Many of us, who are not American citizens, including those who may have so far not had the opportunity to visit this great land – epitomizing the statue of liberty and human aspirations with human dignity, have read or heard, thanks to the Internet and the global village of today,Â two specific words on the zeitgeist of the United States of America, probably the greatest ever nation in history so far.Â
â€˜American Valuesâ€™, or many of its offshoots like â€˜this is what America stands forâ€™ or â€˜This is what America believes inâ€™ are often found to be integrated parts of American Presidential speeches, or in Â American columnistsâ€™ articles, or in innumerable online posts of American netizens.
As an academician believing more in simplicity and clarity, I was little constrained in interpreting the uniqueness and the zeitgeist of â€˜American valuesâ€™, which sort of have been the backbone of this great nation for over the last couple of centuries. Not that I didnâ€™t sense or partly understand its meaning, but surely I could not internalize the meaning completely, to my fullest satisfaction, with my own interpretation and belief in sensing how these two single words can drive such a diverse nation, to great heights and tasks, that has traditionally also been the nation of â€˜who is whoâ€™ in worldâ€™s history of greatness, from thinkers to scientists.
Effectively, I was looking for a case, a real life story, a simple example that perfectly represents these two words â€˜American Valuesâ€™, to its fullest and rightful extent. For constraints that is purely personal in nature, as I might not have heard or read about of hundreds of such unreported or less publicized instances happening every day or year in America; or for global constraints that truly handicapped America to display true â€˜American valuesâ€™ on a grandiose scale, to the benefits of people like me, and not â€˜American imperialismâ€™ in disguise of â€˜American valuesâ€™, or â€œAmerican exceptionalismâ€™.
I wonâ€™t blame myself or millions of others like me, who eventually started believing that â€˜American valuesâ€™, even at its best, are nothing but another two UN-styled words for orators, to be used in Presidential speeches, or in many-an-Americansâ€™ interests/netizensâ€™ blogs, to pursue further the interests of American imperialism.
At the same time, another alternate good image, a case, a story with vivid pictorials that started filling up the void on â€˜American valuesâ€™ at my cerebrum, is that of Santa Claus, in which most of us would love to believe in, irrespective of nationality and religion, but which does not exist, nor ever will.
It is not that I did not try and find better metaphors for â€˜American valuesâ€™. There surely was traces of it when President Obama won and became the 44th President of this great nation (it is actually better suited as an example of American aspirations); or in Spider- Man 3 when, towards the end, Spider-Man comes to save the day and poses for a few seconds in front of a huge waving AmericanÂ Flag, probably implying much more than what words are capable of, on â€˜American valuesâ€™.
I have been also reading it umpteen times daily in numerous web-comments or articles when I come across the greatness of many American thinkers in understanding the plight of China or its workers, or the plight of the â€˜have nothing poorsâ€™ in India or in Africa, or even in understanding the root causes of injustices that might have driven fundamentalist groups like al-Qaeda.
As a B-School professor; I have studied many garage-workshops to Wall-Street styled billionaire club cases in this land of unparalleled opportunity and innovations, which surely have benefited mankind at large too, and where most of my batch-mates of colleges have eventually settled in, in similar pursuit. Operation Geronimo was not the perfect example of â€˜American valuesâ€™, it rather was the perfect example of â€˜American revengeâ€™, qualifying at best to be â€˜justice doneâ€™.
Effectively, I was still searching, probably in vain, for a case on ‘American values’.Â
All that changed with the reports and articles that flooded global media over the last few days, regarding the arrest and denial of bail to the IMF head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, over the charges filed by an unidentified chambermaid in Sofitel Hotel in New York.
The bits-and-pieces that have come so far, in media, irrespective of authenticity, identifies that victim as a thirty-two year African (from Guinea) woman, with a girl child of fifteen, who is one among the millions of American residents, pursuing those great American dreams. The employees of the hotel network so far has not said anything negative about this victim; no such reports have emerged from the neighborhood where she lives. The hotel network rather has asked its employees not to ask any questions to this shocked (and extremely vulnerable, as per various media reports) victim when she joins back, but to offer her a simple hug.
Now, what does this unique story offer, to qualify itself as a long-awaited case of â€˜American valuesâ€™, to someone who never visited at first hand this wonderful land? It simply offers the hope of â€˜justice initiatedâ€™ following â€˜American valuesâ€™, without any probable covert question mark on American self-interests behind these acts.
One scrutiny, that this case still fails to qualify, is on the citizenship status of this woman. Anyway, it can fairly be assumed that she is a legal resident, and media termed her as an immigrant. That hypothetical scrutiny is, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not an American citizen, but the chambermaid is an immigrant, on her individual rights and merits.
I will never take this case for classroom testing as this is not a subject I cover; however, I can very well imagine a student, at some corner raising his/her hand suddenly, to make an out-of-the-box point in nullifying this case completely, in its teaching objective of exemplifying â€˜American valuesâ€™ to millions of young learners across the world, under the pretext of:
â€œBut Prof., America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests (as stated by Henry Kissinger). And the interests of a resident American always come ahead of that of others. There have already been reports of conspiracy theories on this, particularly in France, and among some sections of socialists, or even on how Strauss-Kahn had been working to make IMF policies more inclusive for developing nations, against US interests and stronghold status over IMF. The matter is, therefore, not as simple as you think, Prof.â€.
