It was hard. Where I’m from, America is the shining city on the hill. The land of the free. The frontier of liberalism and innovation. When my parents asked me to take American citizenship, I remember mulling over it for a long time. I love India. Is it not a betrayal to choose another nation? Then, I read the declaration of independence. I had never read a piece of writing that better reconciled itself to my own dream. Would it not be wonderful to live in a world where all men are created equal? I fell deeply in love with the great American story and wanted to be a part of it. Whatever guilt and doubt I felt, perished in the wake of these words from a wise man ‘Vasudhaika Kutumbam – The whole world is one family’. Whether I’m part of the Indian story or the American one, they are inseparable pieces of the same great narrative.
As I started living here, the diversity of my people, their devotion to civic duty, their tolerance and their compassion as a society for the plight of fellow human beings, were a source of joy and pride.
Alas, pride comes before a fall. As the 2016 election cycle progressed, I became aware of another, uglier side to the story. A side that refuses to believe in the best of people. A side that cannot abide dissent. A side that has forsaken its faith and forgotten its courage. A dialogue that was disillusioning in its vulgarity was brought to light and it made my heart ache.
I tried blocking out the political commentary, I tried to find solace in the charming streets of San Francisco, I read manga, I heard my favorite Eminem songs on a loop, I binge watched Gilmore Girls with my best friend, I had endless nonsensical conversations with my sister and yet, I could not block out a creeping sense of unease.
Last week I read about the shooting of two Indian men in Kansas. The shooter was a white man, a despicable fellow filled with hate. He has been arrested. The Indian community is shocked and afraid. However, I have spent the last few days telling people that they are missing a crucial part of the story. That of Ian Grillot, a white man who went after the shooter and got injured in the process. That is the part I would like to focus on. Heroes come in all colors.
No matter how much hate there is in the world, as long as there are people willing to stand up to it, we will be just fine. I choose to believe in the best of people. I choose to be tolerant. I choose to have faith. I live in the home of the brave and I am proud of it.