Wherefore art thou, Ricky Gill?

(source: Ricky Gill campaign website)

Ricky Gill is the son of Sikh parents and is running to represent California’s 9th Congressional District (photo: Ricky Gill campaign website)

I have written several times in the past about Ranjit “Ricky” Gill, the Republican Party candidate for Congress in California’s 9th Congressional District. Gill is challenging Democratic Party incumbent Jerry McNerney for the seat.

Gill, 25, is the son of Sikh physicians in the Stockton, California area. Much of the donations to his campaign have come from the Sikh community, as well as interests in the healthcare and agricultural industries. The northern California constituency for which Gill is contesting is an area that has a sizable Sikh population and is, in fact, home to the first and oldest Gurdwara in the United States (the Gurdwara is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year).

There have been a variety of questions about Gill’s candidacy, particularly based on his age and lack of experience, and claims that he is downplaying his party affiliation (indeed, the fact that he is running as a Republican is not immediately transparent on his campaign website).

In April, I wrote about the emerging perception that Ricky Gill was also distancing himself from his Sikh background:

Much like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley did when she ran for the Governor’s seat, Gill is reportedly distancing himself from his Sikh heritage in his campaign and emphasizing a Christian background. As Haley endorsed Gill late last year, perhaps it should not be a surprise that he is following her playbook, but it is nonetheless disappointing that a Sikh American is choosing to obscure his own background for the sake of an election.

Shortly afterwards, I contacted Gill’s campaign to offer the opportunity to address this issue. I did not receive a response.

Fast forward to today, Gill’s minimal response to the attack at the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara has reinforced the belief that Gill is dissociating himself from his religious background.

The recent mass shooting at the Oak Creek Gurdwara brought forth many statements of support from politicians, officials and civil rights leaders of all stripes. It is worthwhile to investigate how a Sikh American candidate, running for federal office in a district with a large Sikh American population, would address the horrible tragedy affecting the Sikhs in Wisconsin.

On Gill’s website RickyGill.com, there is no statement offered to show any kind of sympathy to his (I assume, his) co-religionists. If he has made private statements, or a statement in other such venues, they are not easy to find. Gill’s only public comment on the attack was a status update on his Facebook page, dated August 5, 2012:

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today’s shooting in Wisconsin, with their families, and with their communities. As they suffer through this tragedy, please keep them in yours, too.

Two sentences. The word – or even a reference to – “Sikh” appears in neither one.

Despite the fact that law enforcement has labelled the Oak Creek attack as “domestic terrorism” and that US Attorney General Eric Holder called the attack a hate crime, Gill has made no statement related to either of these issues important to the Sikh American community – assuredly that includes members of his own family, his district, his state, and his country – and other religious minorities. In fact, on Gill’s website, the only statement made in relation to terrorism was in the context of Al Qaeda and foreign governments.

Gill is not alone in this type of response. An albeit cursory survey of websites of other Sikh American politicians running for state or federal office reveals a similar pattern of behavior. In fact, South Carolina Governor (and one-time Sikh) Nikki Haley posted a very similarly distanced statement on her own Facebook page.

However, the context surrounding Gill highlights the vacuum of his response. Given his family background, the constituents in his district, and the federal nature of the office he is seeking, the minimal response by Gill on the tragic events in Wisconsin is glaring. As a Sikh American, I find it troubling that members of our faith seeking federal office are choosing to behave in this way, and I find questionable the rationale to support him with the hope that he will be a voice in the federal government for our faith group. After all, Ricky Gill has given us little reason to date to believe that such representation would be the case.

[Cross-posted on americanturban.com]

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13 Responses to “Wherefore art thou, Ricky Gill?”

