9 scary reasons Donald Trump can become president in November

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Ok, I’m going to come right out and stake my claim on this prediction – it’s one with a very small chance of actually coming true (but I think that “small chance” is getting bigger by the day):

Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States.

Please note that it is Friday, May 27, 2016 – over five months away from us actually finding out whether or not this prediction comes true.

I’m not saying that this is a good thing, if it comes true that is. Not by any stretch of imagination. I’m just saying that it’s going to happen. And I’ve been feeling like this for quite a few months now. (Bless the intrepid soul of my long-suffering soulmate and life partner who has to hear my incessant geopolitical monologues.)

And here are 9 really scary and true reasons why this is going to happen:

1. The alternative is a neocolonial, predatory capitalist, Wall Street puppet: Hillary Clinton is exactly that. She charges $250,000 for speeches sallivating over Wall Street, the transcripts of which she’s likely embarrassed and/or scared to release. She’s the scion of one of the richest dynasties in America. She oozes elitist, 1%, white privilege. She has been mongering after that power for decades now, and had to wait for her husband to get his scummy hands all over the presidency first – because even among the elitist, privileged white one percenters of the world, patriarchy still holds bloody true. As does the fact that…

2. The US is ripe for a new age fascist movement: The demographics make for quite the possibility of a neo-fascist, American nationalist movement, even multiple regional ones. The fact that the US is quite rapidly un-whitening is making a lot of white people angry (it’s actually expanded upon as one of my points below – I am nothing if not repetitive). Not to mention rising tensions in some of the larger urban sprawls with what is, in effect, a police state. Authoritarianism, power, profiteering, militarism and demagoguery are celebrated with fear and nationalism. A large section of the Republicans and right-wing independents are cashing in, and probably going to regret it in the years to come (but that’s another story). Even so, they are helped by the candidate they have to face in the general elections, I mean…

3. Hillary is just pathetic. And so is Bill: Hillary and her god-awful husband are just so uninspiring and soulless, history will never forgive them (did folks catch his condescending engagement with the Black Lives Matter activists?) They seem to operate the Democratic Party like it’s their own personal fiefdom – I mean, what the fuck are these super delegates all about for crying out loud, and why are they all going for the Clintons when it seems like the actual voters are pretty evenly split between Bernie and Hillary? The Clintons are one of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason for Trump getting into the White House. Because Bernie would have wiped the floor with Trump in a general election – but Hillary and Bubba just had to have it their way or the high way. And speaking of pathetic…

4. So is the Democratic Party as a whole: Seriously, America deserves Trump if the majority of the people aren’t capable of moving beyond fascism and fascism light in terms of political parties to choose from (especially if we go old-school for this point with our definition of fascism – as the complete merger of private mega corporations and the state). The Democratic Party defines spinelessness. And worse, they are probably less democratic than even the Republicans (hell, even Hitler was elected democratically, remember). It is quite possible that had the Democrats been forced into accepting the people’s verdict – which like it or not is what the crazy right-wingers over on the Republican side did – Bernie would be the nominee and, I repeat, would have wiped the floor with the Teflon Don come November. But it’s not just the political system…

5. US pop culture is addictive, mind-controlling, garbage: There is no way that a candidate like Donald Trump could come anywhere close to this kind of power unless it was in a country where vapid pop culture ruled the senses. From American Idol to American Sniper to American Pie and everything in between – US pop culture is the Great Population Mind Control Experiment of the 20th and 21st centuries, even threatening to take over the hyper democracy of the internet with viral videos and target tweets. Critical thinking, argumentative discussion, constant questioning, democratic thought, and free speech all take a back seat to pure, unadulterated sensory excitement. Half the country is voting for an orange haired, virulent buffoon who also happens to be a misogynistic, capitalist thug – and they celebrate that shit! How the hell can it happen without American pop culture?

