Category Archives: Politics/Diplomacy
Many American soldiers served and died in the various bloody theaters of World War II. They were called upon by the people of America and the wider family of civilized nations around the world to defeat burgeoning, horrific threats to the global order. They enjoined what history has widely judged to be a just and necessary war. Hundreds of thousands of these heroes’ remains were duly brought back home to be buried by their families and friends in somber funeral ceremonies across the 50 states. While those war dead represented the greatest possible sacrifice to country at a critical moment in history, and also a tragic loss for countless communities, at least upon paying the terrible price they received the proper honor they deserved in a final resting place chosen by those who loved them the most after earning victory. In the 1940s and beyond their headstones would be adorned with inspiring inscriptions, soaring monuments, and beautiful flowers, or they could lie next to their brothers in arms in dignified venues such as Arlington Cemetery, their heroism to be cherished by the generations to come and most importantly, never, ever forgotten.
Yet the remains of too many of these brave souls unceremoniously languish even today under remote corners of Indian stone and soil, in the incongruously scenic mountains and fields of Arunachal Pradesh, a Northeastern state riven by contentious territorial disputes between the rising superpowers, China and India.
They were US Airmen whose planes crashed in the heat of battle, and the Great War is still not over for them at all. We have a good idea of exactly who they are and where they lie, but the descendants and friends of approximately 400 men have been innocent victims squarely caught in the crossfire of endless bureaucratic disputes between nations- *nations whose soldiers fought alongside them as allies in WW II, no less.* Government bureaucracies are preventing even basic access to the sites where these men lie, forever young. Meanwhile, challenging and complex as the solutions may be, the United States government has not fought hard enough for a clean resolution, which should disturb all Americans who still benefit from the fruits of the MIA soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice.
As an Indian-American in particular, I feel the pain and helplessness suffered by the wives, siblings, and children who are living and over time, dying without the simple satisfaction of closure that society owes them.
What will it take to right this injustice? Previous editorials in this space by Gary Zaetz, the leader of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action paint a picture of tireless efforts, promising breakthroughs, productive archaeological surveys and digging expeditions, and minor victories on the rare occasion where a limited expedition turns up a small fraction of a soldier’s strewn body parts over 70 years after World War II ended.
The Pentagon has even sponsored a few ceremonies for a few of them. Many journalists, government leaders, and concerned citizens around the world have encouragingly offered support for the cause. But what sticks out most cruelly are the reams of red tape thrown forward by the halls of power in Washington, New Delhi, and Beijing which are stifling progress. Please read these moving editorials by Gary Zaetz here with critical updates to the story published here and here. Please take a few moments to scan the photos of the pilots and crew members, and look straight into the eyes of these young men and their families.
So what are the main challenges today? The key roadblock is the fact that China and India disagree about who the land belongs to, along with thousands of other miles of far-flung border lands throughout the Himalayan Mountain region. The two nations themselves have fought major wars in the 20th century over various little pieces of this turf in tragic pissing matches, with China defeating India badly, along with numerous smaller skirmishes that continue to this day. None of these have served to permanently settle the disputes over territory between these two nuclear weapon-tipped rivals. Hundreds of thousands of troops from both sides uneasily patrol the disputed regions in an ugly stalemate. The United Nations and the international community have been helpless in helping settle the disputes. Under the current postures of the involved nations, China will not allow peaceful expeditions to search for the remains safely behind a security cordon. India, viewing its role in the matter as subservient to wider engagement priorities in dialogue with China, has been unwilling to support the expeditions despite claiming outright that the territory is Indian. Perhaps understandably under the harsh realities, neither China nor India have decided to lead the discovery of American bodies. More vexingly, successive United States governments under administration after administration both Democrat and Republican have not taken full accountability for their own war dead either.
This should not stand. In fact, there is a duly appointed Pentagon office called Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) whose entire mission and reason for being is to find, recover, and repatriate the US military’s MIAs around the world. Unlike MIAs in Vietnam and elsewhere, where it may seem like finding them is sort of a “cold case,” there is more accurate information as to where to look in the case of Arunachal’s MIA soldiers. However, since 2004 communications and efforts of the Families and Supporters for Arunachal’s Missing in Action with the DPAA has resulted in limited progress.
The group has also earnestly reached out to US Senators, Representatives, State Department officials such as multiple US Ambassadors to India over time, senior Indian government officials such as retired Indian military officers, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, media groups, and others. Unfortunately, these communications have largely resulted in finger pointing about who is responsible for the lack of accountability in leading the long-overdue MIA discoveries. Over the last several years I have felt increasingly hapless due to the sea of red tape that has risen up.
We can certainly do better! I have contemplated what simple actions can be taken by concerned readers, regardless of where you live in the world, your politics, culture, or your religious background in the face of what seem like insurmountable challenges as large as the Himalaya mountains themselves. After all, this is purely a humanitarian issue with a potential solution in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel. You can join in by doing the following:
1) Join the Facebook page for the latest updates and offer your support in any way you can to this nonprofit organization, including financial.
2) Reach out with targeted messaging to the relevant government authorities individually, or as part of an organization you belong to such as local VFW or American Legion posts. Feel free to use the content from this editorial or others we have shared here as a guide, such as copying and pasting into emails, letters, or social media:
* The US Embassy to India https://in.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/new-delhi/
* The Indian Embassy to the United States https://www.indianembassy.org/
* The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/
* Your Senator and Congressperson
3) Publish these letters and emails in local newspapers, newsletters, or social media outlets that you have access to.
