My Lunch With Sumi

Most of the people – software developers and architects – on the team I’m working with are from India. I took one of them out to lunch today – a new engineer named ‘Sumi’ (actually it’s much longer than that and I’d probably spell it wrong if I tried). She’s Telugu, one of he subpopulations of India related to the Tamil, and because she’s an intelligent and attractive young woman, she’s somehow managed to meet quite a few Americans in the four months she’s been here.

At lunch she talked about them, and was asking me in amazement “Why is it that when I talk to these young people, they are ashamed of being Americans and they tell me that they wish they were Indian? Do they know what it’s like to be Indian? I am Indian, and I love India, but after being here for a little while I think I love America better.”

I asked her why. “Is it the money? I know that you can do better economically here.”

“No,” she explained. “I actually took a cut in pay to come here. I was a manager back in Bangalore. I like it here because here I am free to be what I want to be, and not what my father or my aunts want me to be. I can follow my own heart and feel like I am making my own life for myself.”

Welcome to America, Sumi. Personally, I’m glad you’re here.

(note that these are quotes as close as I can remember them from 15 minutes ago)

34 thoughts on “My Lunch With Sumi”

  1. Perhaps because of transnational-progressives? Nice title. But for me, the same wolf in a different killed sheep’s clothes. Communism, Nazism, Statism…collectivism. I tried to dig down to find the link you guys posted, but basically—really to lazy.
    I’m a simple man, with simple needs. I need to shape the prism to reflect the current war.
    For me,it does come down to individualism versus collectivism. It comes down to people being responsible to the state, or the state being responsible to the people.
    It comes down to the battle we’ve fought throughout history.
    Fu*ckiyama….a battle that continues.

    If we get over the small issues, the “knife fights” in the greater conflict (abortion, guns, education…the internal conflicts) I think we’ll find the answers to questions posed by MJ Totten (Lib) and Vodkapundit (Con).
    Politics, to be Dylanesque, “are a’changing.”
    It’s the reason cats and dogs are living together.

    But I need to answer this post, don’t I? Why are they ashamed? Education, ignorance, and an application of todays standards to yesterdays wrongs, equaling a need for tomorrow’s corrections.
    Go read the post on transnational-progressives.
    And cringe.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. I’m glad she and others like her are here, too.

    From what you describe, sounds like she’s expressing something similar to Ramesh Ponnuru, at least when it comes to what’s so great about America and astonishment at the number of Americans, especially young ones, who have been brought to lack any regard for the country.

    As for her question; the answer is the internal rot caused by the Long March Through the Institutions, to the point where people, young people who lack any real knowledge of the world and of history independent of what they are told by the people now running those establishments, are presented with a skewed account of things.

    I only wish we had more people like Sumi who might help us recover our lost faith in ourselves.

  3. This is a typical story and that’s indeed what draws immigrants to America. I’ve heard in particular the individual freedom theme expressed by women from societies that are not that big on women’s rights.

    But I also think that the so-called “transis”, “multiculturalists” and “blame America crowd” get a bit of a bad rap, or at least are much misinterpreted. Is she here because of the transnational progressives? Maybe in part. If you think of the transis and multis as part of a socialist international collectivist movement, then you’ll probably say “no”. But if you think of them more as an extreme expression of protestant liberalism, then maybe the answer is different. I am referring more to the self-flagellating America-bashing leftists than than the anti-Americanists abroad, who I regard as having little in common.

    The transis and multis may be far more indebted to distinctly American traditions of liberal capitalism than they (or their adversaries) might imagine.

    It may be an inevitable side effect of living in our great open society with its traditions of questioning state power and institutions that we have to put up with vomiting idiots on stilts in the streets of San Francisco (who apparently wish they were Indians).

  4. The net is changing everything.

    The filters are off.

    Kind of like taking LSD. It destroys the filters in the brain we have used to construct our universe.

    At one time journalists had control of the news. Now it is individual to individual.

    I can’t think of anything more liberating in the long run. Globalization has just begun.

    The break up of very large old cultural patterns is underway.

    The invention of the blog is going to be regarded as one of the earth shattering greats. Unfiltered information.

  5. I don’t really understand why anyone would say they’re ashamed to be an American. Assuming that some of the people she’s talking to are Indian-American (or Jewish), I can understand the desire to move to a country where you’re part of the ethnic majority rather than a minority, but I cannot understand why someone would say “I’m ashamed to be an American”.

