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Is this the America we came to?

November 2005
Is this the America we came to?

For Indian baby boomers, few things were greater than the awe and respect that America inspired. America was Utopia if there ever could be one on earth. Those who had managed to move to this fabled land, when visiting back home, were put on pedestals. Sure, there was always an undercurrent of fashionable criticism against America?as decadent and wanton. But given the opportunity, most would have willingly immigrated to the U.S. in a New York minute.

But that was then. Now, gradually but increasingly there are fewer of those huddled masses willing to take recourse in the lap of Lady Liberty. Those of us who have already made that life-altering leap are seeing a rapidly changing country; and it doesn't appear to be just a cyclic downturn that all nations go through. It seems as though the very character of the country is undergoing an overhaul.

When the vaunted land of the free can imprison its citizens for months without so much as charging them with a crime, it's a telling sign. Granted, we as a nation had faced a grave attack in the form of September 11. But are the foundations of this great nation so weak that a single incident, no matter how grave, can unsettle the country so much that we are willing to go against the very Constitution and ideals of the land?

And the above is just a single example in a whole roster of telling signs that the country is undergoing an unhealthy transformation. While a meager forum such as this can't do justice to this broad phenomenon, the following are some points to ponder:

? Thanks to a recent Supreme Court order, many states including Georgia can now seize private land in the name of eminent domain and transfer it to a developer, corporation, or any other private entity for economic development. Besides negating the healthy property rights for which America has been known, this law also lures capitalism, a pillar of America, towards rank opportunism, and thereby towards oppression of the individual.

? Those of us who came here to the promise of American scientific and technological strength are increasingly enduring the farce of religious fundamentalism tainting the science education of the country.

? The country that was a beacon of human rights now has a Vice President who is advocating the use of torture as a valid measure in combat.

? Transparency, meritocracy, diplomacy, and idealism were some of the proud characteristics of American presidency. These have been replaced with cover-ups, cronyism, heavy-handedness, and cynicism.

? Acts such as blowing the cover of a covert agent, which are normally carried out by the enemies of the State, have been traced back to the highest office of the land.

? American government transparency, in the fact that it was the polar opposite of a KGB-defined Russia, was a matter of pride. As per many critics, we now have the most underhanded and inept federal government ever.

? Broadly speaking, many Americans have endorsed regressive rather than progressive themes: unilateralism over engagement, Christian fundamentalism over religious open-mindedness, war over peace [Iraq, arguably, has nothing to do with protecting us against terrorism], environmental hegemony over international responsibility?

For the first wave of Indian immigrants it was enough to be passive benefactors of a well-oiled, exemplary country. No longer is that the case. Now, the need is for us to be active and engaged citizens who would help put the country on the right track again.

- Parthiv N. Parekh

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