4) If you can, set up meetings with government leaders who may have the power to assist in finding and bringing home the MIAs of Arunachal Pradesh.
5) Communicate any fresh ideas you might have to usindiamonitor or to Gary Zaetz, as you may think of new angles not yet considered for achieving elusive progress.
If enough people join this fight, the Arunachal Pradesh expeditions can continue apace once again with the approvals of all the relevant authorities- a long and hard slog in its own right so far led by a team including Clayton Kuhles, despite the government resistance. Indian-Americans, other NRIs, or Indians residing in India itself can join with this cause in solidarity. But of course, all comers would be most welcome.
The saddest aspect is that the loved ones of the US war dead will themselves be buried without the satisfaction of burying their own hero family members. This suffering is unnecessary and unacceptable, if there is something that can be done about it.
To some I understand that this may all appear to be such a small and unimportant priority from a long bygone era, when there are so many active problems going on in the world of today. To those, I would respond that if we patriots can’t take care of these little things as a society, then how can we possibly hope to tackle the grand global challenges society faces today?
I look forward to hearing from you on this conundrum.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindamonitor
While browsing the quite engaging war scenarios by the Infographics Show, I came across a video that describes in advanced level of detail what could happen if a potential US-India alliance came to battle a Russia-China offensive. This video is relevant for several reasons. Most importantly, many have come to believe that these two sides present the front lines of the new 21st century “Cold War,” which needs to be recognized as a new world order slowly replacing the previous Cold War and its unstable aftermath we are living through today. This is in fact even the topic of an upcoming novel by usindiamonitor. Secondly, the world needs to prepare for these new alignments.
Is this terrible war scenario likely in the near future? We don’t think so. But we foreign policy mavens should get mentally prepared for what it would look like, and this video does a very good job of laying out the likeliest possibilities in the heat of a battle involving millions of soldiers and affecting billions of human beings. It’s worth watching! If nothing else, you will learn what the capabilities are of these four powerful militaries when thrown onto the chessboard in a time of grave peril.
Can you grin and bear it?
The debate about whether Russia is running the Pervert Orangutan White House Reality Show Zoo along with the entire Gutless Orwellian Party (GOP) from top to tail is entirely moot. It’s over. Done. The takeover is complete. There’s nothing to debate, for anyone with half the IQ of a fancy bear. Which apparently is not too many of us. Our dumb, misinformed, and uneducated asses have been ripe for a rapacious takeover for a while now, and the descent towards authoritarianism shockingly took as long as 242 years before we exchanged the Tory Loyalists of King George III for the Trump #MAGAts of Comrade Putin I. And if we are to be the least bit honest with ourselves, the only real questions ever were whether Russia or China took us over first, and how long that would take- for all that needed doing was easily exploiting above all our glaring inability to protect ourselves in the cyber arena. Because, you know, we isn’t don’t be so good at math and computer stuff, and stuff, or even English, and we sure as hell wouldn’t allow enough Asian immigrants into the country in time to save ourselves. Thanks, decades of retrograde anti-immigrant GOP! Enjoy your gulags of borscht, #MAGAts.
We are at least fortunate that the suspense is finally over. The answers to the takeover race questions are: Winner/2016/Russia. It’s all because to most Americans, science, technology engineering, & math (STEM) are as foreign a concept as shitting into a latrine hole in the ground in the sticks of Djibouti while pirates stand around and watch. We are inured to the realities of the outside world, foolishly thinking that an excessive, clumsy, and creaky 20th century military machine of nukes, ships, tanks, jets, drones, helos, and broken toy soldiers were going to forever protect us when foreign countries’ bad hombres actively lurk in our social media, emails, power grids, military systems, corporate servers, and political party infrastructure in a dystopian tentacle porn equivalent of ass rape. America is super well prepared to fight the next great war using 1973 technology, and decimate all comers! Thanks so much, GOP! Gracias for the trillions of dollars in debt-exploding defense spending, eroding our privacy and freedom, bogging us down in Afghanistan and surrounding countries into year 17 with no mission, no plan, and no end in sight. All the while remaining highly vulnerable to penetration by hostile countries and terrorists while screaming about Muslims. Because, America!
Editor’s Note: The following is a real firsthand account of unfortunate events involving someone I know, which happened in summer 2018. I have watched her grow up since she was born, and this story has filled me with anger. Even worse, she was not the only one. But her response deserves attention. She has courageously fought back against the holy priest and the management of the otherwise outwardly beautiful Mangueshi Hindu temple pictured above, visited by no less than former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter himself (!)
The story has received national media attention in India (links below).
It is high time that India sees the rise of its own powerful #MeToo movement and we are beginning to see the saplings grow as victims bravely engage the patriarchal and supposedly religious systems stacked against them. Ultimately, there is an uplifting future embodied below, if others are inspired to act.
A monumental victory was achieved yesterday, all thanks to my family for fighting tirelessly over the last month for my rights, a lot of strangers for their support, the media all over India who shone light on this issue, and the Indian legal system for ensuring that justice was served against a perpetrator who wronged me. I’m not one for sharing intimate life details with everyone on Facebook, but by my sharing this experience, I hope that others can avoid the same situation.
