Monday, January 19, 2015

Why I agree with Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Gov. and controversial Republican Bobby Jindal is all set to disturb a hornet's nest through his speech, rejecting dual identities that have become so common in America, and in particular rejecting his Indian-American title. As he points out, his parents came to America to be Americans, not Indian-Americans. If they wanted to be Indians, they'd have stayed in India. Certainly, this will win him many brickbats in not just India but also the US, but from an Indian perspective, we have to see him as being absolutely correct.

From my understanding, Indian-Americans make a clear distinction between the Indian Civilization and the Indian Republic. When Bobby Jindal says that there is no reason for them to feel ashamed of their heritage, he is pointing to the proud Indian Civilization that they carry with them, something that is now a part of America. Indian-Americans proudly celebrate Indian festivals and observe ancient traditions, while also seamlessly assimilating into the larger American culture that surrounds them. What they do not conform to or have any love for is the Indian Republic, which has gone as far as if not farther than the former British colonialists in crushing individual aspirations.

Consider what Jindal is asking - why did his parents come to the US? To be Americans. What does that mean? It means they believed they had it in them to achieve something, to choose the direction of their lives. They believed they were special in their own way and that they should be able to take risks and pursue their wants, to be what they want to be. If they failed of course, they would pay for it, but that's a risk they believed they could take. They did not however, want to be Indian. What does that mean? It means they did not want to be held back by a massive government that stymies free thought, that controls every aspect of people's lives and breeds fear. They did not want to participate in an impossible contest in which they pay paid for the sins of their ancestors, or where, by very virtue of not being born a VIP, they were stuck in a position far below what they believed they deserved or could earn if allowed to.

It's difficult to say, but it's true: Indians come to America to be American, to pursue their dreams without having to wage an impossible battle against a government and society that wants nothing more than to bring the best down to the level of the average. The reason Indians do so well abroad is because the ones who 'escape' are the ones who could have been the very best in the country - and the world - if they weren't forced to be average by a very average society, 'the People.' In that journey, Indians do carry their ancient cultural heritage, which goes back far beyond the socialist Republic of India, and proudly celebrate it. But they do not carry with them the horrors of the Republic.

We in India should keep this in mind when we celebrate so-called Indians abroad: the reason they are abroad is because in India, they would've been crushed. They are the best of us who we didn't want among us. America does, for it is a society that gives the individual the freedom to make his or her own choices, unhindered by the choices of society to hold them down. In that respect, Bobby Jindal is perfectly right - they came to America to be Americans, not Indians in America. 

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