Kids Corner


Bellwether Billboards,
Part II -
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee





Four American states prohibit billboards of any kind: Alaska, Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii. The rationale for this ban is both aesthetic and moral.

The aesthetic concern is quite obvious in these very scenic, tourist-oriented states with hills, mountains, and valleys, with impressive flora and fauna that remain unsullied and unblocked by huge billboards.

The moral concern is subtler in that for every billboard with a Bible quote, there are probably five advertising liquor stores, massage parlors, and pornography supermarkets.

I reiterate: in my annual journey from Florida to our summer home in Michigan, the billboard contradictions continue to amaze me. It is interesting that I pass exclusively through states that voted for Trump in 2016: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. In all of these states many of the most hardcore, loyal Trump supporters are evangelical Christians. 

Are all the billboards promoting alcohol and sex only for travelers passing through these states? Are all these advertised businesses owned and operated by liberals? Moreover, many of these states have the worst drug addiction problems in the nation. 

At a recent rally, speaking to an evangelical Christian audience, Trump claimed that we are a country that does not worship government. “We worship God!” he said. He received a wild ovation for this. Given his horrific track record with regard to morality and sexual behavior in his words and deeds, plus the fact that there is no evidence of regular church attendance on his part, is this enthusiastic support justified?

Liberals who criticize Trump’s hypocrisy and that of his so-called devout Christian supporters, fail to appreciate the fact that these Christian extremists would make a pact with the Devil were the Devil to implement their political agenda: anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-sex education; anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim; anti-gay; pro-charter schools and religious schools -- all at the expense of public schools; eliminate regulations; deny climate change, and be pro-gun.

In fact, one evangelical preacher once declared that were Jesus to have run against Trump for the presidency of the United States in 2016, he would still have voted for Trump! To be sure, this was a sacrilegious but honest admission on his part.

All organized religions have charlatans, predators and hypocrites in their midst.  Only God and an individual’s conscience know what the truth is.

Charity in the Christian context or Seva in the Sikh context are relevant here.

There is a Christian pastor in my small town here in Michigan who heard a knock on the door of his parsonage. A young woman was there who said she was impoverished and in dire need of a bed. This pastor provided one within a day or so. Shortly thereafter, she returned saying that she had few clothes. The pastor took her to a resale shop and provided her with a number of used, but clean clothes in good condition. Adjacent to the parsonage is a parking lot and it is often a place where young people use drugs. Sadly, the pastor saw this young woman there smoking marijuana. He shook his head and went back inside. A few days later, she was again at his door this time claiming that she needed money to pay her cell phone bill! 

This time, the answer was “No way! A cell phone, given your claim of poverty, is an extravagance and I am not going to subsidize it!”

This experience reminded me of something that happened to me a number of years ago. I was at a gas station pumping gas when a fellow came up to me and said that he noticed my Marine Corps bumper sticker on the back of my car. He said that he, too, had been in the Marines. I knew he was telling the truth as he had a Marine tattoo on his right forearm. 

We chatted briefly about our respective wars, Vietnam in my case, the Persian Gulf War in his. And I had a chance to explain my saroop and Sikhi to him. He said he was homeless and hungry. I gave him some cash – around $8 and pleaded with him to go into the convenience store at the gas station and get a sandwich. He assured me that was exactly what he was going to do. I continued pumping gas and then cleaned my car windows.

Then I saw him leave the convenience store with two large bottles of beer.

One can become very reluctant to help people because one can never be sure of whether their needs are genuine. However, and I mean this very sincerely, the example of Bhai Kanhaiyya always makes me less skeptical and more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I’ll end this column with another personal story. Before my wife inherited our home in Michigan, we worked at sports camps in New England where I taught tennis and my wife did drama and arts and crafts programs. Prior to that, I played tennis at least five times a week even in the hot and humid summer months in Florida. One day, I played a lot and perspired heavily. I took off my shirt and hung it on a fence to dry and put on another shirt and continued playing.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what appeared to be a homeless person walking outside the tennis courts wearing my shirt!

I thought that he looked so much better in it than I did.

July 8, 2017


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Part II -
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee "

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