Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
August 19, 2016, posted August 26, 2016
Mr. President: The Olympics have dominated the news this week. Best of all, the
athletes look reasonably clean. For sprinters, it is the muscle definition that often
belies the test results and the claims of innocence. When women sprinters begin to
look like smaller versions of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is just too obvious. And
wherever we see someone stand out like that from the rest of the competition, we
know there is trouble. If a male sprinter has super finely defined shoulder muscle, the
obvious question is, why? Well, things seem to be improving ... but not perfect.
The British swimming coach felt four of his team coming in fourth were denied a
bronze unfairly. He has a point when he wants cheaters disbarred for life. The fact is
the advantage of doping remains in the built up muscle mass. NBC never let us hear
the loud boos greeting Justin Gatlin when he entered the stadium -- the US sprinter
has a checkered past (as does Tyson Gay another top US sprinter.) Sports
broadcasters have always served as cheerleaders. It is after all their
bread-and-butter and their soup. And who wants to spit in the soup?
Pakistan and India celebrated 69 years of independence on August 14 and August 15
respectively. Why separate days when it was one country at the time of
independence and one instrument but that's the way it is. The whole subcontinent of
a billion and a half has not won a single medal to date.
In the meantime, Indian-ruled Kashmir has seen a spike in violence and huge
demonstrations after a popular militant leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed by
The response to demonstrators with pellet guns has escalated into rock-throwing.
Guns kill and the tally now runs around 50 demonstrators dead and several thousand
wounded, some losing their sight. Just a drop in the ocean of blood (68000 have
been killed) since rebel groups took to arms in 1989 after four decades of empty
promises. Perhaps the young men have nothing to lose. The new chant, "What do
we want?" And the response, "Freedom!" rings throughout the valley.
While there is no evidence of a historical Moses (and the Egyptians were obsessive
about recording significant events), the Hollywood version with Charlton Heston
demanding, "Let my people go," tells us not much has changed in human nature.
Human lives and economic damage notwithstanding, India clings on to Kashmir with
over a half million security personnel.
If one thinks about it, commerce and open borders would soon put the troubled past
in the rear-view mirror as in the case of France and Germany. So far though the
politicians are unable to cut through the dense undergrowth of suspicion, mistrust and
grievances to consider such radical options. And the Kashmiris, their kinfolk in
Pakistan and Indians must continue to suffer.
But then India has other insurgencies of disaffected locals and Pakistan has
Balochistan, yet another consequence of joining the war on terror. A disjointed world
of sharp-tempers and no easy solutions. Also nuclear weapons, now on a hair trigger
due to the forward deployment of tactical warheads.
Will sense prevail?
One last thing. The White House has sent out a list of books you are taking along for
holiday reading. May I add one more: a play called "Disgraced" by Ayad Akhtar that
won a Pulitzer. It is about a Muslim-American lawyer, who changes his name to mask
his identity in the world of mergers and acquisitions, and how his life unravels when
he defends a Muslim cleric.