    I think for starters, that sentiment betrays an ignorance of the world and of history. I have an email which has been in an unfinished state for a few months(to you, AL, come to think of it). Here is an excerpt: ” . . .At any given time in history, the most wealthy and powerful country becomes the model for other countries to emulate. First think about a world where a young Nigerian or Indian, or Brazilian, burning with ambition to make their country great, respected and esteemed in the eyes of the world, tries to make their country more like the USA. Now imagine a world where that model to emulate is instead- as it very possibly could have been- Nazi Germany; Stalin’s, and even Kruschev’s and Brezhnev’s, Russia; Pre WWII Japan; in the future, an economically and militarily powerful Chinese autocracy which grants some economic, but very little social, political, intellectual or judicial freedom. . .”

    On an absolute scale, of course you can come up with any number of legitimate reasons to be critical of your country. But if you’re grading on a curve, as you should, I don’t understand how someone can say “I’m ashamed to be an American”.

    I have absolutely no desire to dump on India, but it is perhaps appropriate to mention that after suffering a Muslim terrorist attack in Gujarat, there was a week of rioting and thuggery where hundreds of innocent Muslims were killed. That simply could not have happened in America, and that should be a source of considerable pride.

  6. roublen –

    I think she’s seeing on the ground what a bunch of us have been talking about as anti-Western beliefs (beliefs that define themselves as being against modernity and the West) are carelessly held by young Americans (the folks she was discussing were apparently just Californians, like me) and how they express themselves in dealing with a foreigner – “I wish I wasn’t an American, I’m disgusted by America, India is so spiritual, etc. etc.”


  7. I still believe there is a fundamental flaw in analysis and understanding in conflating domestic and foreign anti-Americanism under the label “anti-Western”. To give but one example, I know a great number of French Trotskyites who are rabidly anti-Western, anti-Capitalist and, above all, anti-American. They are hardly anti-Western, they may be transnationalist more in a multilateralist (or socialist international) sense, and I have yet to meet one who qualifies as a multiculturalist.

    The similarity to U.S. leftist Berkeley-style multiculturalists is quite superficial. I would again emphasize that the latter follow a distinctly American tradition of puritanical self-flagellation which partakes of a different sort of fantasy world. I think this also is a distinction with a difference.

  8. As I recall the boomers started out being down on America too, their minds full of crazy ideas and such. They took us down a pretty rough road. Can you deny that we’re in a better place now than we were in the 60’s?

    Give these kids a break! All Yougsters are idealists! They’ll get things sorted out eventually. There still figuring out what they stand for. Let’s not smack ‘em with reality to hard. Realism is for when you’re old! Po-Mo claptrap won’t hold then back for long. Just watch.

    Is it a bad thing that they consider the well being of a ‘damn foreigner’ to be of as much value as their own? This makes my heart soar. Surely, I’m not the only one to see this… Jefferson said it best… “We hold these truths to be self evident, that ALL men are created equal…”. THAT’s the reason people want to come here. We say it and we mean it.

    We’re in for a wild ride over the coming years. Now, who doesn’t think our destination will be better?

  9. Actually, Gabriel, I’ll claim that there are very specific common roots that both (the French Trotskyite and the Berkeley ‘black mask’ wearer) share. I’ve talked about it a fair amount, and I’ll suggest that there is an intellectual path that goes back through Adorno, Fanon, et al and ends up today with Fish on one side and Qutb on the other.

    Personally, I see the deepest roots in the European Romantic tradition, as dissected by Berlin. But I don’t doubt that there are others.


  10. I should add that the only other Western country that I can think of off hand that manifests and has a tradition of self-critical reflection regarding DOMESTIC international policies are the British. The British left, like the American left, also share the condescending view that the rest of the population (the non-believers) are ignorant and usually under the malevolent influence of the capitalist media.

    This ideology also correlates with the two societies that I can think of that are both (and probably not coincidentally) the most open, inclusive and multiculturalist. I think this is probably an Anglosphere phenomenon on the Left that does not have a counterpart in Continental Europe or the Third World.

  11. AL-

    I don’t dispute there are common roots (and I’m thinking entirely out loud here). But there are clear cultural distinctions. The American leftist gets along well in French company – they are interviewed on TV and radio all the time here – because he criticizes his own country, the evil in its policies, and the stupidity of its people, while praising the wisdom of the French, thereby reinforcing his (French) viewer’s worldview, as well as his own. As French foreign policies (of which he will know nothing) are self-evidently immoral, I can only conclude that his and his viewers underlying motivations have to do with reinforcing some sort of fantasy needs.