And speaking of pop culture, it’s really when you peruse the comments of news sites online do you realize that…

6. Angry white people are still the majority of the country (and they are getting angrier by the day): I love it when people say white people are going to be a minority in the US in 2050 or something. I mean, even if people of color end up as more than 50% of the population, white folk are still the largest demographic, i.e. still in the majority (unless you think Blacks, Latinos, East Asians, South Asians and Native Americans are all one demographic – and if you do then you might want to read, like, a book or at the very least a Wikipedia article or something.) Those white folk who don’t like seeing the un-whitening of America are angry and getting angrier still, despite having it better than well over 90% of the world’s population. Can you imagine how they will feel when shit starts actually unraveling economically, environmentally, and politically? (I can hear the collective shudder of millions of bleeding heart liberals as we speak.)

And just in case you were wondering if I was only picking on right-wingers, fear not, for I do believe a major reason for the upsurge of right-wing populism under the likes of Trump is also because…

7. Progressives are yet to, en masse, support movements like Black Lives Matter: Yeah, until white progressives and male progressives learn to abandon the Democratic party and the liberal elite (not to mention white privilege and patriarchy), and cede total control and leadership of the progressive movement to women of color and trans people of color, including radical, groundbreaking movements like Black Lives Matter, we’re going to be dealing with human refuse like the Trumps and Clintons of the world for a while to come. And…

8. Frankly, if it doesn’t happen now, it’s going to happen some time soon: Seriously folks, America has been heading in this direction for a while. I think a bunch of people were a little taken aback by all the hope that a highly gifted, dignified, and honorable black president gave us, especially when history had just been made and the speeches were just so very mesmerizing. But then more black people got incarcerated in the years to come. More undocumented immigrants got deported under cruel circumstances. And many of us realized that, no matter how talented and egalitarian a person might be occupying that office, it’s still the office of a brutal imperialist power.

But the real cherry on top of this prediction cake is that…

9. The betting houses just lowered the odds on a Trump presidency: Always a useful bellwether to pay attention to.

The bookies, man, the bookies.

So come November, don’t say I didn’t warn you lovelies.

(Methinks I’ll keep my Canadian passport nice and not-expired…just in case.)

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Cat Lady and Ailing Man of Little Thought

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During the two semesters I spent in Baltimore as an international student in the ’03-’04 academic year, I rented an inexpensive and dingy basement room to live in. I figured that, with a double course load at one of the toughest schools in the country, a part-time job, and no small amount of rabble-rousing, all I needed was a place to sleep. Armed with nothing more than a tuition scholarship and legally allowed to work no more than 20 hours a week on crap campus wages, my rationale further helped in ensuring I didn’t incur any debt.

Nevertheless, compared to the space I had in my previous port-of-call, it was like the Beverly Hills bachelor pad of a rising film star who had just graduated from being an extra on the set of a Lifetime movie to landing a major role in a Tarantino potboiler. For starters, I had my own room(!), furnished with a bed, desk, chair, and closet – more than enough for my meager belongings. The fact that I didn’t have to share it with a misogynistic asshole did wonders for my sanity. The landlady seemed nice enough, and she was happy doing a month-to-month lease, which suited me fine since I was hoping to be done with school in a couple of semesters and get a job. I didn’t need a one-year lease hanging over my head. I imagine this must have been good for her too since she could kick me out at any moment. But for a nine month stay, I was willing to take that chance.

Things seemed to be going ok, save for one issue. It seemed I couldn’t quite shake off the bugbear of annoying housemates. They were unrelated to one another. But like my previous housemates, Fiefdom King and Slovenly Misogynist, the irritation they imparted on me seemed twofold in nature. They were not as maddening as the King and Misogynist, in part because I was working like someone whose life depended on it and spending very little time at home. Also, these new housemates of mine were American and so, at least initially, they were more interesting than annoying since it was my first time living with Americans, not to mention my first time living with white people.

From the little that I was able to deduce during my time in America until then, I realized that American housemates, while capable of imparting great frustration, by and large kept to themselves and didn’t pry into one’s personal life or require constant social interaction. This is so very unlike many Indian housemates who will suffocate you till you are left breathless and gasping for personal space. Maybe it was the high value that American society, most parts of it at least, placed on individuality and privacy. Regardless, it was useful to be able to go through my day with nothing more than cordial greetings, especially considering the workload I had.

