A day after the US embraced an Indian-American Nina Davuluri as the face of America, proving once again that it is indeed come of age as a nation, two episodes of ugliness besmirched the moment of glory. Though vastly different, the racist backlash against the crowning of Davuluri as Miss America is not entirely unconnected with the US navy yard shooting in Washington that killed 12 people and injured several. While the crux behind the racist slur against Davuluri that hogged the global headlines happens to be an outmoded notion of what constitutes a quintessential American beauty (preferably blond, definitely white), the reasons why the 34-year-old naval contractor from Fort Worth, Texas, Aaron Alexei, picked up the gun and opened fire against the Naval Sea Systems Command building personnel perhaps could be established given the subterranean current of racist discrimination running below the American cultural fabric. Moreover, despite witnessing umpteen number of gun attacks, the US is hardly interested in passing a gun control act, citing individual right to self-defence as the basis for not constitutionalising a stricter gun law. Despite having the first African-American as their president, and in spite of seeing several Indian-Americans in prominent positions within the government, both at the central and federal levels, America still has a long way to go when it comes to equality in race relations and a broader pacifism as a way of life.
While Nina Davuluri’s success is not a victory for India, but is an out and out an American dream come true, Aaron Alexis’ fate is the nightmare that the dream can become in certain circumstances. It is at these instances that America’s muscular patriotism and ultranationalism fall flat, and as in the case of the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston bombers, the US’ military machismo and unscrupulous foreign policy, particularly that in the Middle East, boomerang and surface as these inexplicable acts of mindless violence. The bloody incidents not only puncture the myth of America, but also attest to the systematic failures that bring down the nation from the pedestal at which it has placed itself. Ironically, the feel good factor generated by the crowning of Davuluri, not just a token affair in America’s multicultural stage, has been offset by the deplorable event at the Washington navy yard, though the country has its own flawed policies to blame for the extremely unfortunate episode.