    My suggestion is only that his and his viewers needs (and respective worldviews) actually have distinguishable roots, even if there are shared references.

  12. José Bové is both an international leftist cult figure and a traditional French anti-Semite and appeaser. Shared themes, different roots.

    And where is the French Robert Altman? or the Italian one? or the German one?

  13. I should add that I think Lurker is closer to my point, which I admittedly am having trouble thinking through. But I think there is something there. There’s also the utter superficiality and provincialism of American loony leftist thinking, which somehow doesn’t fit in with its European variety.

  14. Well, I’ll agree that the European looney left has deeper roots than the US variety; but its’ also more restrained, I’d sugegst because of it’s very real ties to labor and access to the corridors of power (one reason why they have an easier time being somewhat nationalistic – the other being that they are weighing in against ‘the man'; it is in opposition ot power that one finds liberation, etc.)…


  15. Yes, AL,

    But look how closed Continental European societies are, how racist and exclusionary they are, and how much they are in denial about it. The European left are all for the defense of the labor unions, but immigrants? discrimination? tolerance? The Republic Party is more progressive on these issues than the European left (with the exception again of Great Britain).

  16. The New Left which is setting the tone that these kids are following contributed nothing of value in the ’60s, only destruction; they try to claim credit for the Civil Rights Movement, but again that is attempting to infiltrate something that at the time they were not onboard with; MLK, for them, was unacceptable because he was trying to get America to integrate Blacks within a system that the New Left despised and thought should be torn down. This is all largely forgotten now because of a successful propaganda campaign waged to slip that down the memory hole and produce a new account.

    But then, they were wearing “Free Huey” buttons where now their successors wear “Free Mumia” buttons and expounding theories about how America’s Blacks were our version of the Lumpen Proletariat who would spark the Revolution to tear down America.

    Yes, they were “idealists” – but “Idealism” can be idealism for anything – including totalitarian dictatorships and terrorists. The positive vibe surrounding the term “idealism” is also the result of a successful propaganda campaign to get people to stop thinking about what the content of that idealism is. It’s become a Newspeak term, stripped of that which might cause people to do more than Duckspeak on the subject, same as with the phrase “Peace Movement”.

    Idealistically ignorant – and rather purposefully so, in the sense that they are products of a rather concious strategy to “educate” people about the ways in which Western, free-market Democracy and especially the American expression of it – is to be loathed and condemned so that they will eventually create a Brave New Tranzi World in its place – is not automatically a positive thing.

    Also, “PoMo claptrap” holds people back regardless of whether they buy into it or not, because of the “opportunity costs”. Yes, young people, including very thoughtful young people, have a hard time grasping some of the things that they end up realizing they’re missing, precisely because they’ve been mis-educated; when they could have been learning something valuable and useful, they’ve instead had to take courses in bogus thinking that brings them back, in effect, to the pre-Ibn Rushd mentality and thus makes it harder for people to reason through things.

    IMO, and perhaps just IMO, this is a key point: so-called “Progressives” are really severely reactionary, opposing modernism and rationality and undermining it. This is very concious and was something outlined in a Grand Strategy by the scholars of the Frankfurt School and their successors in the New Left (“we’ll get you through your children”), adopted by Post Modernist radicals and their proteges and has been achieved through the Long March Through the Institutions, by which they transmit their idealistic vision of tearing down the society they despise, brick by brick, to “burn this mother down” because of its supposedly uniquely iniquitous nature.

  17. Porphy,

    I agree and disagree. I can’t say that people like Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem or Julian Bond made no contribution, and they were progressives. I also hardly think that MLK would have gotten very far with the likes of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace.

    It is true that the great mass (and masses) of sixties mostly anti-Vietnam war leftists represented the worse sort of superficial “idealist” feel-good easy-think. People like Jerry Rubin and Abbey Hoffmann, not to mention the Weather Underground and the Simbionese Liberation Army, and worse still in a way: the millions of the tag-alongs, the pedestrian self-described communists who went to prep schools and Ivy League colleges before “selling out”. I’m not sure that I could say however that they made NO contribution inasmuch as the former may not have accomplished what they did without the latter. (I’m not going to nitpick on the legacy here – for example, whether you are for or against affirmative action – but there were positive aspects to the legacy, which was real.)

    I do not think that the general consensus that we have today on matters of race, women’s rights, sexual orientation, etc. occurred spontaneously or would have otherwise been championed by, say, Ronald Reagan.

  18. G.G. wrote:

    I agree and disagree. I can’t say that people like Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem or Julian Bond made no contribution, and they were progressives. I also hardly think that MLK would have gotten very far with the likes of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace.

