On issues that matter …

Indian voices in American politics August 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Srirekha @ 7:15 pm
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Mumbai, India-born Dinesh D’Souza, whose name is generally preceded by titles such as ‘conservative scholar’ and ‘public intellectual’, is your every day go-to guy for American media for comments on all things Christian, evangelical and well, Republican.

His opinions, predictable and clichéd at best, suit the media which typically uses him to lend the conservative voice in its attempt to find a balance between liberal, mainstream and conservative commentators. And so, that is where his name has been – in op-ed columns, TV debates and soundbytes.

Recently, however, D’Souza has emerged to claim more than his share of 15-minutes of fame by making a controversial documentary on (or should we say, against) President Obama – essentially an extreme right wing conservative rant that degenerates into a B-grade conspiracy theory – that portrays Obama as living his father’s left-wing, anti-colonist dream.

The documentary titled ‘2016: Obama’s America’, which D’Souza made along with Schindler’s List co-producer Gerald Moren, practically went unnoticed when it was first released on limited screens in July this year.  However, a wider release in August suddenly saw the documentary grossing over $10 million, placing it among the highest grossing political documentaries after Michael Moore’s.

Box office takings notwithstanding, D’Souza is not a very popular man today. And to their credit, even some avowed conservatives have distanced themselves from him and his documentary, with one of them calling him moronic. D’Souza eminently competes here with the likes of hardcore Obama critiques like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck and gives Michael Moore a run for his money on conspiracy theories.

One reviewer said the film:  “… is a sleepy dud, a polemic that, like D’Souza himself, is at once both outrageous and deeply boring.”

A New York Times opinionator called the film “… a long and elaborately produced campaign ad.”  And that precisely is my own conspiracy theory which suggests the timing of the wider release coincides with the Republican National Convention underway in Tampa, Florida, and is perhaps guided and manipulated by political strategists.

While my own take on D’Souza might sound like one coming from a liberal Democrat, I must assure you I have no political affiliations in the United States. I see myself as a passive observer, essentially an apolitical outsider. I must also admit that I have not seen D’Souza’s controversial documentary and am giving my comments based on dozens of reviews in a variety of media.

However, my opinion on D’Souza comes from having heard in the past, his near dogmatic views on politics and religion, which I definitely do not subscribe to.

Looking at the controversy from an Indian angle, we have known that President Obama’s association with Indians dates back to his dorm days at college. Ever since he assumed presidency, he has shown his appreciation for the skill sets of Indian Americans by appointing a number of them to key positions in the Administration and the White House. He is also the first US President to have officially visited India in his first term; as also the first US President to have invited an Indian Prime Minister as his first official state guest.

With the US Presidential elections round the corner, (November), I feel we are looking at a very peculiar situation. What with Governors Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) and Nikki Haley (North Carolina) headlining the Republican National Convention and now D’Souza going ballistic in his documentary, looks like there are more high profile conservative anti-Obama voices being heard from among the Indian American community than those of his supporters.

It does look like Indian Americans, who historically voted Democratic in American polls, are finding their calling in Republican politics.

Srirekha Chakravarty


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