Movie Review: American Sniper

Before I dive into my critique of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, I want to elaborate on why I do film reviews. First, it goes without saying that I am an ardent cinephile. I’ve been in love with the art of filmmaking for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t for my aversion towards the celebrity lifestyle, I definitely would have pursued a career in Hollywood (or Bollywood).

Second, I’m not the only one who loves movies. Everybody loves watching  movies. Everyone can quote random dialogues from films released twenty years ago. Some of our most cherished memories have been shaped around the movie-watching experience.

Therefore, films are one of the best mediums for social commentary. For decades, Filmmakers have utilized their craft to convey an important lesson to their audiences. Born on the Fourth of July poignantly captured the anguish and pain endured by numerous Vietnam veterans. Mummy Dearest (despite the unintentionally laughable acting) exposed the prevalence of child abuse. Inside Out persuaded us to get in touch with our inner emotions. Therefore, cinema has an incredibly tremendous impact on our culture.

This brings us to American Sniper. Clint Eastwood has continuously proved himself to be a sage in filmmaking. American Sniper is no exception. It was, no doubt, a brilliantly-produced masterpiece. In addition, Bradley Cooper was exceptional in the biographical role of Chris Kyle. In terms of film quality, I have nothing negative to say.

I watched this movie a year and a half ago in theaters with a couple of my friends. I remember the theatre room was packed, unsurprisingly. Upon the film’s conclusion, with the credits rolling through the depiction of Chris Kyle’s real life funeral, the theatre room fell into an eerie silence. As the screen went pitch-black, the silence continued. After a few moments, as my friends and I gathered our belongings, a spontaneous applause erupted. Some of the audience members had tears running down their cheeks.
The reason I’m telling this is to illustrate the depth of emotions this film evoked from the American public. In post-9/11 America, this movie had a cathartic impact on its viewers. Because of this film’s monumental significance, I’m even more disappointed by its distorted depictions of the events following 9/11.

The movie implies that 9/11 was the primary motive behind the US invasion of Iraq. That botched episode, which basically annihilated George W Bush’s credibility as president, was glorified in the film as a noble cause.

Ironically, Clint Eastwood is known for being firmly anti-war. He has vocally disapproved of American military engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, Eastwood insisted that American Sniper was written to be an anti-war film!

Although most have doubt his assertion, I actually believe him. Eastwood aspired to depict the disastrous effects war has on one’s mental health. He never intended to produce a historical documentary. Eastwood primarily wanted to illustrate how PTSD not only affects soldiers, but their families, especially their spouses who are pressured to pick up the pieces.

In order to accurately depict the impact of PTSD, Clint Eastwood did a character sketch of Chris Kyle and portray the battlefield through his eyes. Unfortunately, Chris Kyle’s subjective perspective completely obfuscated the historically-factual account of the Iraq War. Therefore, future generations watching this movie will have an inaccurate picture of the Iraq War.

American Sniper attempts to humanize a person famed for his 150 kills. Chris Kyle is depicted as being helplessly trapped in the shadows of moral ambiguity that envelopes over the reality of the battlefield. However, Chris Kyle’s autobiography confirms that he is a self -aggrandizing liar and a sadistic psychopath who takes pleasure in shooting defenseless Iraqi children! Kyle represents the worst of the US armed forces and does not deserve to be lionized in an cinematic production!

Nativity Display Controversy

A Christmas-themed controversy is currently brewing in Menominee, an town located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In numerous small towns across America, it’s customary to set up a nativity scene in the town square or in city hall during the holiday season. However, for this humble yooper settlement of eight thousand residents, this year will be different.

download-16The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist organization “dedicated to persevering the separation of church and state”, filed a complaint, on behalf of an anonymous Menominee resident, urging the town to discontinue their annual Christmas tradition. According to the FFRF, a nativity display on public property is a constitutional violation, contradicting the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Since the launching of that complaint, residents of Menominee are now relying on a local parish to set up the nativity display.