    You’re confusing the Hard Leftists who have tried to steal credit for Liberal accomplishments in the ’60s with the Liberals who’s accomplishments are being stolen.

    Radicals made no serious contribution to the achievements of racial and gender equity within the system those radicals then wanted destroyed and now want destroyed. Radicals sneered in contempt and derision at those who were working within the system rather than exploiting those situations to attack the country’s institutions They only then later tried to claim credit for the accomplishments of efforts that, at the time, they really opposed.

    It’s a truism that has been lost now, since it’s been buried in Orwellian accounts of the era, that the true target of the radical Left in the ’60s was not conservatives such as Goldwater, but Liberals; what happened is “the winners wrote the history books”, and since the New Left won in assaulting the Liberal establishment, they have revised history, airbrushing themselves into pictures they were absent from.

    I’m not sure I would count the ’60s Nader as a radical (which he is today); perhaps similar with Bond (though more murkey here); Steinem has been and remains a radical aimed at “Long March” and Fabian tactics; to the degree to which you have a point with her it is the degree to which she was able to mask her more radical bent in order to weasel her way into things. Even then, I give her more credit for rhetorical bombast than for doing the heavy lifting that actually advanced things. After all, she’s one of those people who rants about our patriarchal society and the like, not having any sincere interest in seeing women advance within its context so much as wanting to see it overturned and a new (Socialistic-Utopia) put in its place.

  19. The problem with your account on the face of it, G.G., is that you’re buying into the hype that the Left and Liberals are the same thing – something, by the way, that people often admonish conservatives to fail to distinguish between.

    I don’t make that error; when I speak of the Left, I’m not speaking of JFK or even LBJ. I’m speaking of the people who have accomplished the Long March Through the Institutions and who are able to pretend they are Liberals when it is to their benefit, but aren’t and know it, and who overthrew the Liberal “Establishment” and then claimed its accomplishments for themselves when it is to their propagandistic advantage to do so.

    But I know enough about the history of the era to know better.

    Regarding how far people may or may not have gotten with or without the legislation and help of the Liberals, that’s a matter that can be debated another time I suppose, but I’ll refer you to the works of Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams for studies of trends and the impact of ’60s-era Liberal legislation on them, for good, no effect, and ill. But one thing is true: Liberal aims and ideals were not those of the New Left, for all that today’s New Leftist account of things attempts to blur the distinction and erase it, to drop their true statements and actions down the memory hole and have their Winston Smith’s write a new one in their Ministries of Information.

  20. That sounds more like a portrait of Germaine Greer or Shulamith Firestone or Kate Millet or Mary Daly than Gloria Steinem. In fact, Steinem and Betty Friedan were liberals who were attacked by the radicals in the feminist movement for becoming media stars, i.e. “aping the patriarchy.” Steinem is very middle class.

    The same sort of attacks on liberals by the Hard Left went on within the feminist movement – it was called “trashing.” Women who were naturally self-confident and articulate, and who therefore became spokeswomen, were accused of oppressing their sisters who didn’t have those skills, because the feminist movement was going to “unlearn patriarchal oppressive behavior” by eliminating competition and heirarchy, making everyone equal in result.

    The earlier feminists who agitated for equality of law and opportunities for women to achieve success in mainstream society were trashed by the women who thought anyone who wanted a mainstream life in a capitalist society was “brainwashed by patriarchy” and betraying her female self. Thus the women’s movement replicated the Black Power/Civil Rights split and the increasing radicalism of the New Left.

    I know – I was on the sidelines but following the arguments in the feminist press at the time.

  21. 1) That’s more of an effort to confuse the issue; internecene strife among varieties of Leftists have always been the most bitter feuds. But ultimately, birds of a feather. Betty Friedan, for example, was a Marxist and her book was part of a Maskirovka to advance a Marxist take.

    2) “Steinem is very middle-class” is a non-sequiter; these people were *TYPICALLY* middle-class or better, hardly any of them came from the proletariat. It’s one of the filthy little secrets of the Left that they’re really the middle and upper class posing as the underclass. Just as with the Vanguard today, who are typically members of academic and literary professional classes, not of the Damned of the Earth.

    The rest of what you say reinforces my point, though, regarding the Left today attempting to expropriate credit for the accomplishments of the Liberals they fought tooth and nail then.

  22. “The problem with your account on the face of it, G.G., is that you’re buying into the hype that the Left and Liberals are the same thing.”

