Friday, October 19, 2007

Torn About Bobby Jindal

I should start by saying this: I know, if I lived in Louisiana, that I wouldn't vote for Bobby Jindal. I just disagree with him too strongly on the social issues -- intelligent design and abortion rights, for starters -- to let my sense of ethnic loyalty get the better of me.

But I can't help but be somewhat torn when I see photos like this:


The rest of the very interesting New York Times profile explains what this represents: Jindal is slowly winning over the rural white voters in northern Louisiana, staunch Republicans (can anyone say David Duke?) who couldn't bring themselves to vote for him when he ran for governor four years ago. He's also learning how to avoid giving the impression that he is an overachieving policy wonk (which he undoubtedly is), so as to better connect with ordinary Louisianans.

For me, Jindal's growing success at this (again, encapsulated in the photo above) taps into an anxiety I myself have had as a child of immigrants -- who became the first (and only) person in my extended family to earn a Ph.D. Even if your tastes and cultural values are profoundly "Americanized," as mine are, there remains a sense that you don't quite "fit," which tends to be exacerbated (for me, especially) every time some a-hole on South Street (in Philly) mutters something about "there goes Bin Laden" when I walk down the street. Part of the anxiety comes from the ignorance and xenophobia of some Americans, but a good part of it comes from myself, an internalized sense of remaining not-quite-pukka despite everything.

If Jindal wins, his victory will suggest to me he's somehow overcome both sides of the immigrant's anxiety syndrome: the part that comes from others' mistrust, and also the part that comes from himself -- his own sense of being something different, something other than a "normal" American, or in this case, a representative Louisianan. If he wins, I won't cheer, but I will, I expect, quietly feel a certain sense of pride at his accomplishment despite my strong disagreement with his kind of politics. Not just because he's a fellow desi -- it's actually more complex than that. Rather, the pride will be because he's a fellow desi who's evidently achieved, after a struggle, something I've long aspired to do: shake that dude's hand.

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Blogger Gurpreet said...

I lived In LA, and bobby jindal has my vote. His social values and mine are the same, we view abortion as murder, which is very important because I will never ever vote for a baby killer (abortionist).

5:43 PM  
Blogger The Great Ganesha said...

wonderfully written post, amardeep. i suspect this is why some 1/1.5-gen indians cling to their own "indian-ness" with a fanaticism designed precisely to avoid dealing with the kinds of issues you write about.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Jazzfan said...

I completely concur with your views.If you look a little closer, chaps like BJ will always put there own interests before anything else.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Nirmal T said...

"Not quite pukka" really does encapsulate that kind of "double consciousness" children of Indian immigrants must feel. I have to believe the Piyush feels the same way once in a while. I've posted on what I see as a theme among South Asians born to an immigrant professional class at .

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is no doubt in my mind that there is nothing great about this christening of bobby jindal. the main problem we have here is that he is a lapdog for a cause that indians in general here in america have no relation to. he represents no voice of the india diaspora and instead is using us and not using them to improve our political conditions in this country. as great politicians understand the art of diplomacy and compromise, this person only understands the policy of being used in all senses of the word. this person would compromise his religion so he could become a rhodes scholar and then furthermore compromise whatever else of his principles. please refer to indian currents and other diasporic mediums that really relay the truth of the matter when it comes to the opinions of his own kind. if he doesn't represent us then why is he there?

1:52 AM  

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