But I couldn’t fully ignore them. Both of them were characters in their own right and merit a brief mention, in part because they gave me an introductory primer to a couple of issues that sometimes took on bizarre forms in America: social alienation and healthy eating.

I’ll start with Cat Lady.

Now, I feel compelled to add here that I did not know of such a stereotype prevalent in American popular culture when I first moved into my new place. However, without any embellishment I will say that the first reaction I had upon being introduced to my new housemate when I moved in was, “Wow, she is a crazy lady with cats” – a sexist, ableist reaction for sure, but one that I must admit to having.

Cat Lady was a longstanding tenant of the house my landlady owned. She was a sprightly sixty-something pensioner, whose lack of adherence to reality and reason was acutely matched by her obsessively co-dependent relationship with her cats. One conversation with her stood out for its sheer surrealism. It was a couple of weeks after I had moved in. I was getting ready for my on-campus job and shoving some books into my backpack in the living room, as she descended down the stairs in a rather determined manner. She was, of course, accompanied by her two cats revolving around her like two furry moons solemnly orbiting a lonely planet.

“Sri, I just wanted to have a discussion with you about how to be around my babies.” she said, her weathered face forcing a passive-aggressive smile, the kind I dreaded seeing in white folk wanting to talk to me.

“Ok…” I ventured, a little hesitatingly.

“You see,” she prefaced, “it’s not that you’re not a really lovely man. I’m sure you are…but it’s just that, my babies don’t seem to have taken to you.”

“I see…but I haven’t even been around them much…and, uh, how does this concern me?” I asked.

“Well, they’re your housemates, and they mean the world to me. I would really appreciate it if you could make the time to treat them with respect and love, you know, really understand their moods and ways of being.”

I stared back at her, somewhat dumbfounded.

Possibly interpreting my reaction as genuine interest in her request, she continued, “They don’t take very well to strangers coming in and out of the house. You see, they need consistency, otherwise they get very upset.”

“But, um…I haven’t had any friends over since I moved in here.”

“Oh, of course – I would expect you not to – but you see, you are a stranger to them, and they don’t take well to strangers.”

“Um…you do know that there’s not much I can do about that, right? I kinda live here…you know the whole renting the room below in the basement of this house.”

She sighed valiantly.

“Well…I suppose.” she said in martyr-like fashion. “You’re just going to have to try harder to be good to them and make them feel comfortable around you.”

I stared back, dumbfounded again.

I was having a hard time believing that this conversation was actually taking place. They are cats, I wanted to scream. Love them, feed them, rub their belly once in a while, give them a crumpled piece of aluminum foil to play with, and call it a day.

 

She wasn’t done.

“You see, the other issue is that my babies don’t like it when you come in at different times of the day, opening and closing the door, walking around the house with your shoes on. They really need a fixed schedule. You sometimes take showers early in the morning, and the sound of running water really upsets them, you know.”

“Well…” I ventured, in what was now a monumental effort to not burst out laughing, “there’s really not much I can do about that. I have classes early in the morning, which I would like to shower for, in part so that I don’t stink up the place and further add to the stereotypes faced by immigrants from Third World countries. I have to then work to pay the bills, followed by more studying in the library…so, while I appreciate your concerns, I think they’re kind of stuck with me coming and going at different times while I’m here.”

I paused to see if she would respond. She didn’t, and instead gave me a look like I had just asked her to remember the last time she felt truly loved by another human being.

I continued, trying to inject a little lightness in the process, “I really don’t spend much time here anyway, apart from a few hours at night when I come to sleep, for which I have to open the door and walk in, following which the door has to be closed…you know, it’s how one traditionally gets into a house one lives in.”

She sighed valiantly again, clearly unaffected by my sarcasm, but at least getting the point.

“This is going to be hell for them, poor babies.” she said, shaking her head. “Well…if you could be as quiet as possible, maybe remove your shoes before you come into the house, and walk quietly straight to your room without using the kitchen or bathroom at odd hours…I suppose we can manage.”

