The Boon of Political Diversity among Indian-Americans
My experience is that Hindu or Indian Americans cannot collectively be classified as Republican or Democrat; an individual's understanding of what it means to be Hindu and Hinduism's theological underpinnings will drive which party he or she identifies with. Each Hindu has their own understanding of dharma, the concept that defines what they consider just, whether it is about the wars our nation wages, or providing healthcare that takes into account a woman's right to choose or makes abortion illegal.
Within the Indian-American community, there are factors that influence political choice that have to do not only with one's religious beliefs, but that of those within the larger ethnic community. Indian-Americans vary in their perception of Muslims and the threat of terrorism, as "one of us" or "one of them," depending on personal experience. Are they Muslim themselves? Are they survivors of or related to survivors of Partition, where the British colonizers divided India and Pakistan? Are they shut out of interfaith dialogue because of an exclusive Abrahamic coalition? Hindu-American interaction with other religious minorities within the South Asian community is also colored by personal stories: their awareness of the 1984 backlash against Sikhs in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards, or whether the Sikhs they know are supporters of the Khalistan movement.
Hindu-Americans come to the table with a pluralistic view because of these complex interactions and diversity of beliefs; everything is not black or white. In fact, whether it is within my family, my local Hindu community, or the leadership and membership of the Hindu American Foundation where I am an Executive Council member, support for both the Republican and Democratic parties exists. So, I am thankful that I have not yet discovered polarizing sites like GodVoter.com or voter guides like the one from the Christian Coalition of America from or for the Hindu American community. While my political choices are reflective of my theological beliefs, I can safely say I can find common ground with Hindu Americans on both sides of the party line.
Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist, wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework. You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.