Sunday, November 19, 2006

'I am macaca' -- Sidarth

nov 19th, 2006

a high point in an otherwise gloomy month: the likelihood that the 'macaca' comment put paid to allen's presidential plans. it's amazing how a single indiscretion can destroy a lifetime of careful preparation.

lest indian-americans think they were solely, or even largely responsible for this, i suspect jewish-americans, far better organized, must have campaigned hard against allen when it came to light that he had some jewish ancestry (grandfather?) which he had basically hidden and which he was uncomfortable about.

intriguing. because he was part jewish, this allen fellow wanted to act like a serious redneck white guy, to be 'one of the good ole boys'. much like musharraf, who, being of indian origin, works doubly hard against india. also like how any hindu converted to mohammedanism or christism is a very bitter enemy (eg. malik kafur in the past, dhiren barot now).


I Am Macaca

By S.R. Sidarth
Sunday, November 12, 2006; Page B02

This past summer, between my third and fourth year of college, I decided to volunteer for the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb in my home state of Virginia. For most of the summer, I worked behind the scenes at the campaign headquarters in Arlington, helping set up field offices statewide and performing other odd jobs. In the second week of August, I was dispatched by the campaign to serve as Republican Sen. George Allen's tracker on a "listening tour" across the state. Tracking was a rather solitary pursuit; I videotaped Allen's public appearances whenever I was admitted into an event and killed time between stops in places I had never been to before.

Then, on Aug. 11, my experience took a strange -- and now famous -- turn. On that day in Breaks Interstate Park, located on the Kentucky border, Allen acknowledged my presence for the first time in one of his stump speeches. I was singled out at a GOP picnic, identified as "macaca or whatever his name is" -- despite the fact that Allen knew my name, as we had been traveling the same route for five days -- and then "welcome[d] to America and the real world of Virginia."

Allen's actions that day stood out because they were not representative of how I was treated while traveling around the state. Everywhere I went, though I was identifiably working on behalf of Allen's opponent, people treated me with dignity, respect and kindness. I cannot recall one event where food was served and I was not invited to join in the meal. In southwest Virginia, hospitality toward me was at a high point.

The night before the incident in Breaks, I stayed at the home of Jewel Jones, Webb's aunt, in Gate City on the Tennessee border. I was treated like family even though I was a guest for only half a day, and I received a grand tour of the area where Webb's ancestors have lived for more than a century. The following day, at the picnic in Breaks, even after Allen's comments highlighted my outsider status, I was not allowed to depart without eating, because as one woman put it, "Political differences are set aside at the dinner table." In the same spirit, I was given accurate directions to Allen's next event, held in Bluefield the following morning.

After Allen's remarks, my heritage suddenly became a matter of widespread interest. I am proud to be a second-generation Indian American and a practicing Hindu. My parents were born and raised in India and immigrated here more than 25 years ago; I have known no home other than Northern Virginia. The hairstyle inflicted upon me by two friends late one night also became newsworthy; for the record, it was intended to be a mullet and has since grown out to nearly the appropriate length.

The larger question that this experience brings up is: How far has society progressed on the issues of race and openness? By 2050, according to most projections, the United States will be a minority-majority nation. But the fact that Allen believed I was an immigrant, when in fact I am a native Virginian, underlines the problems our society still faces.

Then again, Webb's victory last week gives me hope that Virginia will not tolerate playing the race card. It is still hard for me to accept that I could have had a pivotal role in the election results; I would not wish the scrutiny I received on anyone. But I am also glad to have helped Webb. Every little bit counted, especially in an election decided by about 9,000 votes out of nearly 2.4 million cast.

The politics of division just don't work anymore. Nothing made me happier on election night than finding out the results from Dickenson County, where Allen and I had our encounter. Webb won there, in what I can only hope was a vote to deal the race card out of American politics once and for all.

S.R. Sidarth is a senior at the University of Virginia.

s. kalyanaraman


Cacoethes said...

Nizhal Yodha wrote: ... like musharraf, who, being of indian origin, works doubly hard against india. also like how any hindu converted to mohammedanism or christism is a very bitter enemy
It is well known from history that those who were healthy earlier but got afflicted with mohammedanitis or christitis are very sick people. Healing them is nearly impossible. The best known historical example is that of the Mameluke (aka Mamluk):
“a warrior caste dominant in Egypt and influential in the Middle East for over 700 years. Islamic rulers created this warrior caste by collecting non-Muslim slave boys and training them as cavalry soldiers especially loyal to their owner and each other. They converted to Islam in the course of their training.” [from The Columbia Encyclopedia ] The Mamelukes were really vicious fighters for Mohammedanitis.
“Conversion” is similar to the technique of Genetic Engineering, in which a virus carrying a particular trait is inserted into the genome of the creature to be modified.

nizhal yoddha said...

there is more, cacoethes: check out the wikipedia article on janissaries. these were non-mohammedan boys who were required to be sent every year as tribute to the turkish ottoman forces to become soldiers for the turks. they too -- reminds one of the stockholm syndrome -- became strong supporters of the mohammedans.

Cacoethes said...

Nizhal Yoddha, thank you for asking me to check out "Janissaries".

Wikipedia says about the Origin of the janissaries, “...Janissaries became the first Ottoman standing army, replacing forces that mostly comprised tribal warriors, whose loyalty and morale could not always be trusted....”

The Columbia Encyclopedia says Janissaries, were “...elite corps in the service of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). It was composed of war captives and Christian youths pressed into service; all the recruits were converted to Islam and trained under the strictest discipline. It was originally organized by Sultan Murad I. The Janissaries gained great power in the Ottoman Empire and made and unmade sultans. By 1600, Muslims had begun to enter the corps, largely through bribery, and in the 17th cent. membership in the corps became largely hereditary, while the drafting of Christians gradually ceased. In 1826, Sultan Mahmud II rid himself of the unruly (and by now inefficient) Janissaries by having them massacred in their barracks by his loyal Spahis...”

Encyclopaedia of the Orient says “...The need for the bey/sultan to form the Janissary corps, came from the fragility of an army put together by free men from many different tribes from areas often wide apart. Their allegiance were normally to their own tribal leaders, leaders that often were tempted to oppose the power of the sultan, and to find allies among the main enemies of the Ottoman empire....”

I think these historical facts are similar to the relationships between Musharraf ("bey" or sultan), the Paki army, and the Paki tribals.