Menominee is one of a myriad of towns and cities to be threatened by a lawsuit regarding the display of a nativity scene. For the last decade, organizations including the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists have become increasingly aggressive and emboldened in asserting the “separation of church and state”. Their public relations representatives have appeared on national television and defended their actions by claiming to fight for all religious minorities against what they perceive to be Christian domination of the holiday season. captu

Honestly, these types of news stories really distress me. They’re just examples of self-victimization and manufactured fake outrage in 21st century America.

I’m not religious. In fact, I’m actually critical of certain aspects of Christian theology. However,  I don’t feel threatened or marginalized by the slight of a nativity scene. In India, roadside shrines on public roads are ubiquitous and I’m not offended whenever I come across them while travelling from one village to another to visit relatives. I don’t feel compelled to convert to any religion. Religious displays simply have no impact on me, whatsoever.

Now, proponents for the removal of these nativity scenes point to the Constitution, specifically to the establishment clause which prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored religion. To which I say “who cares?”. I’m not a legal scholar however, I don’t understand how a cheap, plastic exhibition of the nativity is an endorsement of any religion. No resident is being pressured to join a church or profess a belief in a deity. Nativity scenes are just nothing more than a fun annual tradition for numerous small towns and shouldn’t be discontinued over a complaint from one disgruntled resident.

It’s not often that I find myself siding with a religious cause. This is probably the only instance in which conservative Christians can rely on me as an ally. However, for me, this has very little to do with religious expression. My solidarity with the Religious Right (strictly on this matter) is a counterstrike against the hyper-legalistic culture overtaking America that promotes frivolous lawsuits and PC policing.

Oh Look, Another Rampage on Campus

Yesterday, in Ohio State University, it was reported that a third-year student named Abdul Razak Ali Artan carried out a knife attack on campus, injuring 11 people. The assailant has been killed by police and the 11 who are injured are now hospitalized under intensive care.

The motives of Artan’s attacks aren’t 100% clear. However, in a Facebook post before the rampage, Artan urged America to “to stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah”. He continued “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday”.

In addition, Artan was profiled by the campus newspaper where he expressed his fears of being a Muslim in America, claiming that he was “struggling to find a place to pray in peace in large campus but scared of everything going on in the media”.

Although a myriad of self-described liberals may disagree, Artan’s rampage was clearly motivated by his Islamic beliefs. At the moment, we don’t have a list of all the imams and sheikhs he subscribed to. However, he was blatantly influenced by a radicalized ideology which ignited a fire of rage urging him to stab those eleven innocent people.

However, contrary to the views of many, Islam is not the sole culprit. And although Abdul Razak Ali Artan is a refugee originally from Somalia, his refugee status has nothing to do with his actions. However, rather than digging through the layers of motives behind the rampage, most people would rather spout anti-Muslim/anti-refugee rhetoric to score political points. This is unproductive.

Mass attacks are becoming more commonplace in America. From the Columbine shooting to Eliot Rodger’s rampage in Santa Monica, California, the majority of these attacks have been perpetrated by young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Every time we hear of an attack, we instinctually blame video games, or violent TV shows, or music, or drugs.

However, in the majority of those attacks, social isolation and self-victimization are often the most significant factors. They often ferment an identity crisis, causing one to perceive the world in terms of us vs them.

 Artan was feeling isolated as a Muslim in America. He clearly stated that he was “struggling…and scared of everything”. Eliot Rodger was also undergoing a similar internal struggle, as he was constantly being rejected by co-eds and ostracized from social life. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were similarly deemed as outcasts during their senior year at Columbine High School.

By the viewing the world in terms of us vs them, a person would perceive his peers as his enemies. Enemies he needed to destroy. This mode of thinking becomes even more apparent when one embraces a radicalized ideology, which is often the case for socially-isolated young men who, being young, are easily impressionable. Eliot Rodger frequented PUA and MRA forums. The Orlando shooter was influenced by the activities of ISIS. Even Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired by the Oklahoma City bombings carried out by Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have been impassioned by a series of sermons given by some Salafi imam.

