Friday, August 25, 2006

What's in a Name?

S.R. Sidarth is a lot like me. Academics wise he's probably years ahead of where I was at his age (gee that makes me sound old!) but we are similar nonetheless. The both of us, like many other Indians out there were born to parents who came over here thirty years ago. Like many parents from that generation they came over during a time when the IT boom was yet to happen, when Indians were still a relatively unknown quantity and coming here meant that they were separated from the family and friends in India by more than just thousands of miles. You see for many of them time has stood still. The values and ideas that they had in mind at the time the left India are still with them and that's why they continue to teach us the things they learned when they came over here.

That's probably the reason Sidarth, or Sid, ended up being where he was several weeks ago when he was suddently dumped unceremoniously into the political spotlight. Until about a week ago, most people out there probably didn't know what "macaca" meant or whether it was insulting or not. In case you didn't know it. Senator George Allen of Virginia, a Republican, was at a political rally in support of his campaign when he was made aware of the fact that Sidarth was among the crowd, videotaping the rally for his opponent, James Webb. This practice in and of itself is a normal thing. Most every politcal party does it and it is a fact. Allen was apparently introduced to Sidarth before the rally and when asked what he was doing out there, Sidarth simply remarked that he was following Allen.

During the course of the rally, Allen chose to 'recognize' Sidarth when he made the following statement. "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film, and it's great to have you here, and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come so it's good for him to see what it's like out here in the real world. So welcome, let's give a welcome to Macaca here! Welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia!" Now I'm sure that Allen probably thought he was being rather clever with his remark and I'm sure he won a lot of the support of the folks out at that rally (especially if the whoops, hollers and laughter were any measure).

I'm not a politcal expert nor am I all that superior in my knowledge (I may just be smarter than the average bear) but in this day and age of media coverage and Google, how can one even expect that the things we say or do, especially politicians, will not be recorded and scrutinized. It's even more stunning to realize that Allen said all this even as Sidarth recorded it for James Webb and his campaign team. The word hit the news like wildfire and soon everyone was abuzz about the Indian who was called a monkey. The Indian community is up in arms over this fact and rallies are being organized to throw support to James Webb. Allen has of course apologized but this isn't the first, and probably not the last, time that he will insult someone in the public forum.

It's understandable that Indians are upset about the remarks but I would think that everyone, white, black, brown, or whatever should be insulted by that remark. We don't live in a perfect world but we'll never get any closer if we have politicians who believe that they can call someone anything they want and get away with it. It all ends up being a matter of perspective. For the average person, it may not seem so bad to call someone a monkey. My brother and I have probably done that to one another on numerous occasions, but when you are a political leader (and presidential hopeful) you must conduct yourself on a level just a bit higher. It doesn't matter what party you represent or what your ideals are. If you take the respectable approach and conduct yourself in a standard above and beyond the norm, you will win the favor of the people. If you stoop to name-calling and the like, well... you let everyone know what your standards are.

I am a Virginian now, I have voted in all of the last elections and I can tell you, come election day, my voice will be heard. And no matter what your color, creed or religion, make sure you make your voice heard too. The leaders we elect are the ones who represent us to the country and to the world. Do we really want someone like George Allen?


At 9:47 PM, Blogger Heather said...

As bad as that is, just as a voice of potential doubt in his defence, did he know that the word meant monkey? If he did, then I say hang him (metaphorically speaking, of course.) But then again, if we're all up in arms over this, I want to know why no one got upset over Joe Biden's 7-11 remark to an Indian constituent of his.
Regardless, you're absolutely right - everyone should be offended by such bigotry, regardless of who is insulted by whom.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Jay said...

Apparently they say Allen did indeed know what Macaca meant and so that put a lot of people up in arms. You're right though, Biden nearly swallowed his foot when he made his comment about seeing Indians in every 7-11. It's just a sad stereotype. I mean look at film and television. Most every Indian you see is running a gas station or a 7-11.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

I am really surprised that such a thing did happen. Don't these idiots realise that America is a force today because of people from various parts of the world.

I really do feel offended when We get to hear such things for a country that has been made out of immigrants with a 300 year culture.

He should never even be elected. We now know what he really things of "others"


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