This past June when I was in India, my family and I made a day-trip by flight to Goa to visit our ancestral temple, as we have been doing at least once a year for as long as I can remember. Single women are not allowed in the innermost sanctum, so I have always sat and watched my parents and brother perform the rites inside. On this particular trip as I was sitting outside the sanctum, our family priest in his 50s, Dhananjay Bhave, beckoned me to the side, grabbed me, and attempted to kiss me. I turned my cheek and body away just in time to avoid him. I told my parents what had happened, and they confronted the priest who then admitted it and requested us not to escalate the matter.
Finding this to be completely repulsive and unacceptable, and yet wanting to preserve the reputation of our family temple, I sent a formal complaint to the management committee of the temple charging Bhave for his behavior, demanding he be fired, and pointing to the CCTV security footage from that area of the temple as evidence. THREE WEEKS later the committee responded saying they would not be taking any action and we were free to take up this case with the ‘relevant authorities’. During this time, we found out by chance that another 20-year old girl from Mumbai had filed a complaint against the same priest for a nearly identical incident 8 days prior to my visit, and had received the same noncommittal response from the temple management. The day after we received their response from the management, my mom filed a police report/ FIR on my behalf with the Goa Police, and a few days later the other girl also lodged another FIR.
Around this same time, the formal complaints which the both of us had written to the temple management went viral on WhatsApp to everyone in the community, and news sources picked it up. Overnight every regional news source in Goa and every national paper all over India was carrying the story. 10 days ago the matter went to court for the first time for Bhave’s bail, where his defense argued that me and the other girl must be conspiring together for publicity and to tarnish the reputation of the temple, and we had mistaken his gentlemanly affectionate behavior for something more sinister. Our public prosecutor argued that me and the other girl had never met (and have still never met) and could have no ulterior motives, and Bhave was already a HABITUAL offender and would possibly target many other girls while out on bail. Yesterday, the judge in Goa gave her verdict of DENYING Bhave’s bail. As of now, Bhave is ABSCONDING from arrest and is yet to go to jail where he now legally belongs. I don’t know where this case will go in the years to come, but for now this court ruling is a big victory for everyone who has been fighting for me and the other girl, and for all the girls who have undoubtedly faced similar experiences at his hands in silence, and the many more who would have suffered in the future if not for this ongoing case.
A few points that I want share about this entire experience for other girls who hopefully won’t, but one day may find themselves in a position similar to mine:
1. A lot of people asked why I didn’t yell or even hit him right when it happened. Or why my family didn’t file a police report in Goa the same day. In the moment, I reacted with shock because I have been raised to have utmost respect for the temple and our priests, and not question many practices associated with them. I was genuinely shocked about what was happening given that this is someone I have seen once a year while growing up. I needed time to process the incident, and my family needed time to decide on the best course of action. In hindsight while I could have reacted differently, I also believe that the actions that have taken place in the last month will have a more permanent impact on the running of the temple and putting a stop to such behavior.
2. “Is this honestly really even a big deal? These things happen all time. Why don’t you just forget about it and move on, that’ll be much easier.” This is actually what makes me the saddest, and is something I’ve heard mostly from women. The bottom line is that nobody can touch me ANYWHERE without my permission. Yes, it would have been easier for me to forget about this incident and move on, but the complacency we’ve come to have as women from facing these sorts of incidents regularly from passersby on commutes etc. is truly depressing. As a result, many women have become desensitized to being taken advantage of, and because most of the time no action is taken at all, repeat offenders continue to get away with it. In this case, Bhave’s perverted behavior stops with me, and I hope in due time, that we develop a no-tolerance policy to such behavior.
3. I have been very fortunate with a lot of factors in my favor: the good judgement to recognize that what was happening that day was in every way wrong, the education and support to take steps to stand up for myself, and that my family has taken this forward. I recognize that not everyone who experiences these things has these resources, but I HIGHLY encourage everyone to at least tell someone they trust. Information is power, and it is only because the secretary of the temple confused our two cases and accidentally told us about the other girl’s complaint that we were able to connect with her family and our case became twice as strong with our joint police reports. It was also by reading the Facebook post of another acquaintance a few years ago, that I remembered that perpetrators are discouraged from doing such acts not by harsh punishments, but by the fear of being caught. It is imperative to trust your gut about how a situation is going and call out such behavior.
4. “It’s a pure reformist attitude and these girls have links to America, and are broad-minded. They are not village girls. This is the new generation of girls” — If you can believe it, this was part of Bhave’s defense attorney’s statement AGAINST me in court. I never imagined these words would be used in a negative connotation, because honestly they sound like the biggest compliment anyone could have paid me. However, what he was implying was that we were too educated and too bold for our own good. Little did he expect that these are the very factors that have now determined that his client belongs in jail.
5. This point should not even bear mentioning, but since it has become a point of debate: A lot of people have questioned what I was wearing that day. Just to clarify, whether it was a prom dress or a saree, Hindu priests never, ever touch any part of a woman’s body. As it happens, the priest’s traditional dress is a simple silk cloth around his waist, and I was wearing a traditional salwar kameez and was covered from head to toe as I am when I visit any holy place, but as I said this detail is totally irrelevant to the case. On a similar note, many (including Bhave’s defense) questioned the caste of the other girl and whether she should have been allowed into the temple in the first place. I can’t even bear to get into how it doesn’t change the actions that the managing committee should have taken when they first received our formal complaints.
