Friday, January 23, 2009
Obama From An Indian Point of View
(President Obama's Hanuman lucky charm)
Yesterday I spoke with a woman we will call Harshada, who manages the gas station near my condo. Harshada is from India and she sells me my cigarettes. If there are no lines of customers Harshada and I gossip about life and the news – her behind the bulletproof booth and me in my parka. In spite of these barriers and thermal padding we have some good conversations.
Last night I dropped in on the gas station for some smokes, as a ruse to discuss the Obama thing with Harshada. “You never come this late for things, my friend,” she said, “You are bored, yes?” Yes. So I told her I have been reading international news sites and wanted to know how she felt about the Obama presidency and Hillary’s new appointment as Secretary of State. We discuss these kinds of things.
Harshada immediately focused on Pakistan, because she is eager to find out how Obama will tackle their messes. Also, it is very important to her is that the US has renounced torture. She was impressed with Obama’s reliance on the Army Field Manual guidelines for intelligence gathering. As she was speaking, I tried to think of one US citizen I know who has ever thought about the Army manual. Not even one, is what I came up with. Me either. I felt so stupid.
I double-checked some Indian news sources later, to be sure about a few things, and found a story mentioning Gitmo and the Army manual. Two complete paragraphs about the importance of the Army manual versus waterboarding and torture, which is more than I’ve read in popular US media sources. Perhaps I missed the coverage? It could happen. Regardless, Harshada had more information than I do about the manual. Which might mean that US news sites are lazy about details, or that our pro-troops posturing and righteous indignation is a wee bit under-informed. There seems to be room for a smarter discussion about these bad things Dubya has done.
My friend is enthusiastic about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Me too. The Department of State has been serving as Dubya’s beleaguered waterboy under the direction of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dubya and Condi sent unarmed diplomats and aid workers into Iraq and Afghanistan, despite security conditions (war) that made their jobs an impossible hell.
On Thursday cheering new co-workers – masses of them pressing in, to try and shake hands - met Hillary at the door. “Hillary is going to get some things accomplished. A new era,” my friend said. No doubt.