Monday, October 29, 2007

The Minority Rule

Indian-American Bobby Jindal's victory last week in the Louisiana gubernatorial election prompted me to examine what I call "the minority rule" in my Monday Diamondback column. People like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Condoleezza Rice are proof that minorities have successfully infiltrated that last frontier--the apex of political leadership in this country.

Yet what they and Jindal have in common is what connects them with most politicians in high positions: their affiliation with a Judeo-Christian religious tradition. Simply put, being a woman or black or brown no longer makes you unelectable--as long as you still have the right religion. This, obviously, has some problematic repercussions:
"I definitely don't have any problem with religious people in politics, but I am concerned that religious people of non-Judeo-Christian faiths as well as atheist or agnostic people can be marginalized from the political process. I think the American public is definitely capable of judging a candidate on his or her merits and would not attach much importance to a candidate's religious affiliation. But because religion is talked about so much in the political arena, and because almost all politicians are Christians or Jews, I worry that others who would be great public servants are discouraged from running for office and thus never try."

Click here to read my new column. Also check out this interesting article from the Post about the generational divide between Indian-Americans' attitudes toward Jindal. The older generation (people my parents' age and up) are ecstatic at Jindal's win and proud to have an Indian-American in such a high position. They know how difficult it was for Indians when they first came to the U.S., and had a very different experience than people of my generation. The latter are much more likely to take Jindal's political considerations into account (and not vote for him just because he is Indian). They also are unhappy that Jindal distanced himself from his ethnicity during his run.

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On an entirely separate note, take a look at my previous Diamondback column, in which I tried to explain what "love of the game" really is to a sports fan. It's everything and anything from the rollercoaster ride of following a team through its trials and tribulations with a community of like-minded believers, to the pride you feel when you see a player you saw as a rookie gradually grow into a living legend. And yes, allowing our moods to be affected by the performance of a group of highly-paid strangers is admittedly irrational, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the time and emotion. Read "Fan Feelings".


Dad said...

Excellent post! But you'd be surprised, I find myself more in tune with the younger generation on Bobby Jindal. He does not make me proud - not because he changed his first name but because he abandoned the religion he was born into. The former is a cosmetic change (like Jack for Jagdish), the latter is a more meaningful one. Before I condemn him, I would like to know a little more on why he thought Christianity (the Roman Catholic brand) offered him better hope from a religious standpoint? After all Hinduism is a non-organized religion, unlike other major world religions - it therefore allows each individual a personal level of participation based on their specific needs or calling. More importantly, Hinduism has survived for over 5000 years because it appeals to one's mind as opposed to one's heart. I would thus expect it would appeal to the more educated and enlightened among us - as opposed to the less literate. Hence, it's growing appeal in western societies in the past several decades. So was Bobby Jindal's conversion a convenience forced upon him by his social, cultural and political environment? If yes, then that is quite sad and you are right, in that, we have a long way to go in the U.S. before we become a religion-neutral society in the political arena. It probably explains the hullabaloo over Mitt Romney and his Mormonism.

Jay said...

Maryland majority leader Kumar Barve, whom I mentioned in my column, emailed me this morning to say:

"I just read your article about Bobby Jindal and others in American politics. Good article, and thanks for your kind mention of me!"

How cool is that? :-)