I’m not excusing the perpetrators of their horrific actions. However, if we really want to curb the instances of mass shooting and rampages, we have to seek out the multi-layered motives behind such actions.

“The White Working Class”

So remember when I said that I was going to refrain from political commentary until the Inauguration? Well, this wouldn’t be the first promise I’ve broken…

In the aftermath of the election results, in which Donald Trump was anointed as the president-elect (to the shock of many), Democratic party strategists, left-leaning PoliSci professors and liberal media pundits have dived into a whirlpool of soul-searching and naval-gazing, wondering how on Earth could White Working Class folks vote ‘against their interests’.

If you ever need to look for conclusive evidence indicating the elitist snobbery of limousine liberals, look no further. Of course, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that well-educated, upper-middle-class suburbites might be slightly out-of-touch with average working folks.

White Working-Class folks are being treated as a monolith. After all, what do farmers, factory workers, waiters/waitresses, domestic servants, grocers, oil-rig workers, technicians, and coal miners have in common? Have we deluded ourselves to assume that they all share the same interests, just because they can’t afford to reside in notably affluent suburbs like Bel-Air, Fairfax, or Grosse Pointe?

Liberals unconsciously assume that the Democratic Party (or even the Green Party) will never fail to address the concerns  of the working class. But do we really expect coal miners and oil-rig workers to identify with a political party that aims to implement green initiatives that potentially threaten their job security?

Personally, I think that the transition towards sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy is welcoming and necessary. However, it’s naive not to expect a backlash from forty and fifty-something year old coal miners, who lack the time to abruptly learn a new job skill to sustain their families.

And it definitely doesn’t help that their economic concerns are ruthlessly dismissed while undeservedly referred to as ‘rednecks’ and ‘hillbillies’. It doesn’t help that their voices are being ignored while Democratic strategists blatantly, and shamelessly, attempt to secure the minority voting bloc.

It can’t be denied that there are more than a handful of racists at those boisterous Trump rallies. However, to disparage all Trump voters as bigoted and misogynistic is myopic. I (reluctantly) voted for Hillary Clinton, despite my opposition to the military intervention of Libya, drone strikes and other hawkish policies endorsed by her, along with the Obama administration. Like many Trump voters, I held my nose as I submitted the ballot and I walked out the voting booth with a cold chill running down my spine.

Hey, at least I got a sticker!

If the Democratic Party is really interested in securing the White Working-Class vote, then maybe they should tap into the concerns and anxieties of the blue-collar workers, rather than conjuring fanciful assumptions about them. Maybe these liberal pundits should acknowledge working folks as real people, rather than a monolithic voting bloc.

White Privilege 

This term tends to be frequently espoused by left-wing academics and sociopolitical commentators. It’s one of many overused buzzwords that distorts the perception of race and class relations in today’s America.

Imagine yourself as 50-something year old, working class White factory worker. Because of your lack of educational credentials, you were forced into this unremarkably menial career. Despite living from paycheck to paycheck, you were able to provide your children a decent life in a suburban one-story house.

All of a sudden, your supervisor informs you and coworkers that the company is gravitating towards automation/outsourcing and is considering downsizing their labor force.

Now, you’re spending sleepless nights wondering how you’re going to pay the house mortgage and your children’s college tuitions while still having money left over to pay the bills.

One night, you’re sitting on your tattered couch watching CNN, while nursing a glass of whisky to pacify your nerves. As you take a sip, you see, through your 7 inch TV screen, some affluent, well-educated person of color pontificating on ‘White Privilege’.

“Spend a day in my shoes and I’ll show you White privilege!” You mumble to yourself.

There are millions of White people who have yet to benefits from the perks of ‘White Privilege’.

We forget a major component of social privilege is income. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter if you’re Black or White. As long as you have enough Greens, you’re set for life.