6. Lastly, although I took the first step of writing a formal complaint to the temple committee, every step taken in this process since then has been by my parents, my dad’s brothers, and the rest of my extended family in India who have been working round-the-clock to ensure justice. I have been back at med school for the last 3 weeks, and if it wasn’t for their indignation on my behalf and unconditional love, I would probably have given up a long time ago. Countless others have been instrumental in working towards this. Also, in every article about this incident, I have been referred to as a “victim” or the “U.S. based medical student”. Part of the reason I am sharing this whole experience is because I refuse to be the anonymous victim to someone else’s wrong doing. Instead, I will claim ownership over this incident, have ensured that the guilty party has been shamed and punished, and then move on with my own life.
Once again, I am writing this to raise awareness that unfortunately incidents like these are commonplace, even when you least expect it and from people you least expect it. Some people have reacted to my story with disbelief because the perpetrator was a holy priest in the most famous temple in Goa. Many people also expressed doubt that this case would go anywhere because of the power and money behind the temple (ironically donated by many families like ours over many decades). Unfortunately evil can lurk anywhere, but regardless of who it is, you ALWAYS have a voice, options and the rights to never let anyone take advantage of you.
photo credit: alchetron
One of the many pitfalls of our current climate in America is the severe breakdown in identifying causal links between policies and outcomes. All too predictable in a country where science and logic are being trumped by emotions such as fear.
Let’s take an example from the 2018 frame. Forget the raging immorality of separating 3,000 young children from their parents at the US border and throwing them in cages using my hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Is it at least an effective policy?
The answer is of course, no. It ain’t working. We spend billions to protect our borders, billions to prevent illegal drugs from pouring in, and billions more to protect our cybersecurity. But America is a total and absolute failure at all of these aspects of protecting Americans, which is the federal government’s #1 job. American efforts in these areas are a complete joke and everyone around the world knows it. Locking up kids in cages doesn’t work, either.
Emotions are quite simply the reason why we are in the current state we are in. Americans are overall pretty uneducated, misinformed, and ruled by our lizard brains. We elect leaders who are disproportionately crooks that prey upon our emotions. The solution itself is easy: pursue policies that make logical and scientific sense.
I can end illegal immigration in 1 month. Requiring nothing more than manipulating the simple laws of supply and demand. Pass a law that any corporation, restaurant, bar, farm, cab company, family, or individual who employs illegal immigrants will immediately be thrown in jail for 10 years. Go out and arrest them en masse. Such employers are explicitly breaking the law by hiring workers under the table. Yet nobody ever goes after these criminals simply because they come out of the political donor class that fuels both parties.
But, uh, justice is supposed to be blind right? F*** the political donor class. After this swift administration of justice, let’s see if illegal immigration drops dramatically or not. Yes, the president and his family and his cronies would be even more knee-deep in trouble with the law than they already are, because among other projects Trump Tower itself was built by many- you guessed it – illegal immigrants.
Of course the policy will work. The supply and demand curves don’t lie. Illegal immigrants would be unable to find work in America again, and they’d stop coming here soon enough. But good luck keeping the child care, the factories, the farms, the armed services, the restaurants, the cabs, and the food supply running. Those are different problems for different days.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
The sins of 2018 Washington are far more morally bankrupt than we can even know. Today we are witnessing what happens when America abdicates its moral responsibility not only to itself but also to the rest of the world. America is now run by a narcissistic white supremacist sex-tyrant and his two-bit goons who have turned their back on humanity in favor of self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. The mantle of leadership is intentionally being handed off to a Rogue’s Gallery of other tin-pot dictators and hoods more than delighted to jump into the void that such abdication of responsibility has created, to run the agenda for the chaotic new world order. Cabals of oil-soaked Middle Eastern monarchs, racist Brexit douche bags, the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping who just crowned himself Dictator-4-Life, the democracy-cancelling Vlad the Impaler, and North Korean nut job Dear Leader Kim Jong Un are all gleefully ascendant these days, happily purging rivals and journalists without consequence left and right. Even India’s Narendra Modi, who somehow came into power without money or family (the only two things that used to matter in Indian politics) to capture the imagination of a nation and the global Indian, has proven his default factory setting is “Ruthless Strongman.” What a crying shame, all around.
A few of us versed in history already know how this ends. We are experiencing a glitch in the system, and the anti-virus software is taking care of it as we speak. I’ve written before that the last gasp of white male supremacy would go down not with a whimper, but with a prolonged fight and heavy costs. That day is upon us all. A war hero named Robert Mueller has agreed to enjoin this fight. The anti-virus is already working his magic. Mueller has quickly become the most important person in the entire US government apparatus.
Contrast if you will the ethically impeccable actions of this clean-cut boy scout with those of his screwball sewer rat opponents. Whereas a crotchety, curmudgeonly, sexually deviant, and senile old gang of Trump, Giuliani, Stone, and their minions stumble around spewing incoherent brain farts, undisciplined verbal diarrhea and desperate attacks on law enforcement to the media and social media every hour, their nemesis Mueller has not uttered a single word since he dutifully took on by far the most important and challenging job of not only his, but our lifetimes.