There was a long pause. We stared at each other, me incredulously, she expectantly, with that artificial smile still plastered on her face, and the two cats looking up at us, possibly wondering where their ball of string went.

“Okaaay then.” I finally said. “Um…it was nice talking to you but, I really have to head to work now, so I’ll see you around.”

The conversation didn’t anger me. She clearly needed support and care. But it did make me a little more observant of her ways whenever I was in the house and our paths crossed, however briefly. I noticed that she talked to her cats. And not in the non-conversational, mono-syllabic directives of “Sit!” or “Down!” or even cutesy, barf-inducing platitudes said in baby voices (the kind I now smother my own cats with).

Cat Lady had running conversations with her cats, like they were people. Conversations about how her day went, society, life in general, even moderately philosophical ones.

“Oh, sweethearts…I have had an absolutely crazy day. I went shopping, and the lines were simply packed. I don’t know if people think it’s Thanksgiving or something. Hahaha. Of course, my sister had to call as soon as I got back from the store…and that just interrupted my entire day. ”

“Meow”

“Oh, I know darling…this country is going to the dogs. Good grief! The people at the store…lord knows what sorts of people are coming and going! I don’t what things are coming to these days.”

“Meow”

“It was a tough day indeed my love. Like I said…oh my, I think I need a nice bath. But I’m glad that I’m back home with my two babies. And mommy loves her babies. Yes she does. She loves them soooo much. Isn’t that right, my two beauties?”

“Meow”

“Do my babies want something to eat? Do my babies need some cuddle time?”

“Meow”

And so the conversations went on and on, every single cringe-inducing day of the week.

I want to mention here that I have long since discarded my anthropocentric view of life. Indeed, now I’m of the rather firm belief that non-humans are inherently superior to humans simply because the concept of evil doesn’t exist for them. (That, and the cuddlier non-humans are, well, just so damn fucking cuddly.) However, I’m not under any misconception that one can communicate with animals in exactly the same way one does with humans. I’m not making a judgment call on those who choose to do so, nor does this observation mar the soulful beauty of animals. I’m merely highlighting the fact that inter-species communication does not take place with monologues.

Eventually the humanity behind the supposed craziness got through to me. Cat Lady was the personification of the kind of social alienation that affected quite a lot of people in America. It was sad. The richest, most powerful country in the world couldn’t prevent people from losing their minds simply because they were alone.

In India, she probably would have been living with one of her kids, irritating the fuck out of her kid’s spouse, scaring the crap out of her grandkids, and eventually doing everyone a favor and dying. And of course, during the funeral, all her family members would politely forget what a pain in the butt she was with unnecessarily melodramatic displays of grief that ensured appropriately sanitized parting memories of her.

But she would not have been alone.

Not in America.

Hence co-dependency with felines.

From then on, whenever I came home late at night, I took a piss before I left the library so that I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night at home and removed my shoes before I walked into the house.

But I avoided her like the plague.

(Among other things, she also happened to be a right-wing Zionist. Upon seeing a Students for Justice in Palestine brochure of mine one evening, she felt the need to pull me aside as I was making my dinner and remark indignantly that “Palestinians were in reality being treated far too generously by Israelis.” Charming old racist she was.)

So, enough of that.

My second housemate moved in a couple of months into the semester. He was, to put it mildly, generously layered in terms of body mass, and it wasn’t muscle from what I could observe. One could hear a light wheeze whenever he was around, made shriller during moments of even the slightest physical application. It was kind of like a really understated asthmatic sound, though I imagine for him it was due to the exertion of daily life. He also would push his thick-rimmed glasses up his nose every 10 seconds with a pudgy finger, while uttering mind-numbingly boring remarks as he waddled his way through the day.

In other words, Ailing Man of Little Thought was harmless and didn’t really bother to engage with me barring the odd greeting when we saw each other. This suited me just fine. However, one brief conversation with him did stand out, because it was a bit of a learning experience into some of the more mainstream societal attitudes towards food and health in the country.