I’m not denying that there are ethnic communities that have been historically marginalized and oppressed, such as Black Americans and the indigenous tribals. Their descendents are blatantly affected by the residual effects of racially-biased legal measures including Jim Crow Laws and redlining.

The reality of social privilege in America is a lot more nuanced. Not all White people, or even the majority, are WASP elitists residing in the Hamptons. And just because we have a Black president, doesn’t mean Blacks (and other minority communities) aren’t disproportionately marginalized by implicit racial biases within the legal system.

Words like ‘White Privilege’ not only oversimplify comtemporary racial relations, but they fuel resentment, exasperating racial rifts and hindering social progress

What I Learned From This Election Cycle

The 2016 Presidential race has been one of the most bizarre periods in modern political

download-10

“Neither the firmness of a man nor the tenderness of a lady”                            Oh No He Didn’t!!!!

history. Even Thomas Jefferson’s accusations of John Adam’s hermaphroditic traits are incomparable! This election cycle has taught me a lot about political tactics and the potent effects they have on potential voters. Let’s analyze what we can learn from the 2016 election

 

Loaded Buzzwords

The political sphere has always been plagued with slogans, buzzwords and platitudes. However, we’ve seem to have received an extra dose during this election cycle. During the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders was brutally lambasted for his ‘socialistic’ ideals, even though terms like ‘socialist’ and ‘capitalist’ are barely relevant in our post-Cold War world. Candidates including Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush were disparaged for being ‘establishment politicians’, though, technically, anyone holding political office is part of the ‘establishment’. Donald Trump elevated himself as the ‘pro-life’ candidate while unhesitatingly proposing to carpet-bomb the Middle East. These examples of buzzwords were formulated to viscerally sway potential voters, who lack both critical thinking abilities and basic knowledge of the hot-button issues.

Speaking of buzzwords….

Sticking it to the Man

2016 has been marked by a peculiar revival of the 60’s Countercultural rhetoric. Although groups like Weatherman Underground remain dismantled, ‘anti-establishment’ politicians have swept the nation, inspiring the old and young alike with their fiery rhetoric and romanticized vision of a better America. Obama’s ‘Yes We Can” couldn’t compete with them!

Until now, an politically-inexperienced businessman has never won a major party nomination with his ‘can-do’ attitude. And, just four years ago, it would have been considered impossible for a proud socialist senator to ignite a mass movement, even potentially threatening Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Democratic primary.

Socialism is no longer a dirty word and now liberals are wearing the label as a badge of honor. The so-called Alt-Right has successfully counteracted the dominance of traditional conservatism with their nebulous political platform that strangely hints at White supremacy.

Every politician is attempting to brand himself as ‘anti-establishment’, including Hillary Clinton (former Secretary of State), John Kasich (former Chairman of the House Budget Commitee and current Governor of Ohio), Ted Cruz (currently Chairman of two Senate subcommittees), and, of course, Jeb Bush (former Governor of Florida ….and a member of one of the most influential political clans in the country!)

No one knows what it means to be ‘anti-establishment’  yet we can’t help but be seduced by the term’s intoxicating allure.

Why Third Party Candidates Suck

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have notably been distinguished as two of the most disliked presidential candidates in recent time. For the average, hapless citizen, it is tempting to see what the pantheon of third-party and independent contenders has to offer.

However, there’s a reason why third parties have never gained any momentum in any presidential race. Their candidates suck!

The candidate for the Green Party was a physician who barely has any grasp of the nuances of foreign policy. The Libertarian Party was sponsoring a man who has trouble identifying Aleppo on a map. The relatively new Solidarity Party bases its campaign on a platform  which most Americans would find socially regressive and politically draconian.

Until a third party is able to nominate a competent, politically-savvy candidate who is in touch with the concerns of the average American, they don’t stand a chance in the presidential race

Those Were the Days

It’s not enough that we have to be subjected to low-grade reboots of Star Wars and saccharine TV shows from the ’90s (i.e “Fuller House, “Girl Meets World…barf). Now, our addiction to ‘memberberries has fueled the Donald Trump campaign. Trump’s campaign slogan evokes a nostalgic picture of an America from the before-time.

