Way back in 1775 Samuel Johnson defined patriotism "as the last refuge of the scoundrel." Judging by the spate of violence unleashed by fringe elements venting their confected outrage on Gurgaon schoolchildren over a Bollywood movie, his wise words seem even more relevant today. Like a dog digging up an old bone and gnawing at its mouldy crevices with renewed relish, the patrioters rationalise their lunacy with the one-size-fits-all excuse of "hurt sentiments and wounded national pride." Ironically, across the Atlantic this mindlessness is mirrored by El Trumpo who was furious when black athletes refused to stand at attention while the national anthem was played.
Their stand, pun intended, provoked a heated debate across the country when Colin Kaepernick's kneeling protest intertwined with the Black Lives Matter movement denouncing the endless string of questionable police shootings of black boys and men. To express solidarity, other athletes were sitting and in at least one case, lying on the ground as the anthem played. Just as true patriots did in 1775, black people and their supporters are refusing to sing, pledge or otherwise declare fealty to the nation that has miserably failed to ensure their safety and happiness. Which raises pertinent question such as: Who are the "free?" Who are the "brave?" Who are the real patriots?
Americans aren't bashful when it comes to waving the flag; the 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' mantra is not confined to Boston Brahmins but extends across racial, religious and socio-economic lines. This jingoism is contagious and few preach with the zeal of the newly converted: take the case of certain NRI's who stare blankly when asked to sing "Jana, gana, mana" but can tunelessly bellow every tedious verse of the 'Stars and Stripes'. I feel their pain: on several occasions during my last visit, I went to soirees that began promisingly enough with a Pink Floyd bang and ended painfully with a tuneless anthem whimper. I am not making this observation in a spirit of reproach: the feeling engendered is rather one of envy.
What is the glue that binds these resident aliens, from which fount springs this powerful compulsion to worship, adore and blindly accept everything from hamburgers to Agent Orange with such enthusiasm? NRI's unquestioningly accept every Padmavat horror story and often embellish the saga with their own sarson, if you will permit a dreadful pun. But woe betide the unwary visitor who doesn't sing from the same hymn sheet. Lawksamussy, as the rapper Ludacris may have said, you'd think the heavens had fallen.
I was roundly ticked off by a crusty Parsi, Rustom Sorabjee for comparing Nikki Haley's behaviour at the UN with that of a teenager using the voice recognition gizmo, Alexa. Ms Haley throws a hissy fit at the UN when her bizarre proposals are met with a deafening silence, followed by a veto. "Alexa, did you hear me? I said the new capital of Israel is Jerusalem." Rustom turned apoplectic with rage when I wondered aloud why Azim Premji, whose name ought to be a household word in a country that worships the almighty dollar, was a recent victim of racial profiling.
"How presumptuous of you Indians to think you know our political beliefs and our leanings. If we financially support the UN, they can damn well function as our juke box. And yes, thinking that there is a cause-and-effect between American policy and terrorism is condoning it. I'm sorry that I do not know of Premji, there are many people with this name in this world, but I should have picked up on this great one right away. I was too busy genuflecting to Oily Abdulla and the Saudis to pay any attention. Let me take down my pants so you can spank me. But not today because it's damn cold, yaar… snowing outside. You people have made these connections in your mind, without my help, and this proves my point. You can deny that all you want, but it is in the records.
Even with all your gripes about American policy, which seem to be the sole focus of your understanding of this country, its peoples and politics, the US is the best country in the world in terms of treatment of its people. When push comes to shove, our democracy has the means of addressing its imperfections and we have the vision and strength to ultimately do so."
This is the kind of passion, sound and fury one can deal with, instead of cowards attacking a school bus to soothe injured Rajput pride. Unfortunately our Rustoms have emigrated to colder climes where they march to the beat of Hair Fuehrer. Like I mentioned to Rustom, "People who live in Trump Towers shouldn't throw stones."...