It occurred during a time when I fell sick. The maniacal hours, lack of regular meals, and constant intake of cigarettes and coffee had taken its toll. The fact that I couldn’t really take a break from either work or study didn’t help in facilitating a speedy recovery. I walked into the kitchen one evening, hacking and sniffling, to make myself some tea before going to bed.

Ailing Man of Little Thought was in there as well, cooking his dinner. As I got the kettle boiling and sniffled, he asked me how I was doing.

“Ok.” I replied. “Just trying to fight off a cold, which is tough with the crazy hours. Thanks for asking.”

“Whenever I fall sick, I always try chicken soup. It helps a lot.” he said.

“I might try that…thanks.”

“Sri,” he then ventured, “do you think that maybe the reason you’ve fallen sick is because of your diet?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, fishing out a tea bag from the shelf.

“Well, you know,” he said, “don’t vegetarians fall sick a lot because of their diet? Growing up in India, you must have been a vegetarian, right? A vegetarian diet couldn’t have given you enough nutrition to help in building up a strong immune system.”

I paused and thought for the briefest of moments about what he had just said.

I was a little taken aback, but wasn’t offended in the slightest because his concern seemed genuine. It wasn’t his lack of information either. He couldn’t be blamed for not knowing that, while I did indeed grow up vegetarian, my diet back home consisted of a variety of dishes made with brown rice, lentils, vegetables, whole wheat, beans, fresh fruit, yogurt, and no small amount of motherly love. Hardly the kind of fare that depleted ones immune system. Nor did I feel like informing him that by the time I made it to the States, I had turned into a bonafide carnivore, tucking into every form of processed animal flesh America had to offer whenever I had the chance.

What really made me stop in my tracks with that statement had to do with the stove in our kitchen.

Because on that stove was his dinner.

It consisted of two gargantuan beef patties, taken straight out of the freezer, getting fried in a pool of butter, fat oozing out of the sides, sputtering on the cast iron pan. Bubbling with drippy excitement on each hunk of industrially minced meat were two slabs of yellow Velveeta cheese. And on a plate beside the stove were four slices of white bread slathered with mayo and mustard. All that, along with two frosty cans of Coke and a Klondike bar, was to soon enter him via a particularly under-achieving orifice (and eventually exit via some valiantly over-achieving ones).

It was another learning moment for me.

Here was an unhealthy, rotund man with a ghastly, all-American diet wondering if my vegetarian diet in India was the reason for my falling sick. And it wasn’t until much later that I learnt just what a strong sentiment this was among many Americans – that to grow up with little or no meat was to grow up without nutrition.

Now, during the times in my life that I’ve been a meat-eater, I have loved every bite of it. And good meat in moderate portions every few days is indeed good for you. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the vegetarian diet in my home in India was far superior to the overwhelming number of meat-filled offerings I found in the States. And it was only with copious amounts of that south Indian diet did I continue to feel healthy – despite partaking in the odd tuna melt or fried chicken.

“I don’t think so,” I replied, after a short pause, “but I imagine diet does indeed play a huge role in one’s overall health.”

He nodded wistfully before bringing his plate to the stove, carefully flipping the burgers onto the bread, grabbing the Coke cans, and slowly waddling his way to the living room.

Whatever was I going to learn next from these inscrutable Americans?

Dear daughter – I’m sorry for my failures (but know that I won’t fail you)

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Hi love,

As I hold you in my arms and see those rascally, angelic eyes slip into a deep sleep following a majestic poop explosion, I often reflect on yet another parenting cycle – a cycle usually consisting of three very regular stages:

Stage 1: a general failure to address your immediate needs with my efforts, followed by…

Stage 2: a blundering,  occasionally teary, attempt at redeeming myself, usually by adhering to the grace and wisdom of your mother, followed by…

Stage 3: simultaneously amusing and irritating the crap out of you with energetic, puppy-like adoration – a manifestation of this fascinating new spiritual feeling I have; I think it could be paraphrased as the deep, singularly unique, and mind-boggling love a parent has for their daughter or something.