Absence any words, there have been loud actions. Well-written and bulletproof indictments, subpoenas, and arrests against Russians and the American traitors who conspired with them will continue to roll out under Mueller’s able supervision of the Legal Dream Team specially assembled for the task. All evidence points straight to the top, and everyone in Washington already knows it even if they pretend not to. Somewhere in the bowels of a nondescript DC office building, a man is quietly toiling, largely unrecognized, on our behalf. That man is all that stands between us and dictatorship right now.
The GOP long ago dropped their soiled pants, bent over, and sold out the country when they selfishly nominated a wannabe dictator to lead them into authoritarian and fascist territory for their own short-term survival, long after they knew he cheated. Meanwhile, the Republican-led Congress is such a heartless, spineless, corrupt and cruel joke in 2018, nobody even pretends that it’s meant to provide a hint of a check or balance on the executive branch anymore. This Congress is the perfect kind of ruse you would love to abuse if you were a dictator masquerading as a f***ing president.
The Democrats are too weak to mount even a feeble unified resistance effort as they continue to fight their own petty internecine wars and struggle to stand for anything coherent, or coalesce around a leader or a vision. Among the options for 2020 are tired old choices such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, both of them likable enough yet constant reminders of how long they have been around the forefront of a hapless and stale losing team.
Sure, #BlueWave in 2018, #Resistance, Get Out the Vote, yada, yada! I even wrote about how I will finally call myself a Democrat for the first time in 2018 out of reluctant necessity. But whatever happens in November, it won’t be good enough to guarantee that the glitch in our system will be wiped so we can finally reboot the laptop once and for all. A blue wave, if it happens, might not be good enough to get an impeachment-worthy majority in both houses, which even a group of undeveloped fetuses swimming the backstroke in a kiddie pool of amniotic fluid should be able to achieve against an avowed dictator’s political party- the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight themselves!- in the US of A in 2018.
Instead we are precariously dependent on an older white Republican man, of all people, so the party who screwed this all up so badly for us can take out their own trash.
All that’s left is our deeply flawed judicial system. Even on its good days, the courts need executive branch prosecutors to bring strong and tight cases forward, because there is zero margin for error on the brink of dictatorship. Robert Mueller is unusually well suited to the pressure and thanklessness of the role he is playing in US history. His findings will be strong enough to end the charade of legitimacy and mockery of justice we have been forced into by 2019. In the opinion of most legal scholars, that work is already done and Mueller is just poking around in search of gravy to strengthen the case further- and those spigots of gravy are spewing all over the map of treason, lies, and cheating as we speak.
The bad guys just don’t get it, and never will. Mueller by all accounts is that rare prominent civil servant driven not by power, money, favor, fame, or glory. He didn’t volunteer for the Vietnam War, or the current one, for any of those reasons. He has no other ambitions beyond this job. The man can neither be bought off, nor scared away. Those more predictable and base motivations drive his small-minded opponents who cheated their way out of war. Refreshingly, Mueller does it because it’s right, though that’s not why he is going to win.
Mueller is going to win because some people are simply better than others. Superior human beings tend to defeat inferior human beings in the long run, even when the losers cheat.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Photo Credit: theintercept.com
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Growing up in the 80s as Indian-American kids with parents from India, many of us often heard rumblings about the mysterious Indian figure Rajneesh, also known as Osho or Bhagwan (God). At dinner parties and picnics, Indian parents and other adults would talk animatedly about this cult of personality and his myriad followers who forcibly parked themselves on an exceedingly white and conservative part of Oregon in the late 70s and early 80s to form a weird religious cult commune.
The hushed tones and liberal use of the language Hindi by adults in those gatherings, which most of us kids didn’t know very well, always denoted to me that there was something deeply sinister going on in conversation about the Rajneeshis. My parents thought that they were being discrete, but using Hindi as a covert device was the biggest dead giveaway that the talk was of nefarious things, and probably involved something called sex, and it had gone awfully wrong. And it sure did make us Indian people look bad throughout that decade on the global stage.
This was an exceedingly unique American story and a touchpoint of its time: mostly white hippy American types by the hundreds falling over themselves to drop everything, move to Oregon, and unconditionally worship the (admittedly interesting) teachings of a brown man from India who presented himself as no less than a God floating around in flowing colorful robes in a fleet of expensive Rolls Royce cars and private jets. Rajneesh was the ultimate figurehead of an American Mega Church movement, if that person was not only considered a God but also a rock star. His core message was promoting the guilt-free enjoyment of materialism, pleasure, and spirituality side by side.
Once I was old enough to know a bit more, the Rajneesh story bored me. It seemed like a typical trope about cultural appropriation of Indian traditions, fueled by Americans and Europeans flocking to ashrams in India to “find themselves” and engage in large sex orgies and liberal drug use in Indian clothes in a misplaced quest for spirituality and personal growth. When the predictable downfall of the highly suspect cult/commune arrived, it all came crashing down with an avalanche of financial embezzlement, illegal surveillance, threats of violence, and the long arm of the law coming down hard in the form of FBI raids and prison sentences. Everything about this just seemed so cliche to me, that I never cared to research too much into it below the surface knowledge I had as described above.
As it turns out I was completely wrong, at least in terms of how interesting and intricate the narrative actually was. Until this spring when I started watching Wild, Wild Country, Whatever little I had picked up about the Rajneeshi cult was more than I cared to know. I had been dismissive of it all. But that changed in one fell swoop, further evidence that a lot of what I think I know, I really don’t after all. It was easy to dismiss these failing sannyasins as a bunch of gullible nutjobs and posers trying to build their own obviously unattainable utopia right here in the United States.
