In Houston, during a local event at the home of an influential Indian in 2010 I met a young politician from Hawaii named Tulsi Gabbard. Strong, soft spoken, and a person who talked substance, this lady from Hawaii was not quite how I viewed politicians.
It just so happened that when the lunch was served and everyone was taking their plates to sit on the dinning table in that home, I happened to sit next to her. And, we started discussing Dharma, Spirituality and Hinduism. Now, not because I have any racist intentions, but the Abrahamic ways and basics are so deeply ingrained in the people of West, specifically the Americans, that I have rarely seen anyone in West fully appreciate the depths of what is Dharma really. For that matter, even amongst educated Indians (rural Indians are a different breed though). Tulsi was different. Some nuances on the Dharmic ways, which are tough to grasp, came very naturally to her. Let me explain – you see “Spiritual people” in the US are of two kinds. One, who want to act all benevolent, nice and esoteric and throw around sprinkling of words and have that benign smile. Two, those who assign to Church and other such organizations some sense of compassion and partake in that “grace”.
None of them have anything to do with Spirituality. Because being on spiritual path is NOT acting. Nor is it white-washing the crimes and authority of an organization that has wiped out original inhabitants from most of the planet!
It is about being honest about your search for the existential Truth. No my truth or your truth but one truth, which is eternal, unchanging and unsullied. But there is only one truth. And as long as your understanding of the world, yourself, the basics of what you do and the working of the world are aligned to that one primordial truth, then your walk down the spiritual path is on the right track.
She had nothing benign or overtly benevolent about her. Tulsi was just simple, self-assured and at ease with herself and her being. She discussed the policies of Bush not as a hyper left activist, but in a methodical and matter of fact way.
A knack and way of things she displayed later when she was a Congresswoman. In 2016, when despite many terrorists events, Obama and his administration refused to call out the perpetrators are “Radical Muslims”, Tulsi Gabbard openly disagreed and explained her case to Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
We have often said that you can only fight Supremacism, if you fight both – Islamic and White Supremacism (read “When is Supremacism Acceptable“. You cannot fight one and endorse or be an apologist for another. It will get you nowhere. And, the right approach is to call out both. That is precisely what Tulsi Gabbard did!
She kept at it and pushed on Obama again later on his speech at the White House summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Tulsi countered that extremism and terrorism has nothing to do with poverty or lack of democracy. She clearly stated that it had theological basis which Obama was loathe to state clearly. And if you cannot even name and identify the enemy and what their motivations are – how the heck can you even fight?
And, when the Presidential race came, she did the unthinkable. She resigned as the Vice Chair from the Democratic National Committee and endorsed Bernie Sanders, which pitted her squarely against Hillary Clinton!
She was also one of the few democrats who went to meet Donald Trump after his election in Trump Tower to find ways to work together. Something that made a lot of leftists hate her. But she wasn’t wearing any blinkers. She was clear as to who Trump was – a man with no conscience.
Tulsi, you see, is not your regular liberal activist politician. She is a woman of substance, has her own mind and a strong head which is grounded. She knows what is really needed and doesn’t shy away from doing it.
For this year’s Annual Predictions, we did predict that Tulsi Gabbard will enter the race and go till the very end. She will represent one side of the spectrum of ways to fight Trump. By contrast rather than speaking his language. That she will. But she is no pushover or one who will take a bully lying down. Her one tweet in November at the height of the Saudi crisis actually announced to me that she will run for 2020. And it was to give the bully back in his own ways.
And, Joe Rogan, the show host, really put it well.
Here was someone who gave a nice pill to Trump and announced that she was not afraid to take him on. That, to me was the beginning of her race.
Now, however, on Van Jones Show on CNN, she announced that she will run for the Presidential race in 2020.
So now it is almost official, although she has not made an official announcement.
What does that mean for Hindus?
In the US, the most foundational qualification for running for the office of President is being a Christian. And, the Christianity and the faith in that religion is openly flaunted by both, Democrats and Republicans. Specially the latter. So in that society, Tulsi is sticking her neck out as a Hindu.
If she reaches further into the race, which I suspect she will, then the chances are that there will not just be scrutiny of her group – the ISKCON – but also Hinduism in general. The “atrocity literature” which has been created in India by the left and the Christian missionaries will be brought up and brandished as weaponry in this battle.
For the Christian right, the battle will be on two fronts – in India, against Modi and in US, against Tulsi. The Hindus who have been this quiet, progressive and successful minority will come under increasingly sharper lens. There may very well be negative coverage and also pushing up the regular stereotypes like caste system and women equality (Sabarimala etc) in this year.
So, be prepared for that.