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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/17/11

For A Change, A Case On American Values

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Thanks to the Internet and the global village of today, many of us, who are not American citizens or who may have so far not had the opportunity to visit this great land - epitomizing the statue of liberty and freedom and human aspirations, have read or heard 'American Values', or many such similar statements coming out from The Presidents of this nation, or from its umpteen netizens, stating 'this is what America stands for' or 'This is what America believes in'.

As an academician who always tried to make things simpler, be it for his limited intellectual abilities or otherwise, I was little constrained in interpreting these two words, 'American values', which sort of have been the backbone of this great nation for over the last couple of centuries. Not that I didn'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 'who is who' in world'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 'American Values', 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 'American values' on a grandiose scale, to the benefits of people like me, and not 'American imperialism' in disguise of 'American values', or "American exceptionalism'.

Eventually I won't blame myself or millions of others like me, who started believing that 'American values', even at its best, are nothing but another two UN-styled words for orators, to be used in Presidential speeches or in many-an-Americans' interests/netizens' blogs, to pursue further mostly the interests of American imperialism.

So naturally another alternate good image, a case, a story with vivid pictorials that started filling up the place of my cerebrum, for 'American values', 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 'American values'. There surely was traces of it when President Obama won and became the 44th President of this great nation, 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 American Flag, meaning more than words can say on 'American values'.

I could see 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 'have nothing poors' in India or in Africa, or even in understanding the root causes of injustices that 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, which surely has 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 'American values', it rather was the perfect example of 'American revenge', qualifying at best to be 'justice done' as well.

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 (more specifically from Ghana?) lady, with a girl child, who is one among the millions of American residents, pursuing that 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 victim when she joins back, but to offer her a simple hug.

Now what does this story offer to qualify it as a long-awaited case of 'American values' to someone who never visited first-hand this wonderful land. It simply offers the hope of 'justice initiated' following 'American values', 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. That hypothetical scrutiny is, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not an American citizen, but the chambermaid may be. I will never take this case for classroom testing as this is not a subject I cover, however I can 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 'American values', under the pretext of '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. The matter is not as simple as you think, Prof.'.

That's a fair point. Do 'American values' rank many pedestals ahead of 'American interests', even if they are not the same, as 'American interests' has a negative overtly national connotation to it, unless it is only to defend 'American values'? I can only hope to evade the question by quoting Confucius under such a hypothetical, uncomfortable scenario: 'Three things cannot be long hidden, the Sun, the Moon and the Truth'. In further struggling attempts, to win over an unconvincing, young class, I may talk about that my personal bias, from watching Bruce Willis as John McClane in 'Die Hard', making me pre-maturedly 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 high-profile interests are involved.

Coming back to reality, 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 is from 'flight risk' angle, and not a verdict of judgment on guilty or not-guilty. Dominique Strauss-Kahn still remains an accused and not guilty. However, as an individual, I would respect people's right in believing in 'presumption of innocence', in favor of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, although personally deciding to reserve my own judgment on same in favor of the unidentified chambermaid.

Still it does not amply explain why the case may qualify as one of 'American Values'.

It surely does to people who have been following the story, from earlier such sexcapades of Strauss-Kahn, gaining global media attention 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 'nobody' in the French society , couldn't encourage her daughter to stand-up for justice against the influential class. 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 'importunating female journalists time and time again, sometimes in a manner so crass and gross it could only be called sexual harassment'.

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Professor Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Nagpur, India

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