  1. Blighty Singh says:

    'Ricky'…….'Herb'……..'Ruby'……..'Nikki'……'Gary'……etc etc etc. What is a Sikh from the old world to make of it all ? Obviously in the new world (America and Canada) where very little is known about their own names, once can forgive the ignorance as they have simply inherited names from Europe without understnding the history and meaning of the names, not what they signify. but what are the rest of us Sikhs to make of it all ? For example you will have to search far and wide among the German sangat to find a Sikh that has a German name because those German names are Christian names. i.e….having a Christian name signifies that you are a Christian. You will have to search far and wide among the 150,000 strong Italian sangat to find a Sikh that has an Italian name because those Italian names are Christian names and signify that the person with the name is a Christian. You will have to search far and wide in England to find a Sikh with an English name such as 'Charlie'…..'Steve'……'Dave'……'Bill'…..Gary'……'Shaun' etc, because in England first names are known as 'Christian' names and thus by default the holder of the name is a Christian, if not one that is highlighting his celtic roots by having an Irish name such as Shaun. You will not, in Europe, find any Hindu with either a Christian first name or a nickname. You will not, in Europe, find any Muslim with either a Christian first name or a nickname. You will not, in Europe, find many Sikhs with Christian first names or nicknames. There are 2 reasons for this : Firstly, because it would be purely non-sensical for a non-Christian to be walking around with a Christian moniker. Secondly, whenever Christians in Europe meet a non-Christian with a Christian name, the first question they ask is "What is wrong with you?"….."Why have you given yourself a Christian name?………My god that is such a silly thing to do".
    But alas, whenever I go on a jolly to Canada, I am introduced to cousins called Jessica, Stephanie, Gary, Shaun. From Adam to Zacharee, the whole alphabet of Christian and pagan Europe is covered. My first impression is that I shouldn't expect any kind of reasonably deep level of understanding of history, meaning and significance of Christian names from people that think of buldings 100 years old as very very old historical buildings ( 90% of UK Sikhs live in Victorian houses built in the 1800's). But now I'm thinking surely these people should know better. Surely if these Sikhs can go to Ivy League Colleges and run for Congress they should at least have the mental capability to be able to see that the names they have given themselves come from stories in the Christian bible. How much respect would you have for the intellect of a muslim if he had a Christian name ?
    Moral of the story ? Ricky Gill ? To me, a mentally backward Sikh with an IQ that barely reaches double figures has a thread named after him. Whats good for the goose is not always good for the gander. In 28 years of existence in London I have never met a Sikh called Gary, Jessica or Susan. If I did, I'm pretty sure I, along with every other British Sikh, Muslim and Hindu, would laugh at them so much they would change their names in shame. Its a classic case of our major differences despite our attempts to rally under the same flaf. A thing that would lead to shame and social phobia in one continent is considered vital for social and political success in another. Sorry…..but l can't abalyse what the fella Ricky has to say about issues. I can't get past the name Ricky.

  2. @djtiggher says:

    I have no issue if he doesn't want to be associated with Sikhs or even support any our causes and needs, but the issue I have is when he uses that associate to fund raise. These types of candidates presents hisherself as a "normal regular anglofied (made up word) american" in the media; otherwise when it comes to getting money,votes and support then they rub elbows with the "other = people observant or associated with a minority ethnicreligious group specifically Punjabi or Sikh".

    I find it difficult to think like a Republican and still hold true to Sikh principlesteachings. The GOP is not about the common good of all but just the individual rights (taxes, welfare, education). With them social programs on the chopping block, and individual rights gone when it comes to abortion or gay marriage. Religious oppression they are all for it as in if you ain't christian the law shouldn't apply to you see prime example http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012….

    Not to say the Democrats are amazing but they are the lesser of two evils.

    In this case just cause either way if his name is Ranjit Gill and he goes by Ricky Gill don't make him an automatic Sikh. He has the choice to be one or not. Wait till someone asks him about his religious beliefs and if he says he's of the Sikh faith then we can ask him why he did not give open support to the victims of the Oak Creek shooting. Either way politics is a game of perception and media relations its never really about what the person is going to actually do if elected.

    Also from this we can ask the question are your born a Sikh or is it a choice? That's one questions I am sure everyone will feel is a powder keg ready to blow.

  3. Bik says:

    Easy answer don't vote for the muppet!

  4. tejinder says:

    Lets say Gill wins and he is supportive of the Sikhs. So what Sikh issues are they suppose to look after? If so would he be able to openly address this issue now as a public official?

  5. Rajinder Singh says:

    Ricky’s response is like that of a coma patient who wakes up after an incident, says a couple of things, and then goes back into a coma.

    We have been bitten by politicians before. Its an ongoing problem. Feels like getting bitten by a honey badger one thousand two hundred times while you are trying to find it.

    (As far a eastern/western names – sikhi is name and culture neutral. Its possible to have a sikh name and be more jewish/Christian and vice versa.)

  6. Parmjit Singh says:

    Ricky if you're better for all and not ashamed of yourself, I'd support you. However, if after assessing everything it's a tie, I'd have to go with the more proud, presentable, and styling candidate.

  7. […] http://thelangarhall.com/politics/wherefore-art-thou-ricky-gill/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this.Tagged as: Jerry McNerney, Ricky Gill « Oakley Downtown Construction To Last 3-4 Months […]

  8. Aryeh Leib says:

    Reminds me of the story of Angus McTavish and his wife, who just had a baby boy born to them.
    Wife: "Angus, whut d'ye fancy namin' the wee bairn?"
    Angus: "I think we'll call him Yitzkhok."
    Wife: "Angus, ha' ye takin' leave o' yer senses?! Whoever heard o' a boy wi' a name like Yitzkhok McTavish??!!'
    Angus: "Tis nae so strange. Just last year our neighbors the Cohens named their son Robert!!"

  9. As an update, Ricky Gill will be addressing the delegates at the Republican National Convention next week:

    "It will be an honor to speak on behalf of our Valley and Delta communities on a national stage," Gill said. "While we face some of the greatest challenges, our communities are among the most underrepresented in America. My remarks at the Convention will focus not only on giving our communities a voice, but also on ensuring the survival of our American Dream for this generation and those to come."

    "I hope this opportunity will prompt Washington to take note not just of our communities' current struggles, but also of their enduring potential," Gill added."

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