What’s changed?

Yesterday, the newly inaugurated president said, the world has changed and we must change with it.

But just what has changed? In the euphoria of yesterday’s ceremonies, some seemed to expect that from now on, the sun would always shine and no one would ever go hungry again. The inaugural ceremony itself provided ample examples of both what had and hadn’t changed.

What hainauguration_2.jpgd changed, at least for a few days in DC was that people were exuberant. Strangers became friends. Hugs, high-fives, and tears were shared with neighbors crowding the national mall, cafes, and homes throughout the city. People were generous. An older woman from California gave her flannel shirt to a younger woman who had been waiting beside her in the bitter cold since 6:30 in the morning.

But in some areas where organization was lacking, the chaos vividly showed that when peoples expectations were unfulfilled, survival of the fittest remained the governing natural law. A Congressman reportedly tried to drive through people waiting in line and got stuck in the crowd when they surrounded his vehicle. At least 4 ambulances were seen transporting people injured by the crushing crowd. These scenes resembled a Delhi train station more than the Washington DC Im used to.

So, whats changed?

In Richmond Hill, early Sunday morning, another Sikh youth became a victim of a hate crime. Jasmir Singhs hair and beard were pulled, and he was stabbed in the eye. He may lose his eyesight. [link]

Sikh groups have already been engaging with the new administration to highlight issues faced by Sikhs in the US, and perhaps new national security policies crafted over the next four years will be more sophisticated and take greater account of effects on minority groups.

Major changes by the new administration are likely to be limited to domestic matters, since the only major change in foreign policy towards hostile states seems to be a policy of engagement. Whether this will lead to significant changes on the ground remains to be seen. Whether you think it will make any difference may depend on your belief in the power of words. I have to admit, that when President Obama proclaimed to cynics that “…the ground had shifted beneath them,” on some level, I felt the ground shift beneath my feet.

Changes might not be as significant as some are hoping or expecting, but at least for me, what’s changed is a perception of whats possible, and a greater appreciation for the power of words.


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11 Responses to “What’s changed?”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    what’s changed is a perception of what’s possible, and a greater appreciation for the power of words.

    But Reema, is that enough?

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    whats changed is a perception of whats possible, and a greater appreciation for the power of words.

    But Reema, is that enough?

  3. Reema says:

    Enough for what? Or who? It depends- on who you ask, and in what context/for what goals.

    The election and Obama’s eloquence are a source of pride for a lot of people and his eloquence was at least a factor in getting him elected. Is it enough for his presidency that he speak well? That would be absurd.

    I think his fans will quickly turn into critics if he can’t/doesn’t deliver the many changes that have been promised, as they/we should. His economic stimulus plan was already criticized by Democrats in the Senate as not being bold enough earlier this month.

    Moving forward from yesterday’s moment, what matters more for the next few years are the people who’ve been appointed to political positions in his administration- many of whom are intellectuals and minorities. Valuing criticism, debate of ideas, transparency, and being sensitive to minorities’ vulnerabilities is at least an improvement from the last administration.

  4. Reema says:

    Enough for what? Or who? It depends- on who you ask, and in what context/for what goals.

    The election and Obamas eloquence are a source of pride for a lot of people and his eloquence was at least a factor in getting him elected. Is it enough for his presidency that he speak well? That would be absurd.

    I think his fans will quickly turn into critics if he cant/doesnt deliver the many changes that have been promised, as they/we should. His economic stimulus plan was already criticized by Democrats in the Senate as not being bold enough earlier this month.

    Moving forward from yesterdays moment, what matters more for the next few years are the people whove been appointed to political positions in his administration- many of whom are intellectuals and minorities. Valuing criticism, debate of ideas, transparency, and being sensitive to minorities vulnerabilities is at least an improvement from the last administration.

  5. sizzle says:

    in the midst of this broad post, you're discussing "race relations" in the context of the Obama victory, and so i offer this in response to your title: not much at all has changed or is new – Obama just demonstrated, on the grandest of scales, the most obviously effective strategy as to how to deal with those who may not be predisposed to liking you, a strategy that was far, far different than the strategy that has been advocated and furthered by minority politicians since the civil rights era. he overcame the perceived racial barrier that by almost completely ignoring it as an issue. rather than operating on a basis of being a victim seeking to remedy past wrongs, playing on a sense of societal guilt, or highlighting differences, all in recognition of possible and potential societal disadvantages for minorities, he operated from the basis of being a total and complete equal in the present, asked for nothing extra or special, nary mentioned a word of it, but elicited the trust of millions by demonstrating a sense of empathy, regardless of who you were, and respect and potential for conciliation during disagreement.