‘Member when marriage was between a man and a woman?

‘Member when there weren’t any Mexicans?

‘Member Reagan?

‘Member feeling safe? 

As heartbreaking as it is for us to believe, these are sentiments echoed by millions of people throughout this country. And don’t forget, their vote counts as well.

08fa14825e197e8503f32a9071eba888‘Member Archie Bunker? He was the main character in a 1970’s Norman Lear sitcom called All in the Family. An aging, cantankerous family man, Archie Bunker clung to his old-fashioned values as he uncomfortably watched the world of his childhood being swept away by the Counterculture of the 60s and 70s. In his frustration, Archie became more and more reactionary, to the point where he accidentally joined the KKK in one episode.

Every era has its Archie Bunkers. Middle-aged men (and sometimes women) who scorn at modern social trends while longing for the “good ‘ol days”.However, they’re no longer the lovable bigots lampooned for our amusement. In 2016, the Archie Bunkers have become a powerful political force in America.

Single Issue Voters

Although I’m not a practicing believer, I still maintain vague connections to my family’s Catholic parish. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Catholic Church is known for his uncompromising opposition to abortion (under any circumstances). Despite their reservations of Donald Trump, many devout Catholics are unapologetically supporting him due to his stance on abortion, ignoring his vitriolic remarks and appalling track record on basic ethics. And because of her support for Roe V Wade, Hillary Clinton is practically the Anti-Christ.

It’s amazing how, despite the range of issues associated with a political campaign, some people are so blinded by their ideological (or religious) lens that they’re unable to see past one issue on the ballot.

Tampering With Democracy

I’m no fan of Wikileaks. Although I’m a staunch proponent of government transparency, I think Wikileaks oversteps ethical boundaries in revealing information that often compromises the lives of undercover intelligence operatives. Its creepy founder, Julian Assange, has actually done more harm in the quest for government transparency.

That being said, I’m more horrified by the deplorably sneaky tactics of the Democratic National Committee. Their blatant favoritism towards Hillary Clinton has taken the shed of the respect I had for the Democratic Party. Despite my agreements with the party’s platform, I don’t think I will ever become a registered Democrat.

 

Assuming Donald Trump doesn’t cause an apocalyptic nightmare, I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring!

 

Linguistic Chauvinism

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the States Reorganization Act. This was a reform policy aimed at reorganizing the borders of various Indian states according to linguistic lines. The policy was enacted on the 31st of August, 1956 and came into effect on November 1st of that same year.

The new reforms had no effect on certain states, like Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Assam and Jammu & Kashmir. However, some states experienced a more drastic transition. For example, Hyderabad State was partitioned triang800px-india_administrative_divisions_1951-svgularly, with Telangana merging with Andhra State to form Andhra Pradesh (that worked out well!), the Marathwada region merging with the Marathi-speaking sections of Bombay State to form Maharashtra, and the western territory merging with Mysore State to form Karnataka.

Bombay State and Madras State respectively underwent a similar transitional phase.

Meanwhile, states like Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal were enlarged by absorbing new territory. Travancore-Cochin merged with the Malabar and South Canara districts of Madras State to form Kerala.  Madhya Bharat, Bhopal State and Vindhya Pradesh were combined to form Madhya Pradesh.

However, some states were forced to give up territory. Bihar ceded its eastern districts to West Bengal. In addition to Malabar and South Canara, Madras State relinquished Coorg Nadu along with its Kannada-speaking regions, and was subsequently renamed Tamil Nadu. Even Travancore-Cochin was obligated to give up Kanyakumari to Tamil Nadu.

Are you still with me? I’ll give you a minute to take it all in…

Why would the Indian government implement such a convoluted policy? Well, keep in mind that India had recently celebrated nine years of sovereignty. Unfortunately, the state of the nation was complete chaos. After all, uniting a country of one billion people, belonging to a variety of castes/religions and speaking over a thousand different languages, is a near-impossible task.