Now, it’s easy for me to get caught up in stages 2 and 3 of the cycle – it’s generally more pleasant to focus primarily on the redemption and love.

But truly if I want to ensure that, despite my failures, I’m still being the best parent I can be, then I absolutely must focus on the failures themselves.

And I think the first step is to name them and apologize for them. But don’t worry, I won’t stop just at this perma-sorry for my myriad failures. I will actually try to learn from them. I just need to retrain my hitherto dense and regressive brain, swaddled as it has been in patriarchy for so many centuries. You are way too awesome for anything less.

Plus, your mother and I are hell-fucking-bent on ensuring that we as a family (cats included) fight for the freedom and happiness of all souls on earth. Thus, as your parents, we especially want to fight for that kind of life for you, and it takes some honest reflection to keep fighting well.

So, let me begin by first apologizing for the times I get frustrated, irritated, even angry when nothing I do seems to meet your needs. For the most part I’m frustrated, irritated, and angry at myself, but let’s face it, the feelings inevitably home in on you. When I step back to think about it, I feel shame, my darling. I – your adult father with over three and a half goddamn decades of life experience – actually get frustrated and irritated at a 2-month old kid whom I love beyond life itself. All because you, divine soul, try very patiently (and in the only way you know how) to communicate to your father, guiding him to hold up his responsibilities properly. I know I keep the frustrations “inside” or at least try to, but I also know that I cannot ever fool the spiritual bond between us.

Because I know it upsets you.

For that (and all the other fuck ups, just to be on the safe side) – I am so very sorry my love.

Please don’t mistake this for false humility or something. I can’t stand that shit. I have a galactic sized ego, and really have no real issues with self-confidence or thinking I’m the coolest (i.e. luckiest) guy on earth. I get the big picture. As your parents, I know that your divine mother with me as her pet lout and loyal sidekick, will strive with every sinew of our beings to engulf you in love, joy, health and happiness. We also have an awesome transnational community of family and friends who will provide a very privileged safety net for all of us. So life will likely be more good than bad for the most part.

However, having plied my trade as a trauma therapist and community health worker across three countries for many years now, I am well aware of the numerous forms of abuse and violence that parents and adults in general can impart on children. No doubt, all violence exists on a spectrum – with the horrendous sexual, physical, emotional, and mental abuse existing on a particularly traumatic side of the spectrum. We as a society have this dangerous tendency to think that abusive parenting solely consists of those egregious acts of violence – and we forget that patriarchy is not just egregiously violent but also insidiously covert.

I know that, no matter how sincere and loving and caring, I will make mistakes that will hurt you. It is violent when my frustrations are directed at you. How can it not be? Your capacity to harm me is pretty much non-existent. You didn’t choose to grace our lives with your glorious presence. You’re not the one with decades of human experience. Most importantly though, patriarchy has made our relationship unjust from day one, with you getting a really shitty deal.

But while patriarchy is indeed guided by power and oppression, you, your mother, and my mother, among others, have taught me that patriarchy can be challenged, undone, and eventually dismantled with love, liberation, and a veritable fuck ton of struggle.

So I make this simple, and hopefully ever-evolving, promise to you (very much extended to our larger family and community and, oh what the hell, the world in general):

  • I promise to spare no effort in being the best parent I can be and ensure that our relationship is always egalitarian and just.
  • I promise to love you, nurture you, and fight behind or alongside but never ahead of you for your inviolable rights to freedom and happiness.
  • I promise to dismantle internalized patriarchy and oppression from within me, no matter how many lifetimes it may take.

Ok, so I might have been a little hasty to classify this as a “simple” promise but whatever. I assure you, I will keep this promise even if it kills me because it’s neither political revolution nor mass social change that motivates me, but love. And without love, my soul would cease to exist. So, please feel free to whip my ass into shape whenever your powerful self desires, because you already know more about winning this fight than I ever will – and I would never say no to being guided by your wisdom, your spirit, and your courage.

But, sweetheart, I think this piece needs to be ended because you have just had another poop explosion.

