The media’s sudden massive coverage of Sikhs, one of the most under-reported and misunderstood ethnic groups in the United States, following the frightening massacre in Wisconsin over the weekend has had at least one beneficial result.
The photos and images of Sikhs mourning the deaths of six of their compatriots has underscored the extraordinary beauty and grace of these fine people.
I am of Indian descent, although I am neither Sikh nor Punjabi. I have long admired Sikhs and respected them for their close-knit ties, discipline, devotion to faith and hard work, and dedication to military service. If more people followed the Sikh way of life, the United States (indeed, the whole world) would indeed be a much better place.
What a joy it is to watch beautiful, charming Sikh women, draped in elegant salwar chemises with their heads covered. How wonderful it is to look at tall, handsome, bearded Sikh men, both defiant in their anger over the killings and strangely humbled by the outpouring of grief over their community’s loss. And, best of all, how lovely it is to see the lovely wide-eyed innocent looks of Sikh children, who probably don’t fully understand the horror of what has happened in Wisconsin.
They are like characters from an ancient world or a fairy-tale kingdom who have been magically transported into the 21st century.
I have long lamented that culture in the United States has vanished, destroyed by the corrosive effects of television, mass media, fast food and other social ills. Americans are disturbingly under-educated, overweight, over-drugged and gravely lacking in culture.
But this isn’t the full story. There are indeed pockets of rich culture tucked away in hidden parts of his huge land -- like the Sikhs, who have somehow maintained their unique and distinct dress and culture in resistance to the overwhelming waves of vulgarity that engulfs them from all sides in this country.
Ironically, Sikhs -- targeted for violence and even extermination for their "foreign’ appearance" -- have adopted old-fashioned American ideals better than anyone. They rely on hard work, education, faith, strong family and community, and self-reliance to succeed. If these are not classic American traits, I don’t know what is.