Weekly Letter to the President
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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
June 30, 2017 (posted July 3, 2017)

Mr. President:  The well-known journalist, Seymour Hersh, has published an article in
the German newspaper Die Welt refuting President Trump's assertions blaming the
Syrians for the chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun on April 4th.  Worse, it accuses
him of ignoring the intelligence that supported the Syrian and Russian version of
events.  Mr. Hersch's source(s)?  Senior U.S. intelligence operatives.

The subsequent bombing of Syria (after informing them and the Russians of the
target) was mostly theatrical although lauded at home.  In the eyes of many, it made
Trump president -- political gain trumps truth.

The episode reprises his cynicism and an ability to ride a wave, as in the notorious
'birther movement' contesting President Barack Obama's birthplace.  And the same
character flaw was apparent in the election as Mr. Trump shamelessly exploited a fear
of the other to secure victory.  The result has been a climate of hate and an
exponential increase in hate crimes.

So it was that the meeting this week with Prime Minister Modi of India became a
meeting of like minds, for Mr. Modi's party, the Bharataya Janata Party (BJP), has
profited greatly from demonizing the other.  While not much happened during the brief
visit, other than the signing of previously agreed arms contracts, the peripatetic Mr.
Modi got his photo-ops for the audience back home before flying off to the
Netherlands next day.

Perhaps it was the missiles to Syria with dessert for the Chinese leader; perhaps it
was Mr. Trump's one-upmanship in keeping Mr. Xi Jinping and his wife waiting.  Of
course, the arms sales to India and the obvious partnering against China could not
have helped.  Whatever the reason, Mr. Modi returned home to a Chinese military
attack in India's Sikkim province. Two border posts were destroyed by the Chinese.

Meanwhile, the epidemic of lynchings and beatings of minorities and lower caste
Hindus like Dalits continues to expand faster after the cattle slaughter restrictions
imposed by the Modi government.  The cow considered holy is not eaten by
observant upper caste Hindus and the rules are part of an effort to impose these
cultural values on Christian, Muslim and Sikh minorities also known as the Hindutva

The attack on four young brothers on a train as they returned to Madhura from Delhi,
after a holiday shopping trip before the Eid festival, has struck a chord and numerous
protest demonstrations have been organized.  Taunted as beef eaters and beaten
mercilessly, the brothers got no help from any of the other passengers.  Junaid, just
16 years old, died of stab wounds.  The photo of the young teen lying bloodsoaked
on the pavement, head pillowed in his brother's lap, as life ebbs away has gone viral.

Mr. Modi finally decided to deliver a speech (last Wednesday) against the violence
and the cow vigilantes but the genie is already out of the bottle.  Barely 12 hours later
on Thursday, paying no heed to Mr. Modi, cow vigilantes lynched a man in the village
of Bajratar in Jharkhand.  Alimuddin Ansari was a meat trader.  He was attacked by a
mob, dragged out of his van and killed, and his van torched.  Worth noting that on
Tuesday two days earlier a dairy farmer accused of killing a cow was also lynched in

Needless to say, the new rules are jeopardizing the $10 billion meat industry,
rendering more people jobless and worsening poverty.  These cattle sale restrictions
are also hurting farmers, already suffering through globalization and climate
conditions, because when necessary they could sell old draft animals for slaughter
through middlemen, a practice now prohibited.  Their situation is so dire that more
than 300,000, or over 12,000 each year, have committed suicide since agrarian
'reforms' in 1991.

Images of poverty, dirt and hatred broadcast across the world have dulled the gloss
on Mr. Modi's carefully crafted picture.  That and Mr. Trump's habitual falsehoods
keep reminding us of how democracies falter when the demos fails to participate with
careful deliberation.