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The US Had One of the Best Weeks Ever

This past week has reinforced my belief in the power of politics to do both great good and great bad. As an Indian-American, the American part of me is rejoicing and the Indian part of me is moaning. On balance, though, the events of the past week have been uplifting. So, here’s a quick roundup.

First, Taylor Swift kicked it out of the park with her letter to Apple that ensured that musicians would not go unpaid during their free trial period for their new streaming service, Apple Music. Within 24 hours, Apple reversed their decision.

Then, we had the Trade Deal, where workers who lose jobs because of trade deals will now get fair compensation. What was impressive here is how President Obama worked with the Republicans, despite his own party’s opposition, to get this through.

After that, there was the Affordable Care Act (or ‘Obamacare’ as it is called) upheld by the US Supreme Court. This ensures that low- and middle-income Americans will get health care insurance subsidies federal marketplace.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the US Supreme Court finally legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Now, all of the government-related things didn’t just happen overnight. President Obama and his administration had been working on these for several years — some of it was behind the scenes through power politics and some of it was through public statements and speeches.

For the icing on the cake, President Obama gave a moving eulogy at the funeral of Pastor Clementina Pinckney, who was among the nine gunned down by white supremacist, Dylann Roof, in a Charleston church. And, let’s not forget the related news of Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, finally calling for the Confederate Flag to be taken down.

In 2008, the President ran on an election manifesto that promised change. He has delivered all this, and how. The economy, too, is doing a lot better, though there is more work to be done there.

Now, why am I singing praises of the US President on an India-centric blog? Because, in this same week, here’s what went down in India:

— #LalitGate: Lalit Modi, a former Indian Premier League (cricket) co-founder and a big mover and shaker in both cricket and politics in India, has started talking about various high-level politicians and cricketers, implicating them in his wrongdoings even as he hides in exotic locations in Europe. His Twitter feed is as entertaining as this entire story is sleazy. Whatever the truth is, we’ll never really know. What is clear, right now, is that there is a major attack on the present Narendra Modi government and there will definitely be serious casualties. In the meantime, both news and social media continues to engage in “he said, she said” rumor-mongering.

— #FakeDegrees: This one has been making the rounds since last year. And, it will not stop till some action is taken. Smriti Irani, one of the top government officials and head of the Human Resource and Development Ministry, continues to be dogged with accusations of fake credentials. That there should even be a whiff of doubt here is the problem, never mind the actual specifics. At the same time, there’s another brewing controversy about one of India’s premier educational institutions, IIM, protesting that the HRD ministry is centralizing certain decision-making and undermining their autonomy. Of course, the problem with fake degrees is more widespread and many politicians across all parties would be in serious trouble if they were investigated (as happened with the AAP Party’s Jitender Singh Tomar, Delhi’s Law Minister, no less).

— #Rape: Yet another case of a man in a position of authority molesting a woman in a lower position. This time, a professor from a well-regarded educational institution, St Stephen’s College, molested a student. These kinds of cases are reported weekly, of course, so there’s not much more I can say about it (though, if you look through the archives here, you will find plenty of my opinions). In related news, a high court in Tamil Nadu released a rapist so that he might “mediate” with his victim and go ahead with a “compromise marriage” — whatever that means. And, in more related news, Greenpeace finally had their senior employees resign over a badly-handled rape case that’s been in the news for quite some time now.

— #Environment: This sad case of a blue whale that washed ashore and no one knew how to deal with the situation. And, people passing behaved abominably too.

I’m going to stop here before I get completely depressed. The above is just a sampling of issues that continue to surface on a weekly basis. There’s usually a big fuss all over media, various blustery statements by those in power and then….. NOTHING CHANGES. That’s the saddest thing. Narendra Modi won a landmark election on a manifesto of bringing #AccheDin (good days) to the country. When will they come?

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot broken in the US too. And, there’s plenty of pointless talking that goes in the US media as well. But, there is, as this week has shown, eventually, some ownership and action. Which is what we need elected officials the world over to do: step up, take ownership and drive action.

Let’s end with this heartwarming clip of President Obama singing ‘Amazing Grace’ at Paster Pinckney’s funeral.

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