18 August 2020

The Indian side

Much has been made of Kamala Harris's status as the first black woman on a major-party presidential ticket, and this is indeed a historic milestone.  But the other side of her background -- the Indian side -- deserves attention too.

Harris's early exposure to Indian culture was substantial.  As a child in California she attended both a Christian church and a Hindu temple (this in itself an encouraging sign that her parents were not dogmatic about religion), and also visited her mother's family in Chennai in India several times.  The name "Kamala" is of Indian origin.  Even if she doesn't strongly self-identify as Indian-American, she's certainly far more familiar with India and its culture than most Americans are.

This matters because she has a strong chance of succeeding Biden as president.  If at some point in the next four to eight years Biden decides that his energy and mental acuity are no longer equal to the demands of the presidency (a real possibility, given his advanced age), I think he would do the honorable thing and resign in favor of his VP.  If this does not happen, Harris will still be a strong contender for the Democratic nomination in 2028, or in 2024 if Biden chooses not to pursue a second term.  It's not inevitable that she will be our 47th president, but the odds seem far better than even.  And of course Harris may wield substantial influence even as vice president, as some recent holders of that office have done.

Harris's new prominence as Biden's running mate has already attracted considerable attention in India.  As a senator, she has quite properly been critical of the current religio-nationalist Modi government, and she and Biden won't turn a blind eye to Modi's politics of division and exclusion.  But the Modi government, like the Trump administration here, won't be around forever.  One can even hope that a return to normality in the US will help encourage voters in India, Brazil, and elsewhere to turn out the dangerous authoritarian leaders who have sprung up in the miasma of the time of Trump.

India is one of the world's major non-Western civilizations.  It's the world's largest democracy and a rising power whose importance to American foreign policy is bound to grow in the coming years -- especially since its location and its own national interests will make it a vital part of any effort to contain and limit the power of fascist China.  A vice president, or president, with a strong connection to India and understanding of the country, would be a substantial asset to the US in the years to come.

One final observation about Harris's background:  her mother was a scientist who advanced our understanding of the role of hormones in cancer, while her father was a professor of economics.  She will bring a respect and understanding for science and education quite different from the attitude of the current passel of ignorant fools in power.

[Image at top:  Harris with her mother Shyamala Gopalan (1938-2009) and sister Maya]


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I really like the idea of Kamala Harris as vice president.
I also like the idea that her ethnic background will give many Americans a headache. They're used to neatly separated identities that fit in the small little boxes they have in their lizard brains. They help them sleep at night. Kamala's background (and intelligence) will keep them up, I'm sure. Just looking at the hit pieces they've attempted to write about her (reeking of sexism, racism and xenophobia) tell me everything I need to know about Ms. Harris.


18 August, 2020 07:17  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, both her parents were extremely well educated. Her mother was a professor at McGill University in Montreal for a couple of years when Kamala was a teenager, so she also lived in Montreal during that time and went to a public high school here in Canada.

18 August, 2020 07:42  
Blogger Mike said...

Kamala loosely translates to caterpillar in Hindi.

She is probably the most 'already connected' vice president we will have ever had. If Biden can't make it all the way to 2028, he at least needs to make it past Jan 20th, 2026. That way Harris could be president for 10 years.

18 August, 2020 08:17  
Blogger RO said...

I wish my mom and dad were here to see history happening around the country. Hugs, RO

18 August, 2020 08:49  
Anonymous Expatriarchy said...

Except Kamala Harris' antecedents are from the Tamil-speaking deep south of India. Her name means lotus, or a pseudonym for the goddess Lakshmi who is depicted seated on a lotus. Hindi would have played no part in naming a Tamilian Brahmin child.

18 August, 2020 09:32  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

she's presidential....

18 August, 2020 18:04  
Blogger Jack said...

I wish I felt more optimistic about the chances of a Biden/Harris victory, but setting that aside, I think she's a solid choice for VP. She and Biden seem to get along well, and it appears that she has strengths in some of the areas where he doesn't.

19 August, 2020 03:11  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Oh, they don't know what to make of her, I'm sure. And yes, I've seen some absolutely gross sexist stuff. Won't appeal to those "suburban housewives" Trump talks about, I don't think.

Debra: Then hopefully she knows something about Canada too -- not that Trump even understands the US.

Mike/Expat: According to what I've seen, it does mean "lotus flower" and is originally from Sanskrit. Sanskrit influenced all of India's languages, even those of the south that aren't Indo-European.

RO: I know the feeling.

JackieSue: Makes a nice change.

Jack: I'm optimistic, but of course we need to avoid getting too confident. Always remember what happened in 2016.

19 August, 2020 08:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love Harris.
My dream ticket would have been Warren Harris but will settle for 50% of the dream.
Question is has she been asked or taken a position on Modi's ( and BJP's) behavior in India and specificaly Kashmir?

20 August, 2020 19:12  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

She's been somewhat critical of them on Kashmir and human-rights issues. It doesn't seem to be something she spends a lot of time on.

21 August, 2020 04:48  

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