Thatâ€™s a fair point. Do â€˜American valuesâ€™ rank many pedestals ahead of â€˜American interestsâ€™, even when they are not in perfect synchronization with one another? Surely, in reality, â€˜American interestsâ€™ has a negative overtly aggressive nationalism connotation to it,Â unless it is only to defend â€˜American valuesâ€™. I can only hope to evade the question, by quoting Confucius, under such a hypothetical, uncomfortable scenario: â€˜Thatâ€™s a great question. However, three things cannot long be hidden, the Sun, the Moon and the Truth. Letâ€™s hope that the truth dispels those conspiracy theoriesâ€™. In my further struggling attempts, to win over an unconvincing, young class, I may even talk about my personal bias, from watching Bruce Willis as John McClane in â€˜Die Hardâ€™, and thereby taking a call that NYPD should not be viewed to be as incompetent as the police forces of most Indian states are, particularly when such a high-profileÂ personÂ is involved.
Coming back to the challenging realities of this evolving case, from the discomforts of such a question in such a hypothetical classroom; the matter is very much sub judice. While denying bail, the judge merely stated the reason for the decision primarily arises from the â€˜flight riskâ€™ angle. Denying bail, in no way, is to be interpreted to be a judgment on guilty or not-guilty.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, therefore, still remains an accused and not guilty. As an individual, although I would respect peopleâ€™s right in believing in ‘presumption of innocence’, in favor of Dominique Strauss-Kahn; personally I would apply same in favor of the unidentified, vulnerable chambermaid.
It stillÂ does not amply explain why the case may qualify as one on â€˜American Valuesâ€™. This can at best be a case of crime against vulnerable section by the powerful, and subsequent justice beingÂ initiated against a complaint. Nothing more, right?
We all love to believe that we live in societies across nations that believe in equal rights and equal interpretation of laws and rights; seldom have I seen that to be followed anyweher, if probably never at all is the better expression, so far.
This case surely does offer that simmering hope of seeing one unfold, in front of our eyes across the world. People following the story have now been offered, unverified anyway,Â various such sexcapades of Strauss-Kahn, from France to Mexico to probably in same Sofitel earlier. The skeletons, allegations so far,Â areÂ coming out of the cupboard only now.
Particular attention is due to Tristane Banon, a French journalist, who might have suffered a similar incident in the hands of Strauss-Kahn, back in 2002. The French girl was under the protection of a mother, who is probably not an absolute â€˜nobodyâ€™ in the French society, as this 32-year old Guinean chambermaid apparently is. EvenÂ that French motherÂ couldnâ€™t encourage her daughter to stand-up for justice against the influential class, in her own homeland. French media/TV show decided to blip-out the name of Strauss-Kahn during live broadcast, although Tristane Banon named Domique Strauss-Kahn in 2007, in an interview. Jean Quatremer, a respected journalist, in an interview to Hindu, reported of many such cases of â€˜importunating female journalists time and time again, sometimes in a manner so crass and gross it could only be called sexual harassmentâ€™.
The point is â€“ these French journalists didnâ€™t believe in their chances of getting fair justice from the French society. The key words here are â€˜women journalistsâ€™. As the Fourth Estate of democracy, journalists anywhere enjoy tremendous power, more so in present age of digital media. But when young female journalists themselves feel vulnerable to sexcapades from the influential section of men; or majority of journalists act in collusion with a corrupt system (as in India), society suffers. I know the laterÂ at first hand.
And France is not a third world nation like India.
In spite of the occasional skirmishes across the Atlantic, so long I was under the impression, that Western values were sort of universal human values. The fine-prints, emerging from this case, teaches me now the limitations of over-simplifications, as Einstein believed in: â€˜everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simplerâ€™.
America may have hijacked basic human values and rights and aspirations under these two words â€˜American valuesâ€™. However, for a change, millions of people across the world, who have been disillusioned by American foreign policies to monetary policies over the last many years, surely would not be complaining this time.
When the brother of the alleged victim assured his crying sister over phone, probably immediately after the incident, saying â€˜This is America – he won’t get away with itâ€™, we all can seeÂ that belief inÂ â€˜American valuesâ€™. Â â€˜This is what America stands forâ€™ seems to be in action now, proving that the assurance of the brother,Â another immigrant or at best a citizen of the US now,Â to his vulnerable sister, has not been wrong.
It is early days for this case, symbolic of â€˜American valuesâ€™, to billions of netizens like us.Â Â The case would surely evolve. For a change, the rest of the world would surely love to witness the case moving to its legitimate end, morally supporting this vulnerable woman, from each corner of our global village.Â
We have so far seen the trailer.Â
IÂ invite you to visit my blog,Â Wondering ManÂ (or take a look at my book, Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)dÂ that rightly predicted many of the economic and geopolitical crises,Â to theÂ gold pricesÂ and the currencyÂ disputes). You are also invited to join me onÂ twitter.