Kansas and beyond

In Kansas, America, an Indian engineer is murdered and another just survived in a hate crime by a White racist. The whole of India and the Indian community in the West is in a state of shock including hopefully the right wing ‘Hindoos’ who cheered the victory of their great Western leader just a few weeks back, a leader who has been the torch bearer of xenophobia for ages.

As a brown man living there, I have worried for the safety of my family in North America.  Not just now when the threat is higher from a racist and a bigot like Trump and his emboldened supporters who are baying for blood and would not stop at anything less than seeing a White wash of their continent. But my worries have been there with me always in varying degrees depending on where we lived, what we did and who was in power.

Unlike many of my friends from IIT or other Indian institutions who went to colleges and universities in USA and Canada, studied there in culturally diverse and liberal universities, got themselves high paying jobs and settled in safer and richer neighborhoods, I have seen various extremes and have also seen the underbelly of the continent while running small businesses or doing odd jobs. Not just in USA but also in Canada and so I call it a North American phenomenon.

Racism, bigotry, xenophobia including the 21st century addition Islamophobia is a reality in North America as much as it is in most parts of the world. In my various past posts in Times of India over the last six years I have narrated many real incidences. From being called a Paki and being spitted upon and almost run over by hateful customers to being told to go back to my country and get out of the line at Walmart by ‘normal’ people, I have seen the whole contour.

And yet like any colored person, brown, black, yellow, you are expected to take all this in stride and get on with your life.  There are rules to follow if you are stopped by a Policeman, which off course can happen more if you are a non-White, especially if you are not well-kept or drive fancy cars. There are rules to follow for keeping a beard lest you are mistaken for a Muslim and assumed to be a terrorist-in-waiting. There are rules to follow for head gear for both men and women. There are rules to follow for worship especially at public places lest you affect the majority Christian sentiments.

The times become bad if the pendulum swings to the right in these countries.

Like it was in Canada under Harper where the government was a supporter in targeting the colored people and in fact legally made them second class citizens. Fortunately, the animal has been brought under leash when Canada elected a Liberal government. But it still howls and bites as and when it gets a chance to break free.  Hundreds of examples galore even in Canada of today in both daily and public life. Ask a certain lady politician from Greater Toronto Area of the hate mails and death threats she is facing for sponsoring a motion against Islamophobia. Or ask the families of innocent victims who were shot to death in a mosque in Quebec by a white nationalist. Yes, my friend you are safer not because all the White Canadians have accepted you as humans but because the government in power has agreed to follow the laws of the land and is not hell bent on writing their own negating your existence.

In America, the pendulum has swung on the other side. It is not as if the Americans have become more racist under Trump. Or they were more accepting and in 2016 on 11/9, or perhaps 9/11 as Indians read it, they got up on the right side of bed and decided that it was time to remove the weeds from their backyards. After all, despite being a conman that he was, despite being a bully and a liar on the campaign trail and despite declaring his intentions to catch women by their private parts, he was elected the President of USA.  Mind it- elected which meant Americans were itching to remove their mask of civility and get one of their own back in the saddle so that they can take back their country. Make America hate again!

Is India different? No. The right forces rule the roost here too and even the great leader who should be focusing on building and unifying a nation is talking about creating cremation grounds and graveyards. He beats a ‘damroo’ (a drum like smaller object) in front of a massive Shiva and the Hindus go idol worshipping him to glory. He is their lion who protects them from the deceitful minorities. He is the man who has brought pride to their identity again, a ‘Tilak’ or a mark of religious honor on their forehead.

We know all this. So. what’s the point?

The point my friend is stark and clear.  We are diverting our anger and frustrations at the wrong side by blaming people like Trump in America or Harper in Canada or Le Penn in France or Modi in India. They are just smart con-men who have identified and played on the sentiments of the masses.

It is the normal, every-day citizen of the country that you meet- your colleague, co-worker, boss, subordinate, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, plumber, carpenter, policeman, government officer, ……, who is the cause. It is they who feel it is justified to elect such people.

Trump has not changed America and made it more conservative. Americans have.

Modi has not transformed India and made a secular country support Hindutava agenda. Indians have.

It is the people themselves that have created such misery, such hatred, such vitriol. By choice, because deep inside the animal instincts are alive and kicking.

Trump did not ask Puriton to pull the trigger and kill Kuchibhotla. Puriton could not have become a monster that he became in just a few days.

Akhlaq was lynched to death not by Modi but by a killer mob which had so much venom stored inside that it did not think twice before committing such a heinous crime.

Bissonnette who shot to death six normal law abiding Canadian citizens did not do it on command from Le Penn or Trump or Harper but of the reservoir of hate that he had created deep inside his soul.

Puriton, or the Hindu mob or Bisonnette committed these crimes on their own, of their own choice and shifting the blame to some political leaders and letting go of your responsibility is your way of running away from reality.

Why when you are in majority, you dislike minority? Why do you dislike someone who does not belong to the same color, religion, nation, class or creed? Why do you not stop people from spreading hate in your community?

And the right wing does not stop. Its message is so stingy that it hits you to your core and then sticks with you and clings to your id. Your religion is under threat, your nation is under threat, your job is under threat, your own existence is under threat. Fear is the key! You instantly build a wall and draw out swords to slit the throat of the people who are portrayed as your enemies.

Today the right wing commands its own army comprising of everyday citizens like you and me. And these people feel that their day has arrived and they can do anything to stop discussion. After all arguments, don’t win against the barrel of the gun. Or of social abuse or isolation. And they don’t accept if people do not agree to their agenda. I have received verbal and written abuse from distant strangers and even from friends and family for speaking out against such forces. That is the new normal.

Should we stay quiet? No.  Should we stop trying to make this world more accepting? No. Should we stop trying to hold the animal on leash and keeping humanity alive? No.

We must continue to talk of reason, of love, of understanding, of acceptance and stay resilient. We must not go silent just because the shrill of the right is reaching a crescendo. We must offer resistance without being afraid of our own personal safety. We may worry but we must not fear!

And remember for every Puriton, there also exists in the same land a Grillot who almost laid down his life fighting for Kuchibhotla and Madasani. And that many Americans are grieving this tragedy and we all are united together in our disgust towards such actions.

There is still a lot of humanity left in our souls and let us work together to develop that in our communities, among our neighbors, friends and families as we know that the pendulum can also swing back anytime. Don’t give up my friend, not now, not ever as even a small ray of life is enough to take darkness away!

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