May 25, 2023
Did or does your family talk about politics? How?
In reflecting on the T***p administration with my dad, he compared it to the political energy in India just before they moved to North America in 1980. This is how my family talks about politics. With a lens on where we come from and how we got here, as individuals, nations, and as a global society.
In April 1980, the BJP political party was formed in India following what my dad described as quite the right-wing fervor burgeoning in the 1970s. He says he could see his country going in a direction he did not like and this was a strong impetus for why he felt the need to leave India. Over my lifetime this violent Hindu supremacist political party has risen to power. Today, BJP is the largest political party in the world and has controlled India’s national government for almost a decade.
Granted, over the years my dad has named many a reason why they left for North America in February 1980. It was in this more recent conversation about U.S. politics today that my dad shared this fascinating comparison to Indian political culture in the late 1970s. I have always wanted to deeply understand the underlying motivations to make such a momentous decision to move across the world. A decision that has basically led to my existence.
That reason–the reason of we got to get out of here, it’s getting real weird, real conservative and hatery–that just feels right in my bones. It makes much more sense to me than “following the American Dream” or some such nonsense. This also offers a lens on how my family has perceived and is affected by the political climate of the United States. Essentially a re-traumatization caused by existing here.
We all in my family engage with political news avidly, but uniquely from each other. My mom often shares a lot of emotional responses to political contexts. She centers humanity, talking about identity and the impacts on our well-being. My dad is an intellectual philosopher. He prefers to strike up conversations about neo-liberalism and Marxism, while always anchoring back to the political climate of 1970s India. My brother is a resource for information at national and global scales, particularly related to climate and social justice but also far beyond those realms. We both approach politics as activists and observers moving towards better.
I think that if it weren’t for coming from this family I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing in local-level policy advocacy. I wouldn’t give the shits that I give. Engaging in political advocacy feels like carrying the family torch of questioning and reshaping power.
As we continue to grow as political thinkers and actors, I do hope my family will continue to question, even if it means critiqing our own positional power. We must keep in mind that high-caste Brahmins were appointed to hold political power in colonized and independent India. What does it mean for our Brahmin family to be so politically inclined? To have that lineage of political power? What do we do with that power? This is where we must push.