Even Ranjinikanth would have twirled his illustrious mustache in bafflement!

During the Indian Independence Movement, the freedom-fighting nationalists, including Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, promoted Sanskirtized Khariboli Hindi as the national language, potentially uniting the subcontinent in pursuit of national sovereignty. This proposal, however, faced a vigorous backlash in the Southern regions of India, where political activists like EV Ramaswami and Annadurai accused North Indian members of the Indian National Congress (INC) of linguistic imposition.

After achieving independence, the newly-formed Indian parliament conducted its proceedings in English, with the aspiration of switching to Hindi by 1965 (since then, the Indian parliament adopted a bilingual policy, allowing procedures to proceed in English and Hindi).

The motive behind the States Reorganization Act was to foster regional identities among the citizenry, which would hopefully translate into national solidarity. India would emerge as a unified nation, in defiance to Winston Churchill’s predictions of ethnic divisions and balkanization.

So what can we say about India after sixty years?

Not to sound pessimistic but the motives behind the States Organization Act have download-7completely backfired. Linguistic chauvinism have become commonplace in the supposedly-progressive metropolises in the country. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Bombay was a cosmopolitan city where numerous ethnic communities interacted, using English or the Bombay Hindi dialect as a de facto lingua franca while preserving their own respective mother tongues. Today, since the rise of the Shiv Sena, Marathi nationalism has gained traction, succeeding in transforming Bombay into ‘Mumbai’.

Shashi Tharoor, current MP representing Trivandrum, noted that when VK Krishna Menon campaigned for Tharoor’s current seat during the 1970’s, he spoke exclusively in English. However, had Tharoor followed suit, he would have received considerable backlash in today’s Kerala.

Kannada and Tulu speaking residents of Kasarogod, the northernmost district of Kerala, complain of being treated as second-class citizens when dealing with government officials. Shivalli Brahmins, Bunts and Billavas have dwelled in their respective ancestral homes at Kasarogod for hundreds of years, yet they are strangers in their own land. Ironically, many Keralite students are barely literate in Malayalam due to the CBSE/ICSE education they are currently receiving.

In addition, I’m sure we’re all aware of the debacle that occurred in Andhra Pradesh.
captureHyderabad State’s Telangana merged with Andhra State only to be bifurcated, thanks to a venomous combination of irreconcilable cultural differences and dirty politicking. That fiasco in itself is a potent testimony of the failures of the well-intentioned yet deeply misguided States Reorganization Act.

A nation like India is destined to face long-term linguistic, ethnic and religious divisions. Overtime, these divisions will hopefully be attenuated as younger generations adopt a more globalized outlook. Although the British departed from the subcontinent, English dominates as the de facto lingua franca. Hopefully, as time progresses, more Indians will acknowledge the practicality of English, despite its imperialistic baggage.

Government imposition in the cultural realm often breeds disastrous results. The enforcement of a ‘national language’ or artificial border based on linguistic lines only serves to foster hostility and ethnic tension.

Rip It From the Womb

As we approach the conclusion of one of the most contentious political seasons in modern history, I thought it would be timely to tackle the most divisive issue in the American political arena: Partial-Birth Abortion.

Looking forward to reading those hate comments!

Unsurprisingly, the term ‘partial-birth abortion’ is actually one of those misleading political buzzwords devised to emotionally manipulate voters and the general public. The actual medical term is Intact Dilation And Extraction (or D&X).

During one of the presidential debates, Donald Trump eloquently described this procedure

donald-trump-bankruptcy-lies

“Of course I’m pro-life. I’m the MOST pro-life person EVER in history. In twenty years, those fetuses will be dating me!”

as ‘ripping the baby from the womb’. Obviously, that is a gross mischaracterization.

D&X is one of several abortion procedures used for terminating a pregnancy within the last four months. The cervix is dilated, allowing for the passage of the head of the fetus. The head of the fetus is reduced in diameter by puncturing.

