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May 2011
Readers Write

U.S. has its faults, but is still unmatchable

Kudos to you on your April editorial (“The American Dream: Down, but Not Out”). The last paragraph nailed the issue. Our so-called exceptionalism reminds me of boxer Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) thumping his chest and saying, “I’m the greatest”. Even if we are exceptional, there is something to be said for humility and the ability to learn from others. Fareed Zakaria has a point when he says, “Americans simply don’t care much, know much or want to learn much about the outside world.” That said, I think educated Americans are, for the most part, open and easily learn from other cultures, and the “exceptionalism” claim can be contained within the ultra-right Tea Party movement. Zakaria may not always get it right, but he does have some good insights and was sounding a warning bell against American insularism, complacency and political gridlock. Right-wingers predictably label that as being unpatriotic.

China undoubtedly is an economic powerhouse known for its ruthless efficiency. It has created a lot of millionaires in China as well as in America. Stocks like Baidu skyrocketed 30-fold in just the last two years and will likely continue that trend in the foreseeable future. But China’s Achilles’ heel is its repressive government and total disregard for human rights. The rebellious mood now rampant in Libya, Egypt, Iran, and Syria echo the Tiananmen Square protests in China that the government put a lid on in 1989. But it will flare up again. Once people get a taste of freedom there is no going back. And America is still the epitome of liberty, a beacon of light to all who want to pursue their dreams.

America has its faults but the blatant corruption, bureaucracy and bottlenecks that you find at all levels of government in India and the thuggery of Indian politicians who get away with rape and murder are, thankfully, absent here. India certainly has a lot of brainy people, but when it comes to street smarts and thinking outside the box, no one can match the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Americans. Therein lies the hope of America and the rest of the world.

Ron Jacob
by email

 

Anand’s portrait of India is superficial

Your cover story in the April issue (“Anand’s Journey”) is interesting, but hardly compelling, since Anand [Giridharadas] is a typical American-born Indian of the second generation (an outsider-insider). He went to India for a period of six years, and wrote the book [India Calling] merely because he happened to be interested in journalism.

However, his impression of modern India seems to be superficial. He looks at modern Indian society through rose-tinted glasses. Yes, we all know that during the last 25 years or so, the younger generation of Indians has caught the American fever, and is enamored of the American lifestyle and Hollywood. They’ve also been sold by the successes of the IT business.

While it may be true that a handful of second-generation Indian Americans venture into India to explore their career potential, a vast majority of young Indians dream of migrating to America. In order to fulfill their dream they have created an Americanized environment in India. They are driven by money-oriented goals that lead to Westernized lifestyles, creating a rift between the old and the new.

But if one digs deep into modern India, one can find that India is stagnant and stifled by overpopulation. Compare India’s progress with China’s and you will be ashamed of how little India has achieved. Most of India’s advances come from only one industry, while China has built itself to be a manufacturing giant. China may become a superpower, but India can only dream about it.

Manju Ghosh
Macon, Georgia

 

First generation or second generation?

In your April issue, the editorial (“The American Dream: Down, but Not Out”) and the main story (“Anand’s Journey”) are two very interesting articles with opposing views.

While first-generation Indian Americans are basking in their adopted motherland and enjoying the fruits of their labor, second-generation Indian Americans are flying on Cloud Nine. Our worlds are poles apart. The second-generation world is like a mirage, while our [first-generation] world is like an oasis. Let reality prevail!

Arun Patel
by email

 

Nuclear energy is cheap and safe

This is in reference to Sandip Roy’s commentary in the April issue about the safety of nuclear power plants in India (“Nuclear Reactors in Grave Danger”). I am a retired structural engineer who has worked at various nuclear power plants under construction in the U.S. for over 25 years.

The Fukushima plant in Japan, with six reactor buildings, is a first-generation Boiling Water Reactor (BWR), in which spent fuel rods were submerged in a pool. The structure enclosing this pool was not made of concrete walls, but of steel beams and shell. It was designed to withstand 300-mile winds (tornado) and earthquakes, but not for floods. Therefore, when a tsunami with waves 30 feet high entered the building, it caused the damage, power failure and the subsequent radiation leak.

On the other hand, most new power plants are Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). One can tell by looking at a picture if it is a BWR or PWR, because a BWR has a rectangular building, while a PWR has a cylindrical building with a dome. The reactor in a PWR is enclosed in 20-feet thick foundation and reinforced concrete walls six feet thick. Inside, the reactor is lined with a one-inch-thick steel plate, so there is no way radiation can leak, unless there is a total meltdown.

Nuclear energy is cheap, environmentally safe and can last for a long time. Therefore, not only India but all the countries in the world should depend on it and build more nuclear power plants. The lesson learned from the Japan mishap is that we should not build too close to the coastline. Over 95 percent of nuclear plants in the world are inland; so they are safe.

Rajesh Gandhi
Decatur, Georgia


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