    …but at least for me, what’s changed is a perception of what’s possible, and a greater appreciation for the power of words.

    as for the power of words, obama was a grand demonstration on a large scale, but words' power has always existed and is effectively employed constantly on an individual scale. overcoming the problems American Sikhs face has always been a question of communicating effectively and building upon any success. As I stated, obama won because he was able to communicate his empathy and qualifications better than any politician we've ever witnessed. those strategies work even better on the small scale, day to day human interactions – Sikhs must continue to effectively communicate, as a community but mostly as individuals, our identity and areas of concern in terms that elicit empathy. This is done best when we ourselves are empathetic towards the general population and individuals we meet every day. We don’t have to roll over, we don’t have to agree, but we should at least make an effort to understand WHY they think they way they do as the first step in recognizing how to change them. Essentially, "be the change you wish to see." this all seems pretty obvious…but, if it took Obama's victory to kick people in the rear and realize this, so be it. that's some good change.

  6. sizzle says:

    in the midst of this broad post, you’re discussing “race relations” in the context of the Obama victory, and so i offer this in response to your title: not much at all has changed or is new – Obama just demonstrated, on the grandest of scales, the most obviously effective strategy as to how to deal with those who may not be predisposed to liking you, a strategy that was far, far different than the strategy that has been advocated and furthered by minority politicians since the civil rights era. he overcame the perceived racial barrier that by almost completely ignoring it as an issue. rather than operating on a basis of being a victim seeking to remedy past wrongs, playing on a sense of societal guilt, or highlighting differences, all in recognition of possible and potential societal disadvantages for minorities, he operated from the basis of being a total and complete equal in the present, asked for nothing extra or special, nary mentioned a word of it, but elicited the trust of millions by demonstrating a sense of empathy, regardless of who you were, and respect and potential for conciliation during disagreement.

    …but at least for me, whats changed is a perception of whats possible, and a greater appreciation for the power of words.

    as for the power of words, obama was a grand demonstration on a large scale, but words’ power has always existed and is effectively employed constantly on an individual scale. overcoming the problems American Sikhs face has always been a question of communicating effectively and building upon any success. As I stated, obama won because he was able to communicate his empathy and qualifications better than any politician we’ve ever witnessed. those strategies work even better on the small scale, day to day human interactions – Sikhs must continue to effectively communicate, as a community but mostly as individuals, our identity and areas of concern in terms that elicit empathy. This is done best when we ourselves are empathetic towards the general population and individuals we meet every day. We dont have to roll over, we dont have to agree, but we should at least make an effort to understand WHY they think they way they do as the first step in recognizing how to change them. Essentially, “be the change you wish to see.” this all seems pretty obvious…but, if it took Obama’s victory to kick people in the rear and realize this, so be it. that’s some good change.

  7. Suki says:

    Nothing changed. Racism exists in the United States, but just like it exists in every single country in the world. The only difference is that in country like the United States a minority has alot more chances of success then anywhere else in the world.

    I’m a little confused about the double standard about how all minorties that are not black or native american are so in love with Barack Obama. I wonder how would they feel if Obama had grown up in there country would they want Obama to lead there native homeland.

    Could a black man become the leader of China. A jew the leader of Iraq or any non-muslim leader of any Muslim country. A biracial korean the leader of Korea. I don’t see these things happening anytime soon.

    Most of us here are ethnic punjabi’ and can anybody here see the day when a dalit or some other non-ethnic punjabi become the leader of punjab. When in punjab you still have gurdwara that don’t let in low-caste sikh’s in them.

    And Sonya Gandhi is not a good example from India since she married into India Ist family.

  8. Suki says:

    Nothing changed. Racism exists in the United States, but just like it exists in every single country in the world. The only difference is that in country like the United States a minority has alot more chances of success then anywhere else in the world.

    I’m a little confused about the double standard about how all minorties that are not black or native american are so in love with Barack Obama. I wonder how would they feel if Obama had grown up in there country would they want Obama to lead there native homeland.

    Could a black man become the leader of China. A jew the leader of Iraq or any non-muslim leader of any Muslim country. A biracial korean the leader of Korea. I don’t see these things happening anytime soon.

    Most of us here are ethnic punjabi’ and can anybody here see the day when a dalit or some other non-ethnic punjabi become the leader of punjab. When in punjab you still have gurdwara that don’t let in low-caste sikh’s in them.

    And Sonya Gandhi is not a good example from India since she married into India Ist family.

  9. kaptaan says:

    Any Sikh of any perceived caste can go into any Gurdwara in Punjab or elsewhere. Its simply not true that ‘low caste’ Sikhs can’t go into some Gurdwaras in Punjab or elsewhere.

  10. kaptaan says:

    Any Sikh of any perceived caste can go into any Gurdwara in Punjab or elsewhere. Its simply not true that ‘low caste’ Sikhs can’t go into some Gurdwaras in Punjab or elsewhere.

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