Sunday, July 06, 2008

Day 20: An excellent article in the TIME magazine

I read this remarkable issue of the TIME magazine yesterday, which talked about the two views of American Patriotism, and contrasted Obama and McCain from that perspective. I shall particularly recommend The War Over Patriotism by Peter Beinart which is brilliantly written and produces a balanced view of both sides of the fence.

While this was absorbing read by itself, its views hold true for India in many ways. We have this idea of Indian exceptionalism as well - a nation like none other - and believe in India's role in bringing peace to the world. Our geography never allows us the luxury of isolation from World Affairs, and therefore it is always important for every Indian to know what their country means and stands for.

Of course, we are no better off in providing a clear answer. We have had this debate - between looking towards past and looking at the future - and never really resolved it. We have people who believe in a static, pre-existing definition of Indianness and who would want to see Indianness as an inclusive and emergent concept.

I shall particularly mention one point which touches me personally. This statement here: 'The American who volunteers to fight in Iraq and the American who protests the war both express a truer patriotism than the American who treats it as a distant spectacle with no claim on his talents or conscience.' Very true, and this is exactly where I fail India. As one of my friends pointed out recently in her mail, if I do not engage with India, I fail my duty to my country. To be honest to myself, I do engage with India and try to make whatever limited contribution I can make everyday through my job. However, I am programmed to follow a middle-class life, and with its professional, selfish distance, this represents the worst form of dereliction of duty towards our country.

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