America is a
melting pot of ethnicities and the recent terrorist attack will go down as a
test of the resilience and tolerance of its people, writes Mohan Babu
By the time
you read this column, the World Trade Center bombing would have become the
talk of so many office gossip sessions that reading another article on this
topic will be passé. I must however pay my homage to the dozens (if not
more) innocent Indians who are still unaccounted for. I am not going to be
talking about the bombing per se but the aftermath, especially for Indians
and those from the subcontinent.
dad wrote to me a few days after the New York bombing, expressing fears of
backlash against Indians. He said, “My daughter has got admission into an
undergraduate course for Fall 2001. Under the present disturbed
circumstances in USA is it advisable to let her continue or bring her back
techie, having lived in the US for over four and half years, and having had
a glimpse of the ethnically diverse melting pot that makes America, I was
initially surprised by his query. However, thinking about his question for a
few minutes, I was able to empathise with a father who was concerned about
his daughter’s safety and wellbeing. It is perhaps with lots of hope and joy
that he had sent his child to the US and watching all the news channels
telecast the gory details of the blast, it is but natural to be concerned
about the safety and wellbeing of one’s loved ones. Adding fuel to the
concerns about safety of loved ones are sporadic reports of backlash on
Indians and other Asians.
The scenes of
bombings and images of ‘alleged’ terrorists including Osama Bin Laden are
repeatedly being flashed across the media — TV, newspapers and magazines are
carrying graphic stories of those “suspected” terrorists. Frequently
watching gory images can either leave a bad taste in the mouth or cause
acute anxiety and anger. Most Americans have, until recently, been shielded
from violence, and images of shootings and killings abroad didn’t seem to
faze them. However, this carnage at home has angered many of them, leaving
some traumatised. Added to this is the fact that many, if not most Americans
are ignorant of foreigners and foreign cultures, and are unable to make out
the difference between a turbaned Sikh and a turbaned Islamic militant being
shown on TV. This leaves some Indians, vulnerable to “hate crimes”.
by-and-large tolerant of foreigners, and historically have welcomed them
with open arms. Most Americans, except for Native Indians, can trace their
roots back to Europe, Asia, Africa or other parts of the globe. The fact
that the government and media moved swiftly to isolate these incidents
proves the resolve of Americans to remain level-headed during tragic times.
They are going to uphold the values upon which this country was founded —
liberty and equal rights to its citizens (should be read as residents, since
most of us in the US, even those with Green Cards and H1 visas enjoy the
same civil liberty rights).
India and reading my column, you are probably wondering what this all means
to you, especially if you plan to move here to work or study or have
relatives or friends here. The fact remains, even though Americans are still
reeling under the aftermath of the attack and the economy is on the brink of
recession, people and businesses will rally around to help rebuild the
nation. Technocrats, academics and thinkers are still going to be in demand.
still be issued to foreigners who have legitimate business in the US,
although the immigration department will be picky about who gets those
visas. Even at the port of entry, there will be stricter controls and
vigilance to ensure that only authorised people enter.
America is a
melting pot of ethnicities and this incident, although it has shaken us all,
will go down as a small blimp that tested the resilience and tolerance of
its people. At the end of the day, what makes America great is the
tremendous amount of economic and business activity taking place here; and
to man and manage the affairs of business, including technologies that keep
businesses humming, they are going to need talented people, even if it means
getting talented foreigners.