Living in 21st-century America is about -- so I gather, from living there -- leaving behind the awful memories of exploitative acts perpetrated by the old white male ruling caste and, from here on, incorporating into our lives and loves Barack Obama? Hillary Clinton? Barney Frank?
"What about Bobby Jindal?" I would reply. What about the newly elected Republican governor of Louisiana, the son of Hindu immigrants and a convert to Roman Catholicism? And a conservative -- a believer in markets, limited government, intelligent design, the sacred character of unborn life and the power of the Lord God Almighty?
Aren't we going to have to clear a little space for Americans who, like Jindal, age 36, see in America something vital, something wholesome, something energizing and exciting, over against the "colonialist" stereotype the left loves to perpetrate?
You bet. Starting now. Starting with Congressman Bobby Jindal, governor-elect of Louisiana.
A few of us have lived too many years to recommend putting infinite trust in politicians, individually or collectively. What we have also come to understand along the way is the sterility of the appeal to past horrors and misdeeds when, please, give us a break, can't we just get on with life? Do we have to have the Rev. Al Sharpton, The New York Times editorial page, Harvard and the Episcopal Church's national bureaucracy whanging American culture in order to even the score against racism, sexism, age-ism, homophobia, age discrimination and a handful of like afflictions?
Let's look: Louisiana gives its governorship to a Hindu and pro-life conservative -- by a 53 percent majority. Something goes on here. What it is, I think, is the desire to go on -- to get a few things done for a change, such as pull Louisiana out of its moral and economic swamp.
According to "progressive" orthodoxy, Louisiana's present governor, Kathleen Blanco, should be just the ticket: moderate-to-liberal and, better still, a woman. Blanco's trouble was, when Katrina blew in, she fiddled and fumbled. Nor did matters improve during the recovery phase. She lacked, seemingly, the will or the means to counter Louisiana's ages-old reputation for moral and ethical laxity. It was going to take an outsider to lead the state down a new path. Enter Bobby Jindal, Rhodes scholar and whiz kid.
Now by all rights -- if you buy into liberal, aren't-those-Southerners-just-too-much stereotypes -- Louisianians should have shrieked to see a man of Asian extraction asking to be its governor. As in say, Armand, you reckon this guy learned his English taking service calls for Hewlett-Packard?
Not quite, Billy Bob, he learned it in the good old USA, along with some positive traits once associated with citizens of that country, including honesty, ambition and hard work.
Louisiana saw Jindal, heard the words and didn't give a Confederate durn whether his folks were from Mississippi or the Ganges. Gov. Blanco didn't choose to run. The second-place finisher, a Democrat, got just 18 percent of the vote. Louisiana handed its future to an ethnic Indian.
We're seeing the future, and it may or may not work. It certainly isn't the world in which we "older" folk grew up, what with all the international comings and goings. What is entrancing about Bobby Jindal, an internationalist to his fingertips, is his easy appropriation of American ideals and modes. He represents in many ways the hopeful, as opposed to the divisive, character of immigration: the sense that good is good, wherever it originated.
Who knows where all this is going? All we really can know is that, when Louisiana elects a Catholic, abortion-opposing Indian to lead it out of a mess perpetrated by generations of, shall we say, old-style Americans, opportunities of a new sort open up.
Can we someday agree that talent and integrity and vision are the attributes voters want to reward, rather than skill at rekindling burned-out resentments, pounding people for whatever happened, or didn't happen, in another time and place? It could be that the debate begins in Louisiana.