Brady kids and was hall monitor at school?  My next post on Jindal: What kind of kid looks up to Bobby Brady?!)

Anyway, this name changing business is fine.  I have no problem with Indian/Pakistani people who genuinely bear or have intentionally adopted anglicized names.  Never mind, that I have stubbornly endured thirty three annoying years of having to say "It's pronounced Fie-Kah, like the tax."  So, Harrises, Rogers, Sonias, Petes, Robs, Marys, Sophias, Adams, and Saras can just rest easy.  This isn't about that.

I do get a little annoyed when I hear people from the subcontinent or of its origins say one of the following, though:

"Did you know that the governor of Louisiana is Indian?"

"There are lot of South Asians in Americans politics, take Gov. Jindal, for example."

No.  The governor of Louisiana is not Indian. 

He.  Is.  American.

And this is not me that is saying this.  It's him and his lovely red clad Nancy Reagan channeling wife, Supriya, on their shameless promo for the 2012 election. "60 Minutes".
Asked if their family maintains any of the Indian traditions, Supriya Jindal told Safer, "Not too many."

"No, they've been here for so many years that…," her husband said.

"Years that we've sort of adapted. And we were raised as Americans, you know? We were raised as Louisianans. So, that's how we live our lives," Supriya Jindal explained.

He's a classic example of the American melting pot. This oyster and crawfish-eating Louisianian tends to downplay his ethnic background

...

"He clearly presents himself as true blue American," Safer remarked.

"And he is the genuine article. He's deeply, by nature, deeply conservative, deeply patriotic."

And, you know, that's fine, too, if they don't celebrate Indian traditions.

But, you know what I find exasperating?

Aside from the sad masses of Indian expatriates all over the world attempting to appropriate Governor and Mrs. Jindal as Indians when clearly they don't want anything to do with being Indian?

I find it irritating that there's an implication that if you do celebrate your heritage that you were somehow not raised as an "American."

A "classic example of the American melting pot" does not include dismissing one's heritage.  Classic examples of the American melting pot incorporate their heritage, and they assert its value as an integral part of being American.  Right?

The Jindal family's choice not to identify closely with their Indian heritage is fine with me, and I don't disparage it.  It's not necessarily a classic example of the melting pot, though.  It's an example of the shedding of one identity for another.  This is a respectable and legitimate American phenomenon among immigrants concerning ethnic identity.  One of many.

It is in no way a proof of inherent patriotism or American-ness, though.

Chinatowns, Little Italys, Cinqo de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day and countless other ethnic celebrations are American entities, now.  They may have originated elsewhere, but these celebrations exist as pieces of American heritage because a few citizens refused to downplay their ethnic identity in attempts to be perceived as more American.

These infusions are, in my eyes, a gift to the American people.  Something that enriches all of our lives.

These inclusions are the classic examples of the "melting pot."  More so than say, the choices that seek to "downplay" identity.

I respect the Jindal's choices to not celebrate their heritage, but the underlying assumption that this makes them more American or more patriotic is just... a little sad.

And infuriating.

For those of you who missed it, you can watch Jindal's interview on "60 Minutes" right here.






UPDATE: Gov. Jindal didn't actually decline the nomination.  He did not submit his name when asked to for the "vetting" process by the McCain campaign.
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