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Image of Santa Singh: courtesy, LittleSikhs.com.

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Santa & America's Schizophrenia

JASMEET SINGH SAWHNEY

 

 

 




Christmas! What a wonderful time – isn’t it? Holidays, family, food, gifts – enough reasons to love it!

Yesterday, I went to my daughter’s school and a cute little kid told me – “You look like Santa!”

“Is that good or bad?” I asked.

“I don’t know”, he said, in all his innocence.

On my way back home, as I pondered over our interaction, I thought of another recent incident. But, before I get into that (and, you must be wondering, why Santa?), here is what I look like [Top photo on the right].

The only difference: I was wearing a red turban and shirt on that day. As you can see, I still have a black beard. So, I don’t think I really look like Santa! But, at least, the kid thought so.

Going back to the other incident. Here is what recently happened with a fellow Sikh-American. Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh was featured in a Facebook Tips video that showed up randomly in people’s feeds. It immediately attracted a barrage of ignorant comments from bigots and racists who didn’t care about the content of the video or what Vishavjit was saying. These trolls instead chose to attack him based on what he looked like!

That is, because of his turban and beard.

Now, compare the above treatment with my being called a ‘Santa’ – a legendary, saintly and fatherly figure that represents Christmas in many ways and forms!

Isn’t that good? Hell, yeah!

What happened to Vishavjit Singh is nothing new. Sikhs have been targets of hatred and bigotry not just in US but also in their country of origin, India, where they number more than 30 million.

This has happened not only once or recently, but throughout our 500+ years of history. But, the point I want to make is not about the unwarranted bigotry against Sikhs and other communities. We have all read and listened to it many times and it will sound like another rhetoric.

Rather, I simply want to put forward something that I believe is quite strange.

Come Christmas time, every parent is ready to hand over their kids to a stranger dressed up as Santa – overly sized costume complete with long beard, moustache and headgear. Well, often, these costumes are smelly, hands are dirty, and conditions are not really the most hygienic.

Add to it the fact that some of these Santas don’t even go through background checks!

Now, how many other occasions can you recall where parents would willfully hand over their kids to a stranger, or to emphasize, a ‘person’ with the above description sans Santa costume?

Yes, that stranger could be me, who this cute little kid called Santa! And, like me, many others who don’t look like the so-called “typical American”, the way bigots and hate mongers describe it – white, European, and so on.

And, us Santas, we exist all year around. We don’t do it for money, though. It is part of our daily life – it is our faith!

Now, bear in mind, I do not intend to spoil the holiday mood or mean to say that anyone should stop posing with Santa! I take my kids to the mall to be photographed with Santa too. They actually took pictures yesterday with the local Santa on a fire truck.

I also do not intend to discount one of the biggest virtues of America – acceptance of all faiths, cultures and races, which most Americans embrace.

I just want to point out the double standards of the bigots (like the ones who posted comments on Vishavjit’s video), who in no way represent the spirit of America! Most racists don’t have the courage to say such things face-to-face, so they use the Internet. Nevertheless, they feel the same way and would never allow the “full-time, real-life Santas” to even come close to their kids.

The funny thing, though, they are out there today clicking pictures of their kids with someone, whom on another day, they might label ISIS or Taliban!

Happy Holidays … and a Happy New Year!


The author is an entrepreneur with expertise in Digital Marketing, Social Media and Analytics. He is currently CEO of YibLab and lives with his family in New Jersey, USA.

December 25, 2014
 

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh  (Bradford, United Kingdom), December 25, 2014, 10:22 AM.

The first thing I do on 25 December -- as on every holiday - is go to the gurdwara to bow to my living Guru, Guru Granth Sahib! That is our Christmas and our Gurpurab ... and our Santa.

2: Jasmeet Singh Sawhney (New Jersey, USA), December 25, 2014, 7:23 PM.

Baldev ji, you are absolutely right! For us, there is only one supreme Waheguru and wisdom of Guru Granth Sahib is the only light we need to follow. In the western world, the Christmas season is time for holidays and the article is only written in that context. Our routine is same as yours on all holidays and we teach our kids the same thing, i.e., go to the gurdwara and spend time with the sangat. Thanks much for your comment.

3: G Singh (San Francisco, California, USA), December 26, 2014, 11:29 AM.

Some food for thought. Sikhs in North America celebrate Xmas with great abandon, forgetting that the two younger Sahibzadey were bricked alive on that day in history. Just hope that this in future reminds you of their sacrifices made whenever Xmas comes around again.

4: Guru Fatha Singh Khalsa (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 30, 2014, 9:04 PM.

Yes, Americans are confused. They live an artificial existence far removed from natural norms. The beard they venerate at Christmas is artificial and the man wearing isn't a 'Santa' either. Thank God for our elegant, timeless way and form!

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