But then a flip switched. Until I recently watched the Wild, Wild Country documentary series on Netflix out of vague curiosity, I learned there was much I didn’t know about the Rajneeshis. I had no idea how big they became, with thousands of members at their peak in numerous outposts around the world. I was especially unfamiliar with the tiny young Indian woman named Ma Anand Sheela, the hand-picked deputy of Rajneesh who effectively launched and then ran the massive communal enterprise of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon with an iron fist. I mean this chick was feisty, fearless, smart, tough as nails, camera-ready, and a formidable manager and leader by any objective measure. She was for some reason empowered by Rajneesh to lead the vast religious, political, and sociological experiment, and managed to accomplish large things within a few short and eventful years.
Wild, Wild Country is absolutely fascinating and so is its subject. It has certainly earned its 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Built upon many hours of original archival footage, it shows not just a commune but an entire city government being built from the ground up in rural Oregon, surrounded by communities who downright despised the Rajneeshis to pieces. Suddenly an airport, roads, farms, homes, buildings, police force, defense force, city hall, and city council rose from empty land through the sheer will of the Rajneeshis, their collective sweat equity and organizational acumen. This intrigued the city government official in me. They built something special. The cult even began to perpetuate their own laws and justice proceedings, somewhat akin to a Native American tribal reservation, within the United States but somewhat separated from it. They sure had balls.
And the problems started right there. Predictably, a minor war ensued between the suspicious locals and the passionate Rajneeshi cult members who were performing all manner of rituals in their little city, and rubbing their newfound wealth, power, and peculiar culture in your face. Copious amounts of interviews were filmed in the modern day with some of the people involved from opposing angles, including conservative local retirees who hated the foreign influences they were seeing around them, law enforcement personnel who were eventually called upon to investigate the cult, and several key Rajneeshi members including Ma Anand Sheela herself calmly explaining the history of the downright bizarre events that permanently shaped all of their lives during that period some four decades ago. This stuff is stranger than fiction.
The documentary series spends far more airtime on Ma Anand Sheela, her tight inner circle, and her wheelings and dealings than the overall leader Rajneesh. After all it was she who ran the nuts and bolts of the movement, while Rajneesh seemed to just float through the scenery sort of above and outside of it all, saying and doing little of consequence. The filmmakers were wise to do this. Though I wish I could have seen more about Rajneesh and where the hell he came from, and what the hell it was this fraudulent Indian con man did all day, Sheela is a far more complex, interesting and intriguing character in this play. She was no doubt a true believer.
Even if you know how the story ends, the journey holds many plot twists, escalating conflicts, outright danger, and thrilling moments leading up to climax. There is plenty of well-timed suspense. During some parts of the 6 episodes, it almost felt like I was actually there immersed in the city of Rajneeshpuram during that time in history. The townspeople splinter amongst themselves. The Rajneeshis also suffered epic meltdowns and schisms within their ranks, some self-inflicted and others by force of outside influence. Although many of the key figures come across as batshit crazy at times, on both sides of the war, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for both perspectives as much of the conflict falls into the gray fog between what was right and who was wrong.
As for Ma Anand Sheela, she goes through a long and most wonderful metamorphosis worthy of comparison to a butterfly, and the series documents this arc well. It is in fact near impossible to reconcile what she was, to what she later in life became. And this may be the best part of all for those who believe self-improvement is possible. It is a phenomenon within the Rajneeshi phenomenon that I came to learn more about them despite my own chauvinistic blinders.
I encourage all of you to drop everything else in your queue and enjoy Wild, Wild Country.
*Writer’s note: Credit Bill Maher and his guest, historian John Meachem, for briefly discussing on Friday what the founding fathers may have thought of the current nightmare American government has morphed into. Meachem cleverly insinuated that the fathers might have actually been surprised that it took THIS long to get a tyrant into power. This got me thinking, and writing.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
GW = George Washington;
TJ = Thomas Jefferson;
BF = Benjamin Franklin
The three men are seated in a bar on M Street, Georgetown, in Washington, DC, May 2018, sipping ale
GW: Want me to be frank? Honestly I feel energized… Oh glorious day! Finally, Americans will have the chance once again to fight a tyrant who endeavors to rule over them and once again, prove their mettle to the world! What luck for the citizens of 2018 to be born into an era on the razor’s edge between democracy and dictatorship not seen for so long, not since 1776. 242 years of laziness and complacency have not the Republic served well.
TJ: George, as per usual proving much the indefatigable and overconfident jock…always relishing, nay, spoiling for the next fight. Your masculinity and raging hormones at times cloud your judgment, methinks. And the Yoda thing, you’ve been watching too much Star Wars lately, Sir.
BF: Speaking of. My labs are quite close to reverse engineering a portable light saber, which may one day yet prove fruitful to my secret Jedi contacts at the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM).
TJ: But you do digress, Benjamin.
BF: Indeed, but I do digress from your very own digression. Digressions and transgressions are those aspects of our personalities which make us human, Thomas. Embrace them like the polymath you are.
TJ: Benjamin, ever the philosopher. Coming back to this tyrant, this Pervert Orangutan of sorts.