    I’m not sure how you infer that given the distinctions I make.

    Anyway, re: Nader, Bond, Steinem et al., I am referring to them in their context.

    Your mis-take may stem from my mis-take on what was meant by “so-called Progressives”.

    As for airbrushing, taking credit, and the supposed victory of radicals over liberals, I’m not sure how you can maintain those positions given that the political spectrum has moved, with the baby boom, quite a bit to the right (notwithstanding current events).

  23. I’m not sure how you infer that given the distinctions I make.

    You didn’t make them sufficiently there.

    As for airbrushing, taking credit, and the supposed victory of radicals over liberals, I’m not sure how you can maintain those positions given that the political spectrum has moved, with the baby boom, quite a bit to the right (notwithstanding current events).

    Easily, because that’s a non-sequiter; the events of the era may have something to do with the political spectrum moving to the right (if it has – academe, media, churches, and a number of other institutions have moved quite a bit to the Left) – in response to the Long March we’ve been talking about.

    What you raise here is irrelivant to what were very real distinctions between the Liberal establishment and the Leftists you’re trying to lump in with them. I know, I know. . .go back to our simple lives. . .forget. . .forget. . .

    Whether or not the political spectrum has moved to the right since the ’60s has no bearing on the distinctions I made. I actually tend to think that you resorted to that argument because at bottom you know you’re on weak ground here. It’s a distraction, not a refutation.

  24. If you weren’t disagreeing with my point, you should have made that clear.

    I tend to get the impression here though that the point of your comments on what I said has been to attempt to muddy the waters, thus all the irrellivant remarks – if they created confusion, that doesn’t seem to be an accident but rather the intent behind them.

  25. There was no ill intent Porphy. I think you misunderstood where I agreed and where I disagreed. Another time…

  26. Porphyrogenitus:
    I, and I believe everyone, agrees with your distinction between liberals and the loony left. Of course there’s a spectrum of opinions on the left and the right. And the boomers move to the center and the right as mentioned by GG shouldn’t surprise anybody. It’s a fact that the older you get, the more conservative you get. That’s just human nature. So, in a very real sense, time is on your side.

    I think the fundamental flaw in your outlook is the unstated assumption that this students and young people are automatons, ready to be programmed. They’re not. It will be obvious to the vast majority of them that the Po-Mo claptrap they’ve been fed doesn’t work in the real world. And the one’s that don’t get it will give your kids someone to argue with. That’s the marketplace of ideas. And it’s just possible that something good will come out of the amalgam.

    Another reason I’m not worried about the “colleges being overrun with wackos” is due to the real, structural nature of American post secondary education, that you apparently overlook. While the wackos publish, agitate, and make all the noise, the solid majority of students are enrolled in professional programs, engineering, business, medicine, law, hard science, etc. These folks aren’t going to be “brainwashed” nearly to the extent that you believe. In fact, such training in empirical reasoning lends support to your position. They’ll be nothing if not pragmatic through-and-through.

    The only danger that I can possibly see, is the loss of the center, and a true “liberal” voice in the debate, but even this is remote I think.

  27. “”Steinem is very middle-class” is a non-sequiter; these people were *TYPICALLY* middle-class or better, hardly any of them came from the proletariat. It’s one of the filthy little secrets of the Left that they’re really the middle and upper class posing as the underclass.”

    I know that – what I meant is that Steinem never pretended to be a grubby prole – one reason she was attacked is that she continued to wear aviator shades and miniskirts and date celebrities. This probably helped make her views palatable to Middle America, and it helped make her the target of attacks from the “revolutionaries.”

    Friedan may have been a “Marxist” in the sense that most social activists at the time gave a vague nod to Marxism, but she was a housewife from Long Island all her life, and never engaged in revolutionary politics. Neither did Steinem. They were both clearly centrists in the feminist movement.

    You’re playing an Ann Coulter-type game here, and it’s not accurate, and I’m not sure what your objective is.

  28. Have any of you considered that the guys Sumi was talking to were just trying to get laid? I mean, if you think that foreigners have a gripe against America, then it’s a perfectly reasonable (if in this case mistaken) thing to do.

    That said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in California (or a lot of people recently out of college) that immigrants and first-generation Americans have a lot more respect for this great country than dumbass white kids from Iowa. Of course, figuring this out requires talking to people other than Pat Buchanan or Al Sharpton.

    Immigrants are, and always have been (particularly in the beginning and end of the 20th century), the saving grace of this country. Why do you think the kids coming out of the 50’s and 60’s were so screwed up?

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