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From: Niranjan Ramakrishnan [e-mail him]
Coming from India, the only country in the world, as someone observed ruefully, which would celebrate the loss of one fourth its territory and one third its people as 'Independence Day', I have often envied the United States for having been blessed with Abraham Lincoln.
The loss of territory and population I refer to is the Partition of 1947.
At the time it was cut into two, India had neither a sovereign state, nor (perhaps on account of not having a state) a leader of Lincoln's mettle.
The Muslim League, demanding a separate homeland for the Muslims of India, decided to show both the British rulers and their main opposition, the Congress Party, a glimpse of its growing clout — calling for what it termed a "Direct Action Day," to be observed on August 16, 1946.
A year later, India had been partitioned and Pakistan created. That left an unhealed wound in India that has festered and drained the country for the last six decades.
Hearing terms like "flexing muscles" and "showing clout" in reference to last month's pro-illegal immigration marches, I was reminded of "Direct Action Day" And when I heard one of the organizers talk of the "Immigrant Boycott Day", he said that immigrants would show "Where America would be without us."
I see parallels between today's U.S. and India sixty years ago.
When the English first dropped anchor in India in 1607 and made their way to the court of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir at Agra, it was the capital of a most fabulous empire.
No one could have suspected that this small band of Englishmen, supplicants begging for a few trading rights, would one day topple the Mughal Empire and rule the subcontinent from the Hindu Kush to the Indian Ocean.
Or consider a story closer to the issue, the European conquest of the Americas. At first, a few explorers came, uncertain of what they would find. In a century, the newcomers were running large parts of the continent, imposing their language and their customs. In three centuries they had captured the country. Native American lives were ruined forever.
This is the definition of "conquest." No one lands on a foreign shore or crosses a border declaring that he wants to rule the country. It always happens over time, and with the unsuspecting cooperation of the natives.
Gandhi challenged his fellow Indians with this truth,
"The English have not taken India; we have given it to them...They had not the slightest intention (when they first came) to establish a kingdom. Who assisted the [East India] Company's officers? Who was tempted at the sight of their silver? Who bought their goods? History testifies that we did all this. In order to become rich all at once, we welcomed the Company's officers with open arms. If I am in the habit of drinking bhang and a seller thereof sells it to me, am I to blame him or myself? By blaming the seller, shall I be able to avoid the habit? And, if a particular retailer is driven away, will not another take his place?"
Similarly might we ask ourselves, "Who encouraged illegal immigration? Who wanted cheap goods at any cost? Who wanted to eat Florida oranges and California peaches at bottom dollar? Who wanted his yard landscaped for a song?"
But there is something else noteworthy in Gandhi's statement. Notice that he talks about the problem of addiction to bhang (a poppy intoxicant).
Whenever I hear someone saying: "...but, for our economy, we need these workers...Americans won't do these jobs, so we need a guest worker program..." This addiction to cheap labor is exactly what Gandhi is talking about.
The lessons of history are obvious. A vacuum of state, usually accompanied by a weak and corrupt leadership, leads inevitably to the eventual disempowerment, sometimes even the subjugation, of a country.
Words can't adequately describe the cheap and tawdry grandstanding by the Senators and Congressman who attended the illegal immigration rallies.
And when Mexican president Vicente Fox publicly demanded a hand in crafting America's immigration policy is followed by President Bush's trip to Mexico to assure Fox that it would be done, it is time to ask, "Where is the American State?"
The short answer: Out of commission.
VDARE.COM note: Niranjan Ramakrishnan was born in India and has lived on the West Coast for over two decades. His columns have appeared in several Indian and American newspapers, and on counterpunch.com antiwar.com and www.commondreams.org.
The full version of this column can be read on Ramakrishnan's