Surprised by Jingoism

In 1971, the year Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was born, my neighbor introduced me to a man he thought I would like to meet because “Gustaf was a U-boat captain.”

I experienced instant visceral dislike, which Gustaf seemed to share.

My parents did not hate Germans.  They lived very much in their own world and neither of them hated anyone.  But most English people did hate Germans when I was growing up.  Propaganda instilled hatred in WW1 and WW2 then blaming continued because so much was destroyed.

But my life in 1971 was terrific.  I was so lucky!  I’d moved to America, always my dream, and I was being well paid to develop a precursor to the Internet for an exciting young business that offered what we now call cloud computing.  I never imagined there was jingoism in my mind.

Jingoism, ”the feelings and beliefs of people who think that their country is always right and who are in favor of aggressive acts against other countries.”

Centuries of propaganda about the glories of the British Empire had made jingoism a building block in the worldview of many Brits, but surely not mine!  I was well educated and so very intelligent.

It turned out I was wrong.  I’ve always been grateful to my neighbor, Rusty, who unintentionally made me aware of that dark force lurking in my mind.

Why tell you this?  Because, as this Opinion Piece says, our media “on both left and right … present politics as a battle between the children of light and the children of darkness. Opponents become enemies. Democratic deliberation becomes difficult or impossible.”  And many politicians join in.

Bobby Jindal, the focus of the article, is especially troubling.  In a recent broadcast reported here he warns of “people that want to come and conquer us …  change our fundamental culture and our values … set up their own culture and values … if we’re not serious about this we’re going to see more lone wolf actors … just like you’ve seen in other countries — the horrific shootings in Paris.”

That’s raw meat for the media.  This piece on a Center for Immigration Studies report linked to from that article is headlined “Approximately 2.5 million immigrants from “predominantly Muslim countries” reside inside the U.S. right now.” The report’s numbers actually show a very different reality.

Why would Jindal say such things?  A cynical appeal to those who believe all immigrants with dark skin are a threat and who fear ever-growing terrorist menace?  Or does he also believe what he says?

Jindal is very smart, graduating when he was 20 with honors in biology and public policy, then going to New College, Oxford, England as a Rhodes Scholar.  But, just as programming overrode my intellect when I met Gustaf the U-boat captain, Jindal is likely programmed, too.

Jindal’s Hindu parents came to the US 24 years after the British left India, the same amount of time as since our First Gulf War.  Fourteen and a half million Indians were uprooted in 1947, Muslims fleeing to Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs to India.  Anywhere from two hundred thousand to a million Indians, Hindu and Muslim, were slaughtered.

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The terrifying experience when India was partitioned must have been present in Jindal’s Hindu household.  It must have lodged in his mind in the same way Hitler’s war entered mine.

All of us are vulnerable to such ancient hatreds that we may not even suspect are in our mind.  I wish we would all look for them.  They cause such great harm.

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