GW: This tyrant who lies in bed eating cheeseburgers two miles away from us will be defeated by the institutions and systems we put into place to check and balance just such a vile figure. We were brilliant in our framings and ruminations in the late 18th century.
TJ: You are quite upbeat, old chap. But what if the tyrant beats the patriots this time and our little experiment goes to shit within just 242 years? What if he succeeds in cancelling democracy?
GW: Did I sit around crying in the freezing winter cold of Valley Forge, my men dying of hypothermia and lacking even food rations or shoes, obsessed by the specter of defeat, allowing my troops to witnesseth my mourning in my own depression well before anti-depressant pills were even invented?
BF: Bravo, George. But let us not underestimate the lengths I went to in Paris, wining and dining my way across town and wooing all manner of ladies to gain the trust of the Versaille court and bring France to our cause.
GW: Such hardships you had to overcome, Benjamin. Without exploring the cracks, one will not find the Liberty Bell that today does yet ring so sweet and true, eh?
BF: We aren’t so different, you and I. George, you are a born pugilist and I, a natural diplomat. One hand washes the other.
GW: We also happen to agree that light sabers are fabulous, and of the highest order of importance is their speedy production without delay for our soldiers at arms.
TJ: We seem to have a political party, the Repugnicans, that is somehow fallen in line 100% behind the tyrant and his dictatorial tendencies. Those within the party ranks who speak out are raked over the coals most cruelly and unusually.
GW: Didn’t we ban such punishing behaviors in the outset?
TJ: Tell that to the boys of Abu-Grab!
BF: In seriousness, perhaps the threat of gravest import is the number of our American descendents who are so willing to support the tyrant no matter what he does. He could shoot a person on 5th Avenue, but the sheep would still follow. Some citizens seem to have forgotten the value of democracy, voting rights, human dignity, a free press, and facts. Without these, our little experiment could be dead in the water.
TJ: These fools stand at 40% of the adult population only, and not enough to maintain the corrupt tyranny for long.
GW: Let us be honest with ourselves, Sirs. WE too, miss our slaves.
BF: Of course. But most people moved on long ago, while some others did not, especially in those pesky former southern colonies built on cotton, tobacco, and loathing.
GW: The institutions led by patriotic Americans will always win against the wannabe tyrants. We baked it into the system. We will see victorious patriots winning the elections, marching in the streets, gaining the upper hand in courts, and in general waking up the country to the potential for possibility and progress.
TJ: What will become of those supporters of the tyrant who witness their pipe dreams of white male supremacy and retrograde social rules cruelly dragged along and dashed to the ground once and for all?
BF: Who cares about what happened to the loyal deputies of King George who wanted to see US lose? Their time on the wrong side of history too shall soon come to pass in front of the world.
All of my life, I had heard about the concept of depression from other people, but it always appeared to me as a foreign object that I would struggle to understand. People I know over the years would talk about their depressions or nervous breakdowns, or those of their own family members and friends. But I would be on the outside looking in, like watching it snow inside a snow globe but not understanding what it would be like to get 5 feet of snow dumped on top of my head and stay buried under it.
All that would change. November 8, 2016 started out great enough. As a New York City civil servant, I got election day off that day, just like I had every year. I woke up on that nice fall day in Brooklyn and went to vote at a school in my awesome neighborhood called Cobble Hill. There was a beautiful five year old girl waiting in line with her mother, and on my way out she asked her mom if she could get an “I voted today” sticker that she saw on people’s shirts. Just as her mom told her it had to be earned by adults who voted, I gave the little girl my own. I felt great and so did the little girl.
It was a happy moment for me, and the first of many on the day. I hung out for the rest of the day off with my good friends in the hipster enclave of Red Hook, joking, laughing, eating, drinking, walking, talking, flirting with strangers, and trying to soak in the fact that within a few hours, America would finally vote in its first female president in history.
By 11pm that night, I went into a state of physical and mental shock. I exchanged a set of WhatsApp messages with my close relative, who was sitting on a beach in India and drinking beers early in the morning, India time, seeing the same live US election results that I was. Indeed, he had predicted Trump’s victory months earlier, but I refused to entertain even a hint of that thought. “Are you doing okay?” he asked. For the first time in my life, after quick consideration I responded to him with the honesty that a close relative and friend deserved: “No,” I replied.
It sounds cheesy to say this when so many people have worse problems than me, like painful stages of cancer, dead children, blindness, or missing legs. Plus I am by no means alone in falling into a dark abyss late in 2016. But I had to admit to myself that my world had shattered. Many others probably felt as bad or worse, for example those who worked on Hillary’s election campaign and were cheated out of victory.
But I can only speak for myself. I finally learned what depression meant, the hard way, as I mourned the end of America as we knew it. It was like a family member I loved dying. My optimism, which always drove me for 36 years of life was melting away in real time. I went from an optimist to a cynic. And being unused to cynicism, I found out for the first time that it’s a very hard way to live.
I have always had jobs since my 16th birthday, and I always worked hard. But on November 9th, 2016, I could not do a single shred of work properly. I sat and largely stared at my computer screen. My body felt frozen. My mind was numb. I couldn’t focus for more than three minutes at a time. I was surrounded by colleagues who were going through the same thing, and on this particular day, it was considered acceptable and almost predictable to be useless and unproductive. After all, most of us lived and worked together in New York City. We knew the criminal scumbag con man Trump better than anyone else did. It wasn’t us who voted that charlatan and his evil family in, it was the rest of the country’s fault. Not that it made us New Yorkers feel any better.