Contrary to popular belief, the procedure is not performed while the woman is in labour (as the term ‘partial-birth abortion’ might suggest). After all, it’s unrealistic to picture a woman, during the last moments of her labor, arbitrarily deciding that she doesn’t want a baby. It would be even more ludicrous to suggest that medical professionals would comply with the woman’s request for the sake of upholding feminist ideals.

Late-term abortions are performed on women who were hoping to give birth to their child. In those particular cases, something has gone dreadfully during the pregnancy. Either the mother’s health is at risk or the baby is deformed to the point where it has minimal chance of surviving. D&X is usually performed when the head of the fetus is abnormally large, due to a terminal birth defeat called hydroencephalitis. However, the procedure is also typically performed when the woman is suffering from internal bleeding.

One of the most irksome features of modern American politics is the prevalence of politicians attempting to play doctor. Fueled by ideological motives, they propose these ridiculous laws to curtail access to abortion. Many even aspire to overturn the 1973 Roe V Wade decision and transform America into a ‘pro-life’ nation.

I find it more disturbing that some physicians refuse to perform abortions for their patients. Furthermore, there are pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control pills to their customers. They hide behind the cloak of religious freedom. Yet, they’ve become so blind by their religious beliefs that they’re inadvertently sacrificing medical ethics.

I’m no fan of abortion. Neither are most who advocate for abortion rights. Termination of a pregnancy is sometimes necessary. I don’t think a female patient should die in a religiously-affiliated hospital because its medical professionals refuse to perform an operation that could have saved her life. I don’t think politician should write legislative bills on issues of which they know very little. And I don’t think we, as the citizenry, should be so easily swayed by buzzwords, emotional rhetoric and bumper-sticker slogans.

Nero’s Guest

Anyone who has ever stumbled upon a history textbook is aware of the name ‘Nero’. He was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 54 CE to 68 CE. Although he was lauded for contributing to the cultural life of Ancient Rome, Nero was also notorious for corruption and deceit, and often accused of being compulsive and, quite possibly, mentally ill.

One night, the emperor hosted a festival, attended by the city’s elite. While the revelers marveled at Nero’s beautiful garden and eye-dazzling decorations, little did they know that the scintillating illumination spellbinding them was fueled by Christians being set ablaze!

cinemaNero’s Guest is the title of Deepa Bhatia’s 2009 documentary, which painstakingly exposed the heart-rending lives endured by the farmers of Vidharbha, a region in Central India. Being burdened with financial stress, to the point where they’re unable to feed their families, thousands of farmers commit suicide, living behind their helpless loved ones and a life of regret and sorrow.

P. Sainath, a groundbreaking journalist who contributes to The Hindu as the editor of Rural Affairs, narrates the hardships plaguing these agricultural laborers, and seeks to unravel the causes of the economic destitution which has lead to mass suicides since the 1990’s. To summarize, the trend towards industrialization along with the effects of economic globalization have damaged the agrarian sector to the extent where the ill-fated farmer is unable to repay his debts.

Twenty million tons of food grains are exported from India in one year alone. Meanwhile, two hundred thousand farmers have taken their own lives since 1997. Not surprisingly, these agricultural workers feel betrayed and manipulated. There is a dark joke among the farmer on their dream of being reincarnated as a European cow, and they are the ones who receive a bulk of the food grain.

Suicides occur almost daily, and the Indian government has yet to do anything to compensate their families. I mean, come on! I can tolerate potholes in Kerala, but can you

images

Four children mourning the death of their father

honestly tell me that compensation for farmer’s suicides is not even on the list of policy priorities?!

Culpability should not just be placed on the politicians who have implemented neoliberal policies which have dismantled the agrarian sector, or the corporation which utilize those policies in exploiting laborers, sacrificing human dignity for profit.  Nero is not to be blamed, but Nero’s guest.

