Ethnic Indian media appears to be primarily busy reporting upcoming Diwali celebrations or listing the accomplishments of many who are making a mark in the mainstream USA. Hundreds of organizations belonging to the Indian Americans have become guardians of our cultural and religious heritage. It is only natural that first-generation Indian Americans are fence sitters who are caught between their loyalty to their motherland and commitment to the oath they have taken in their adopted country. Undoubtedly, it has been challenging for many as they are navigating the tough straits of cultural assimilation while preserving their renowned heritage.
As the midterm elections are fast approaching, why are there not serious discussions or debates within our community on the pressing issues confronting the nation? Hurricane IAN played havoc in Florida, destroying neighborhoods, and leaving many communities desolate, yet there is minimal reaction collectively from our community to reach out and help. Are we living in our own silos, primarily oblivious of our surroundings and unable to share the daily concerns of ordinary Americans?
It is amusing to see some of the community’s self-appointed representatives running after a few politicians who use them as ATM machines for their campaign war chest while being perfectly happy with a photo session to be broadcast across social media. In their opportunity to interact with these politicos, they hardly bring up the issues of safety in the streets, rising crime in the subways, or the forever-diminishing purchasing power of the dollar at the grocery store. In addition, the politics are straining parent-school relationships to a point where even a five-year-old is no longer a stranger to the ongoing culture wars. Although Indian Americans are said to be economically better off than other immigrant groups, can they afford to ignore these crises that may have immediate implications but may also impact the future of their offspring?
Aren’t we held hostage to one party or another instead of supporting sound policies of a candidate that would be consistent with our own beliefs and traditional way of thinking? People are almost dying at the southern border to get into the United States because those who have come before us were able to build a prosperous and thriving country that has become the world’s envy for its forward-thinking and innovative approach. Why, then, are some among us who just landed recently advocating for the total dismantling of the current system? If we had better solutions, why didn’t we apply them and build successful societies back where we came from?
Indian Americans, in general, are hardworking and family-oriented folks who almost tend to live for the next generations, even willing to sacrifice their own little comforts for their advancement. They are quite capable of accomplishing their own version of the American dream without the help of public handouts unless mired in some unfortunate circumstances. Yet, why do those elected among us keep supporting policies that would create a dependent group in servitude to the ruling class? Socialism failed all over because people were primarily motivated to work hard for their own personal gains, and the absence of such an ecosystem created a society that was sluggish and non-competitive.
Many immigrants to this country have fled poverty and famine, and some others violence and civil war. They finally have found refuge in a society run by the rule of law and perceived jurisprudence. Undoubtedly, people felt safer in their own enclaves and were going about their business. However, the stability of those neighborhoods and peaceful co-existence within the communities have been increasingly jolted by divisive rhetoric meted out by a new class of politicos about race and gender spreading hatred and confusion. Law-enforcement systems are getting paralyzed due to incessant attacks on their motive and being portrayed as villains, not as defenders of a civil society anymore!
The United States was once called a melting pot where people from over the world came together to embrace an idea and a culture that was unique, distinct and called American. However, that assimilation is threatened now by the identity politics that has morphed into an all-out war that exasperates the differences and highlights the divergence. The newly arriving groups are bent upon bringing their own rotten baggage of bigotry and prejudices, as witnessed in Leicester, England, and Edison, New Jersey.
Raja Krishnamurthy has been a Congressman from Illinois since 2016. He has consistently portrayed himself as a progressive champion, promoting religious freedom, LGBTQ rights, and immigration. However, his record related to India’s religious and caste minorities reveal a different story. Hindu fascist organizations continue to use their political power to oppress minorities using violence, quash dissent and undermine democracy in India. Raja shared the dais in a conference held in Chicago in September 2018 with none other than RSS supremo Mohan Bhagat, whose Sangh Parivar openly calls for violence against minorities and the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra.
Kevin Thomas, a state legislator from Long Island, New York, symbolizes the paradox that the Indian community faces in these unsettled times. There was little doubt that he was an accidental state senator; however, his victory had the fingerprints of the Indian community all over with their finances as well as logistical undertakings. Indian community in New York was long yearning for representation somewhere in a legislative body as their hopes and aspirations were getting a run-around by the machine politics in New York dominated by minorities. Therefore, there was great excitement within the community upon his election. However, that optimism and promise soon evaporated once he had taken oath as a Senator.
New York passed a sweeping bail reform law in 2019, prohibiting cash bail for all but serious felonies. State judges cannot hold any defendants based on their perceived dangerousness or previous arrest records and are only required to use the least restrictive means of ensuring defendants return to the court. Kevin Thomas voted for it along with his colleagues in his party, allegedly opening pandora’s box and unleashing a new wave of crime in New York. According to the NYPD, overall crime was up more than 30% in New York City last month compared to the previous year. Grand larceny was up over 40%. Subways have become dangerous places to commute. Moreover, the police are on the defensive and growingly reluctant to actively pursue those perpetrators in this rising crime wave. Needless to say, safety and security are of paramount importance to every Indian American, regardless of where they have chosen to live.
It is about time Indian Americans consider electing candidates who align with their own values and principles consistent with the oath of allegiance rather than in coordination based on only one criterion, the common heritage. Dwight Eisenhower once famously said ‘we must avoid becoming a community of fear and hate and be instead a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect”. Let the upcoming voting in the midterm elections be a trailblazer for the community to come of age while reflecting universal values for civility, progress, and redemption.