Saturday, September 30, 2017

When The President questions constitutional right of a citizen.

Kneeling of some NFL players during the national anthem created quite a bit of controversy last year, and President Trump's recent speech and tweets injected a fresh life into this controversy once again. NFL player Colin Kaepernick started protesting by kneeling during national anthem last year, his reason for the protest was police brutality and inequality faced by people of color. Now, we may or may not agree with his reasons or the way of protest. But, if he is exercising his constitutional rights to express himself, we need to respect his rights, if not his actions. I personally stand for any national anthem played during any function, but it is also true that no one can compel me to stand for it unless I want to stand. I voluntarily respect national anthems of all countries and it is my individual right to choose if I want to stand or not. The real respect has to be earned, it should be spontaneous and not forced or coerced. If someone is coerced to show respect to anything, it is not a display of respect, it is an obedience at most. An obedience out of fear of losing something, but definitely not a respect. Do we really want such respect from anyone?  

A few years back, during one of the functions at my daughter's school American national anthem was played, and in the entire auditorium, one third grader was sitting during the national anthem. I was surprised to see this, as I was not used to witnessing anything like this. In India, I was used to seeing everyone standing for national anthem and prayers, it was a rule and there used to be a strict punishment for violating that rule, there was no choice or freedom. I was impressed by the way individual liberty of that student was respected in this country (he was just a third grader). I really got curious about this incident, and when I read more about constitutional rights, I came to know that many expressions are protected under the First Amendment and freedom to protest is one of them. In one of the very pivotal AUpreme Court decisions (Texas v. Johnson), the Supreme Court held that burning of the national flag during a political protest was a protected expression under the First Amendment. 

Now, when the President of country questions NFL players right to protest and asks the owners of the team to fire them for exercising their constitutional right, that too when he does that using a very derogatory language abusing their mothers, it is really sad. It poses a very serious question, if the President of the country won't respect constitutional rights of its citizens then who else will? Off course, Mr. Trump has right to express himself under the same constitutional provision under which these players have that right. People should respect President's right to express himself, but it is also true that every position or job comes with certain obligations and responsibilities, and definitely, the US President's job definitely comes with lot responsibilities and obligations. As a President of a country like the USA, Mr. Trump has the responsibility to uphold the core values and principles of this great country. Individual liberty and respect for constitutional rights are part of the core identity of the USA, and if anyone dilutes these rights, this great nation might lose its unique identity. We need to respect other's rights not only when we agree with them, but especially when there is a serious disagreement, that is when our respect for others rights is really tested. I hope President Trump understand this, many of us, including him, may not agree with the choice of method to protest of these NFL players, but all of us should stand to protect their constitutional right. If not, then tomorrow it might be a turn of our constitutional rights to get abridged. Please remember, we need to protect others rights so that our rights also remain protected.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]    

Monday, September 4, 2017

Men need to save themselves.

"Men need to save themselves," my friend, Anand Pawar said this in one of his interviews related to gender issues. He is an expert on gender related issues, and I learned so many things about this subject during my interactions with him. This particular line resonated with me a lot because I saw men (including myself) struggling under a burden to fulfill the expectations of society, their family, and their own expectations from themselves because of this stereotyped image. Definition of masculinity is very stereotyped in most of the societies. Men need to fit into that definition, and if they don't, they struggle with social and personal contempt, rejection, frustration, and many other things. Many men put themselves under this burden of expectations which their society or culture hands over to them, and there is no easy way for them to escape this trap. Very few dare to challenge the stereotypes or traditional definitions of masculinity. Men really need to save themselves from this burden, it is crushing many of them, and only they can help themselves to break free from its shackles.

Expectations and traditional notions about gender roles are embedded in our social culture, these norms are part of many cultures, we don't have to choose them, we are born in these traditions. Some of these things are part of traditions so long that they have become sacrosanct principles. This is the very reason why even after feeling the burden of these expectations very few dare to challenge them, or worst, very few even feel that these are unnecessary or burdensome expectations. But, because of people like Anand and his preceders, these definitions are being challenged. I know Anand personally that's why I am mentioning his name, I am sure that there are quite a few people like him who are working in this area to help men to come out of this prison of patriarchal culture, and I appreciate all of them for doing this. It is a wrong notion to assume that patriarchy only hurts women. In reality, it equally hurts men, they just don't realize it. Patriarchy puts an unjustified burden on women by putting so many restrictions on them, at the same time, it also puts a burden of so many unreasonable expectations on men. At the end, it results in a society where both men and women live under some kind of burden of expectations, which they can't reject even if they want to. Their roles get rigidly defined and the scope of exchange of duties almost becomes nonexistent.

What is the solution to this complex problem? The only way is to challenge the traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. A woman can be a bread earner of a family and a man can be a stay home dad, there is nothing shameful if your wife earns more than you, women should get equal right to choose what they want to wear, women don't have to carry the burden of sacrificing their interest for the sake of family, woman's career is as important as man's, there are so many things which one can add to this list. The central point is, don't define gender roles rigidly, a suitable person in the family or society should perform the available role, their gender should not be a factor to decide whether they qualify for it or not. Men don't have to live under the pressure of fulfilling the roles of hero or a caretaker of the family, they can take whatever role they feel suits them, and yes, it can be a role of house-husband or stay home dad. I think the present generation is well equipped with all the tools it needs to tackle this problem. I am hopeful that they will do far better as far as achieving the gender equality is concerned compared to my generation. Women are challenging their stereotyped image for decades, and they are immensely successful in it, this is the time for men to challenge their stereotyped image, because MEN NEED TO SAVE THEMSELVES, and only they can do this.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]