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American idiot: Thank Jesus Bobby Jindal isn't Indian

Shiv Aroor
Shiv AroorJun 29, 2015 | 18:41

American idiot: Thank Jesus Bobby Jindal isn't Indian

  • My name is Bobby Jindle.
  • J-I-N-D-L-E.

That right there is the full story. Just those five words. Perfect because it says everything. Listen to the first ten seconds of governor Jindal's presidential campaign announcement speech last week.

Done? Noticed the hard "D" sound to rhyme with "Kindle"? The studied pause for that crowd to soak in the sound of that name. Nice. With Mrs "Jindle" behind him, beaming in all that out-of-focus glory. Ahhh.

I love Bobby Jindal. No, seriously. In the days since he's taken the plunge into the US Presidential race, he's managed to tell us at least as much about ourselves as he has, unapologetically, about himself.

The only two things we Indians love more than an apna ladka making it in the big white world, are (a) apna ladka trying to do too much and landing on his backside, and (b) apna ladka embracing his new identity so completely that he denies his roots. In Jindal's case, it's not so much denial of roots as active hostility towards them. I'm not Indian-American, he would thunder without fail for years any chance he could. Over time, he has actually had to dilute that down to "there are no Indian-Americans or African Americans or Irish-Americans, only Americans". No doubt because someone tapped governor sa'ab on the shoulder and reminded him of the big bucks American desis could be pumping into his campaign. Dollars they wouldn't send his way if he was seen as someone trying to rip his brown skin off at every turn.

And that really is the thing. So complete is Bobby Jindal's denial of his roots, he refuses even to pronounce his own name correctly. So all-engulfing is his belief that his must be nothing short of a white Christian family to truly embrace the American dream, that he all but swipes at his Indian lineage. (Seriously, who pats on so much face powder for a game of Monopoly with the wife and kids?)

But why grudge Bobby Jindal? After all, he's a first generation American desi. He was born there. He made his bones there. Surely he doesn't owe any of us an explanation for his choice of religious identity, political leanings or every-day cosmetics. He doesn't really have any real roots to be nostalgic about, does he? But that's really it: Bobby Jindal is unlike any other Indian-American we've ever seen. I cannot, for one, name a prominent American desi who hasn't, in a manner of speaking, thrown his or her country a bone. A visit, a nod, even some meaningless smiling acknowledgement. It is unfathomable, perhaps, to us that someone who is only a first generation American can be so blithely dismissive of his origins. It just doesn't go down easy. It pisses us off. How dare he?

Bobby Jindal has stirred in many of us that visceral, instinctive irritation. I know it has in me. I've spent the better part of my online time over the last few days heartily embracing the hashtag #BobbyJindalIsSoWhite and looking for ways to bait him as he goes from town to town telling groups at barbeque restaurants why the US Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage is an affront to the Holy Trinity itself. When he isn't sticking his Colgate-perfect family in our faces, he's striking a pose with an assault rifle, just in case someone missed his stance on gun control. (And for the truly dense, he follows up by posing with a shot-gun and waits 'for hunting season!'). His views on abortion would make a priest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints blush. His roaringly contrived "hunt them down" speeches on the Islamist threat make George W seem like Bambi. Don't mistake Governor Jindal. None of this is a joke for him, even if it is for millions of others now.

Attack him for his politics, not his choice of identity, some voices said when Jindal began his biblical final assault on gay marriage last week. "Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that," he thundered on network television, flecks of spittle at the corners of his mouth. Sound bites from his interviews edited into a slow-motion campaign video, that'll rumble on towards the Republican nomination. Let's not kid ourselves: His choices of identity have everything to do with his politics.

But I'll say this for Bobby Jindal. He's made his choice in the land of the free. Even if it's the worst of America.

Last updated: July 01, 2015 | 11:36
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