Monday, April 28, 2008

Leaving America

I've lived in California for over 10 years and now when it's time to leave, I've started seeing the things that I had taken for granted in the US the people, the institutions and the land in a new light.

Although the Indian scriptures, the Gita and the Upanishads, eloquently talk about the Atman that is in each individual and how it is part of the Cosmic Being, about the dignity of labor in Karma Yoga, I have seen this practiced more in the United Stated than in India.

After a recent trip to Washington DC, I've been reading His Excellency, George Washington
I don't read biographies often, and this is one of the best I've read, that reveals the man behind the icon - his achievement and his weaknesses. The ability to walk away when the nation offers all its powers, as Washington did - first after leading the Continental Army to victory and second after two terms as the President, is remarkable and one wishes the leaders of the Republic of India had the mental strength to renounce their personal ambitions in favor of the nation.

In a city filled with memorials and museums, the Thomas Jefferson memorial is one of the most inspiring - with its 19' statue of Jefferson, surrounded by quotes from his writings, including the famous opening lines from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. "

The most prominent quote is below the dome: I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, many towns in the United States have great public libraries, where almost any book is available, the libraries exist to serve the public and user privacy is the law.

Organizations like the Audubon Society and Sierra Club serve as the conscience of a society that treats material prosperity as the only goal, even at the expense of our environment and show how individual can change the course of public policy.

Like many Indians, I grew up suspicious of a society that reveled in "capitalism", but having lived in the US and in India and having seen the damages that a "centrally planned" economy can wreak on a nation, I would prefer the blind justice of a free market economy to the perceived justice that a "socialist" government deigns to give its citizens.