The next few months were painful as I descended into feeling hopeless and helpless about the world, and wondering what the point of it all was if we were headed toward destroying humanity and our planet anyway at some point soon. Family members and friends were feeling many of the same cynical things and didn’t offer a way out. I burned. I started giving up on trying to be healthy, or caring about current events, or the future. Classic depression type symptoms. And I was smart enough to know it.
But then something happened. By February 2017 we began seeing the flickering glimmer of a path towards takedown and impeachment, which I am now confident is inevitable. I went through a few dark and deep spiritual experiences in this period of time. My optimism gradually and slowly re-emerged, like a glorious Phoenix from the ashes of the very fire that had burned me.
I got serious about writing fiction, something I had been talking and thinking about since I was 12 years old. I entered a fiction contest on a whim and got second place. I became active on Twitter, starting arguments and rants and making jokes, and it all felt therapeutic during a hard time. I started donating to political campaigns, and signing petitions. I regained some of the joy and fun in dating, which had been absent for several years since my divorce, a period when I viewed dating as a chore and a bore. I initiated a serious job search process, which resulted in me moving out of New York City to Wisconsin to take on a new job, career trajectory, and life in an extremely different place. I began playing the tablas again after a 20 year hiatus. I began playing the drum set again after a 20 year hiatus. And between 2017 and early 2018, I finally completed a first draft of my novel manuscript.
If I were to blame Trump for feeling depressed, it would only be fair to assign my nearly pathological quest to improve myself in isolation on an island while the world was falling apart all around me, to his specter too. I was forcibly stuffed into a dark place by a monster. I feel that I have clawed my way out of the hole. Shouldn’t the monster get at least some of the credit too?
I believe so. And I also think that other people, and the national conscience as a collective may be able to do the same, and use the sorrow and hate and rage and depression to their advantage, and our advantage. Donald Trump, his supporters, and all of the evil that they represent can be viewed as a giant stress test– on you, on me, on the country, and on the world. Assuming we survive the stress test, we will be better off. That which does not kill you will make you stronger.
I feel like I am living proof of that. Now, when the idiot tweets something, threatens somebody, lies about something, bombs somewhere, or goes golfing while the world burns, I don’t give a shit like I used to. I ignore it. He is too dumb to be worth my time. SCREW HIM. It’s up to the creaky system now. Let the old white Republican men like Comey, Mueller, Rosenstein, Flake, Corker, and McCain take out their own trash.
I’m going to be over here, working on becoming a constantly new and improving version of myself. Thank you. I mean that sincerely for helping me become a better man. I am using you like the tool that you are.
-Mahanth S. Joishy
Indian-Americans tend to be loyal to the United States. They generally work or study, raise their families, and peacefully go about their business as doctors or cab drivers or hotel owners. Some sign up to be in government (like me) or the military. They tend to be liberal, but they do float across the political spectrum. They win almost every spelling bee.
Rarely will you find an Indian-American shooting up a school, joining a gang, starting a supremacist militia, or getting recruited by ISIS or Al-Qaeda. While these things might occur, they happen at far lower rates than with other diasporas. Most people credit education and family structure for these things, like with other successful communities.
Therefore, when someone from our diaspora commits active treason against the United States, it becomes sort of a big deal because such cases are so few and far between. Dig and scrape through the archives back to 1776, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find what’s right in front of our faces today. I present to you Exhibit A, the deplorable White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Raj Shah, a traitor not just to Indian-Americans like Bobby Jindal is, but to the United States itself.
Unsurprisingly for a Trump appointee, Raj is reckless. His DWI conviction for a booze-soaked BMW ride in New Mexico got him fired from a political job in 2010. Want to bet that the time he got caught was the only time Raj went a-boozin’ and a-drivin’? Perfect fit in this administration full of boozers, wife-beaters, racists, traitors, misogynists, money launderers, gangsters, and perverts, right?
Now we don’t use the word *traitor* lightly, and not all of those cursed souls in the White House deserve that label. Only the ones outright lying to cover up crimes against the United States, like Shah’s disgusting boss, Sarah Huckaberry Colonel Sanders whom the guy must have learned so much from. He has been fortunate to learn from the very worst. On February 8th, Shah gave her the day off and fumbled through a press conference about the administration’s extremely poor handling of wife-beater Rob Porter’s employment, and worse, personally defended Porter himself repeatedly. Shah embarrassed all Indians around the world that day. On top of it all, he was an overmatched, unprepared blathering idiot on the podium: he was not even good at being a bad human being.
But the treason against the United States has taken place in relation to Russia. Shah is knee deep in the #TrumpRussia scandal, defending his boss’s illegal activities time and again, hyping up the obstructive Devin Nunes memo, casting aspersions on the Steele dossier, and repeating wing nut nonsense about FISA warrants, all of which smells very much like obstruction of justice.
Congratulations, Raj. You are the biggest Indian-American traitor in US history. I hope you go down hard along with your false idols Colonel Huckaberry and Captain Bonespur.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
PS: Nikki Haley today saved herself from joining the Indian-American treason this week by squarely blaming Russia for the chemical terrorism in the UK. Raj, it’s not too late to get on the right side of history.