The urban middle class. The ones whose lives resolve around engineering college entry exams, foreign visa applications, designer saris, high-rise flats, Bollywood item numbers, and cricket, never coming into contact with a hapless farmer from the rural area. The ones fulminating on caste reservations, ignorant of those who cannot provide a scrap of roti for their children.

The ones who pride themselves in political apathy. The ones who read about scandal after scandal reported by Hindustan Times and NDTV and react with nothing more than Trumpesque shrug.

giphy

But India’s privileged urban dwellers shouldn’t be the only ones on trial. We are all culpable of the strenuous lives endured by exploited laborers. We love our iPhone, which were built by child laborers in Chinese factories. Deforestation, initiated for extracting resources, result in the displacement of indigenous tribes who are not adapted to the outside world. We, Americans, live peacefully while our military is dropping bombs in Pakistan on a daily basis. Sure, we are not the ones who instigated such horrific policies. But we benefit, and therefore, we are culpable.

So what can we do? First-world luxury is nourished by the blood of the so-called Global South. Are we prepared to give up our bed of roses and join our less-fortunate brethren on dusty mats? I know I’m not! And I’m sure neither are you! Of course we condemn exploitation and abuse. Nevertheless, giving up our own privileges is out of the question!

 

Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist

In our multicultural society, in our post civil-rights era, being labelled a ‘racist’ can guarantee ostracization and contempt from the general public. After all, this is the 21st century! How could anyone hold such regressive views?!

Don’t get me wrong. Anyone who dares to inflict violence on either a person or a group of people based on their ethnicity should, justifiably, be scorned by his peers. He who refuses to acknowledge the innate dignity of a certain group of people should be denied respect from his community.

However, there is an unsavory truth which with we must all come to terms. Everyone, and I mean, everybody is a little bit racist.

Sure, we’re not lighting crosses or lynching Black teenagers. None of us would even think about joining the Ku Klux Klan or any Neo-Nazi organization. Most of us berate Donald Trump for his fatuous remarks on immigrants and American Muslims.

Nevertheless, we all have a racial bias. It’s not our fault. And there is no one to blame. Its simple a facet of human nature.

For hundreds of thousands of years, the human race consisted of countless nomadic tribes, hunting wild game to ensure survival for themselves and their kinsmen. It was a dangerous world and we relied on our own tribes to guarantee our longevity. Outsiders were naturally perceived with suspicion and distrust. After all, they didn’t know us and we didn’t know them. They could have been a threat to us, seeking to exterminate our entire tribe. Therefore, it was ludicrous to propose a cultural exchange program, participated by inexperienced adolescents from each tribe. We simply wanted nothing to do with them.

Although there are some groups who maintain the hunter-gatherer way of life, the majority of the human race participated in shifting paradigm into our modern, urbanized, cosmopolitan world. We interacted with a variety of ethnic communities, yet most of us choose to cling to our own. The cultural stigmatization of miscegenation has eroded (for the most part), yet the majority of Millennials still gravitate towards their own ethnicity.

We make baseless assumptions when formulating our perception of a person from another race. When people meet me, they assume I’m vegetarian, even though I think bacon is God’s gift to mankind. When I meet a Chinese person, I automatically assume him to be a savant in math and physics. You’ve probably met a Black person who shocked you when he revealed his ineptness in athletics.

We’re not bad people. But we hold a certain level of prejudice which we inherited from our primitive, tribalistic ancestors. I cringe whenever I hear someone claiming to be a post-racial and colorblind. Listen, buddy, I admire your intentions. But you can’t just eradicate race! Our ethnic identity is not just about skin color and hair texture. It’s about culture. It’s about our experiences in relation to other ethnic communities. It’s about our perception of the world. 

We see race. And we all succumb to various preconceptions based on race. And yes, sometimes we prefer the company of our own kind. So let’s stop pretending we’re all multicultural,  socially conscious liberals!!! Let’s remove the mask of ‘pluralistic tolerance’ 

*****

I’m not what you would call a die-hard aficianado of musicals. I find most of them to be boring and pretentious. But here’s a bit from one of the few I love which coincides with my points on race.