And a fresh diaper – maybe even that gorgeous smile of yours – beckons.

A Mothers Day rant

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Mothers Day 2016.

As a new and deliriously happy (albeit perennially tired) parent, I’ve never been more cognizant of the astounding importance of loving, nurturing, anti-patriarchal parenting than I am now.

Truly, it is time we as a species got back to more matriarchal ways of living where the invaluable role of the mother (or the matriarch) is rightfully honored in the social, political, economic, cultural, and spiritual realms of society; And not just by honoring those living breathing people known as mothers, but also the loving spiritual bond and evolutionary, nurturing social structure that is motherhood, quite possibly the most important social structure defining humanity’s existence on earth. Above all else though – and especially when I see the two great soulmates of my life, Sus and Daya, together – I realize just how much humanity owes mothers and motherhood. (I know it sounds like such a truism, as it probably should, but there’s a way in which personal experience brings messages home in a way that no other life activity does.)

So without further adieu…

Happy Mothers Day, all mothers out there however you may define yourselves!!!

Yay!

Today is the day designated by Western capitalism and greeting card commerce as the one day of the year we pitiably try to honor the most life-giving, self-sacrificing subsection of humanity.

Today, capitalism and our pop culture society will “celebrate” mothers. (Or really, by the time I come round to publishing this blog post, they would have already finished with the nominal celebration and have just slipped right back into the velvety smooth and sexist comfort of taking mothers for granted.)

These celebrations are most likely going to manifest across the e-social universe with a lot of repetitive typing of the “x” and “o” keys as well as the “<” and “3” keys. Maybe some e-cards, real cards, roses, chocolates, a dinner outing, or a gift or two (our society has a very easy, pay-grade-specific, template to celebrate motherhood).

But as commerce and social media goes about fake-applauding mothers, make no mistake – mothers have been treated like shit for centuries, and humanity should be ashamed of ourselves.

Why should we be ashamed of ourselves, you ask (metaphysical person who keeps getting resurrected whenever I need a literary segue into my next point)?

Oh, how about raw, unfettered patriarchy as a social institution.

As I write this, indeed as you read this, there are millions upon millions of mothers worldwide living under various forms of control and authority imparted by different men in their lives (if not outright violence), usually from husbands or adult sons, but also parents, bosses, siblings, colleagues, relatives, and others – a small minority of whom might even be women who themselves impart patriarchal violence due to internalized oppression. Yet, almost as a rule, mothers tend to always try harder and be more nurturing than male parental counterparts, regardless of the systems of male domination those moms might have faced in their lives. If that isn’t heroism of the highest order, I don’t know what is.

And what of the appalling political and economic rights conferred on motherhood the world over while they courageously nurture their children?

Take social insurance, public or even via private company policy. Barring a few rich Western countries and some corporations who give decent, still often insufficient, maternity benefits, it is lacking for the vast majority of mothers worldwide. Indeed, America – king of the goddamn neo-colonial pecking order right now – should hang its head in shame when a flabby Hollywood monarchy like the UK or even a very confused has-been like Turkey is streets ahead of the US in terms of maternity benefits. (But I am absolutely sure that America is the biggest market for Mothers Day greeting cards today.)

Hell, you need look no further than the sexist garbage that is spouted in pop culture the world over – the naked celebration of violent manhood, and the downplaying of nurturing, loving values – to get a reality gut check regarding the shoddy value placed on motherhood by society at a collective level.

(How so many single moms keep it together and kicking, I will have nary a fucking clue. Salutations of the highest order would be insufficient.)

And finally, when we as a species slowly lost our divine feminine, mother earth-centric, spiritual roots many millennia ago and instead found ourselves wading in the filth of patriarchal religions the world over – probably the most significant shift in humanity towards a male-dominated world order occurred.

But all that’s too much for me to think about as my partner and I take turns trying to comfort our collicky little angel (8 weeks old tomorrow!).

So I think I’ll just sign off by giving heartfelt thanks to my mother and to mothers everywhere – while raising a fist in salute of their daily battles with the man.

Happy Mothers Day everyone.

