Monday, August 9, 2004

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My family is from Bangladesh, not India. My father, however, was born in ’39, so he was an Indian in a manner of speaking. And besides, I dig a good rogan josh at least as much as Siddharth, so I figure that, if not my undying love for Panjabi MC and Nehru jackets, makes me an honorary member of the Indian “diaspora” (to use a problematic and widely misused term).

Bangladesh has been in the news, in a very heartrending way. I’m reminded of this debate I had in the backseat of a car with this punk kid I barely knew: does the fact that my family is from Bangladesh make for a strong moral-ethical obligation to that country? I argued, as a good cosmopolitan, that it does not: that I had an obligation to the very poor and others in dire need of assistance around the globe, but not to a particular foreign country on grounds of ethnic affiliation. That still strikes me as sound, but the upshot is the same: Bangladesh is a country in dire straits, and it needs my help: I wish I could do something, and I imagine (or hope) that at least a few other middle class Americans feel the same way.

I should say that my cosmopolitanism is (I like to think) a serious normative commitment, but it doesn’t run that deep. I’ve always identified very strongly as an American. While I don’t consider myself a national chauvinist (I wouldn’t, for example, pee on someone for being Canadian, let alone set them ablaze, though I might be sorely tempted), I love my native country for fairly old-school nationalist reasons—i.e., not for the Constitution, which is perfectly adequate, but for its language, culture, and a sense that I’m entangled in its troubled-yet-inspiring history. Which is why I think “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” rules so hard. I’ve already seen it three times, and I imagine I’ll see it again very soon. Go watch it. Seriously, it rules.

P.S.- So Drezner hooked me on the "Garden State" teaser trailer, right? And I was like, "Whoa, this song is sick" (in a good way). Foolishly, I purchased the Frou Frou album in question. That the band was named "Frou Frou" should've been the hint that it was not for me: I am a sworn, indefatigable opponent of all that is "Frou Frou." I bought it regardless. Dang. Don't make the same mistake. Instead, check out The Killers. I had been listening exclusively to the brilliant "Mr. Brightside," but the balance of the album is similarly dope. I've also been listening to Ocean Rain lately. Definitely worth a listen.

And as for the movie, well, Natalie Portman delivers in a major way (as she almost always does, and I'm not saying this, contrary to popular belief, because she is, as they say, "smokin'"), but Zach Braff needs a smack. A gentle smack. I mean, I fundamentally like the guy.

posted by Suzanne Nossel on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM


I hear what you're saying and I wonder what we can do except send humanitarian aid? I also would like to ask you, what will the people of Bangladesh do if global warming drowns the country? (I expect that may be already happening.)

posted by: chuck rightmire on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

HSBC and the Red Cross are collecting donations for the flood relief:
See this link

posted by: Nitin on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

"I also would like to ask you, what will the people of Bangladesh do if global warming drowns the country?"

What in heaven's name is Mr. Rightmere talking about? Was this said with a straight face? I want to encourage every sane person to read that sentence at least a couple of times. You should realize that the radical left may be the greatest threat to the poor people of the Third World. Their bovine excrement over global warming will doom those desperately trying to get out of poverty. This is a major reason, I might add, why one should adamantly wish to marginalize the Howard Dean fanatics.

posted by: David Thomson on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

Think Global, act local. Where in a globalized world, local now means some connection. Immigrants, first-gens, and maybe some second-gens often still have strong connection to their countries of origin. So thats the pragmatic argument. The rational/moral one would revolve around brain-drain. On an indiviaul level obviously it's hard to argue against, but systematic departure, definitely hasn't helped Bangladesh, or other countries in similiar situations. Both of these are pretty weak arguments, but I still think they have some merit. OF course, the quintessential American response is, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal". Not all Americans, Bangledeshis, or here.

DT, on an aside Big Farm Industry is probably the most harmful American influence on the third-world (c.f. oxfam).

posted by: Jor on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

DT, the trade protectionism, is what I was refering to, who do you think is keeping that in place? The US and Euro farm industry. OxFam has some good info on the cost of unfair trade to the third-world. Their guestimate is its twice the anual aid they receive from the entire world.

posted by: Jor on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

"DT, the trade protectionism, is what I was refering to, who do you think is keeping that in place? The US and Euro farm industry."

Oh wow, I guess you will now be supporting President George W. Bush, the lesser of evils on this issue. Do you need an address so that you can send in a donation. Would you also like a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker for your car?

posted by: David Thomson on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

hello from a bangladeshi reader, recently removed to the west.

now if only we could get drezner to vote for kerry in 3 months time.

posted by: zm on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

I just want to second you on on "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle". That was one of the best movies I've seen this year!

posted by: jc on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

DT, I wonder where you've been the last few years, visiting the Dog Star? There is very little doubt that global warming is occurring and less and less doubt that humans are contributing to it. Don't make smart cracks about something that you apparently know nothing about.

posted by: chuck rightmire on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

Anyone who thinks opposition to farm subsidies is a good reason to vote Bush is in total denial.

posted by: Pointbreak on 08.09.04 at 01:01 AM [permalink]

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