The Valley that stole my heart

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I wrote a political travelogue about Kashmir during a trip made a while back. It was published in The Kashmir Walla in their 5th Anniversary Issue, hot off the presses this month! Please click on the following link for the piece and do peruse their lovely publication:

The Valley that stole my heart

(or if that doesn’t work, here’s the url – http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/05/the-valley-that-stole-my-heart/)

 

Why Beyoncé could become our generation’s Muhammad Ali

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As an immigrant who has faced his fair share of racism, stereotyping, and imperialist rhetoric in America and Canada, it is but a natural predilection for me to ally with those who have been struggling for generations and generations for greater rights and restorative justice in those countries.

This has meant that black history, in America in particular but across the planet in general, along with black cultural icons, sports figures, and freedom fighters have been a source of great inspiration for me over many years. This has been especially true since I landed on American shores as a rabble-rousing, albeit legally compliant, immigrant over a dozen years ago.

Indeed, it’s quite remarkable to think about the deep political, cultural, social, and spiritual influence so many stalwarts of the black community have had and continue to have on me; to the point of identifying with the community in a number of ways – deeply problematic though the sentiment might be for a member of a more privileged section among people of color and one who has no roots in America’s racist past. But like it or not, during the many times when I myself get mistaken for black in the Western world, I don’t really care to correct them.

Please don’t think that I’m ashamed of where I come from or who I am. I’m a proud warrior Tamil from the Southern lands of the Indian subcontinent, increasingly rooted in divine feminine spirituality emerging from my Dravidian roots – but very importantly, influenced and alloyed with a whole host of other liberating influences in my life.

Such as a whole spectrum of black history, liberation, icons, and culture.

Indeed, such is the strength of this particularly liberating influence that, if I were asked today to name my three favorite poets, thinkers, freedom fighters, musicians, and cultural icons in that order (you know, by some metaphysical spirit with way too much time on their hands), here’s what I would say  – bearing in mind that I’m defining all these categories however I deem fit:

Poets – Maya Angelou, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and Pablo Neruda

Thinkers – bell hooks, Arundhati Roy, and Frantz Fanon.

Freedom fighters – Nelson Mandela, Laila Khaled, and Bhagat Singh

Musicians – AR Rahman, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Asian Dub Foundation

and

Cultural icons – Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Ali, and Muhammad Ali.

Thus it would be fair to say that I am quite the student of Ali’s life and career.

Few can match his heady combination of powerful charisma, cultural superstardom, and political courage – all coming together at a particularly potent time in America’s recent history to render an iconic story for the ages.

Many have one or the other, maybe even two out of the three, but rarely have we found anyone with all three. It’s not an easy combination to have, with the political courage often being the toughest of the three to find.

Take other great sportspeople. You find many with great cultural stardom because of their talented abilities, alongside their achievements, fame etc. Some of those stars might even be wonderfully charismatic with engaging personalities, but they tend to not want to blow it all by displaying too much political courage. Those who display amazing political courage, even the really charismatic ones, tend to not have the kind of cultural stardom that comes anywhere close to someone like Ali, bless their brilliant souls.

The same tends to be the case with other fields usually churning out cultural icons with generational regularity – media, pop culture, music, and film.

The rocking, cultural superstars tend to lack political courage with tragic regularity, while those who do have more freedom-fighting public faces tend to, at best, have loyal cult followings.

But I believe we have someone who might just be our next Ali. And I don’t say this lightly (because, I mean, it’s Muhammad freaking Ali we’re talking about here). However, I daresay we have our next, great, black liberation, mass cultural icon.

All three boxes are ticked.

She has that powerful charisma.

She sure as hell has the cultural superstardom (not to mention some killer singing and dancing chops).

And it seems like somewhere along the way, as she multi-octaved her way to fame and fortune, at a time when Black Lives Matter is leading us into a new pan-American struggle for social justice and political freedom, she has decided to fight the good fight publicly.

All the pieces are in place.

Beyoncé could well become this generation’s Muhammad Ali.

(And I don’t even particularly care for her music.)