I first met Dinesh D'Souza two decades ago, when I was a radio news producer for WKCR 89.9 FM, the radio station at Columbia University, and I have to admit that I really liked the guy. He is smart, personable, and very reasonable. However, that was then. While I am sure he is still smart and personable, his book, The Roots of Obama's Rage, and the movie version, 2016: Obama's America, demonstrate that he is not reasonable anymore.
In an article I wrote for an Indian arts and culture website, Lassi With Lavina, I discussed D'Souza in the context of "Why Minorities Sometimes Vote Republican." One reason is the fiscal philosophy of the Republicans, which is friendly towards new immigrants who have managed to amass some wealth (even though it leaves all the other immigrants out in the cold). Another possible reason is social, since minorities from more conservative cultures can relate to the traditional values of the GOP. But, in my opinion, those reasons pale in comparison to the psychological rationale for Indians to vote Republican, and that has a lot to do with India's own colonial roots.
D'Souza's primary argument is that President Obama is carrying out a deliberate "anti-colonial" agenda in America in response to the experience of his Kenyan father, who had been arrested during a crackdown by the British on the Kenyan freedom movement. Never mind that this is a real stretch and, in the end, little more than an entertaining conspiracy theory, but what is much more disturbing is D'Souza's own agenda which, ironically, is the exact opposite of what he accuses Obama of -- in other words, of promoting colonialism.
Let me explain. D'Souza comes from a country that was ruled by the British for almost two centuries, and a country that was deeply impacted, both positively and negatively, by the occupation. After the departure of the British in 1947, India continued to suffer from a sort of hangover from the effects of colonialism, which was reflected in its government, commerce, and culture. Six decades and two generations later, a lot of that has been left behind, with India having slowly but surely stepped out of the shadow of its colonial master and become a force in its own right.
D'Souza, however, has not. His devolution (yes, that's evolution but in the opposite direction) from someone simply following conservative principles to rabid messenger for the craziest notions of the Republican Party indicates that he is no longer a reasonable man with a set of personal beliefs, but a complexed man with a point to prove. The point in question is that he is on par with his colonial masters, or at least who he identifies with that role -- the "real" Americans, the ones who are the torch-holders for American family values, mom and apple pie, guns, and the flag.
Unfortunately, the way he achieves this parity is not by standing on his own feet and laying down his own conservative philosophy but by pandering to the worst of modern Republicanism: xenophobia, paranoia, and selfishness. With these three tenets in hand, and no doubt with the considerable financial muscle of Ameritrade founder and big-time GOP donor Joe Ricketts (who coincidentally sits on the Board of Kings College, where D'Souza is now president) behind him, D'Souza has reinvented himself from a mild-mannered academic into the ultimate Republican ideology machine. His book and his movie are perfect examples of that.
So now the million dollar question of why D'Souza has chosen this path of ingratiating himself to the Republicans regardless of personal integrity or even rationality. Being Indian myself, and having gone through a path similar to D'Souza's in my own life, I feel that I can answer this question with some authority, and the answer is pretty simple: if there is one thing that D'Souza clearly wants more than anything else, it is the approval of those who he believes are superior to himself and the poor, less advanced country that he has left behind. In other words, he believes that by aping the behavior and adopting the views of the white, affluent, ruling class in America he will truly be accepted by them, and more importantly, be elevated to their status.
Perhaps shockingly, I have some sympathy for his views. When I first came to America, I too felt like an outsider and believed that I had to go along to get along; and the crowd that I desperately wanted to get along with were the affluent whites, who in my mind were the personification of the American Dream. They seemed to lead a better life than mine and at several points in my journey through college and beyond, I was reminded of how strange, marginal, and often comical my Indian heritage was to those whom I most wanted to impress. It was, in fact, almost a decade before I realized my mistake: instead of defining my own identity through my own views, and being proud of it -- which is the real essence of being an American -- I was copying someone else's mannerisms and parroting their beliefs in the misplaced hope that that would somehow uplift me in their eyes, and make me a real American myself.
I suspect that D'Souza has faced a similar conflict in his life and has a lot of anger inside him because of it. It is understandable, even justifiable, but it is not defensible. D'Souza is not some college kid, like I was, struggling to find his cultural and personal identity anymore. He is now a national figure of some importance and has a very loud megaphone at his disposal with which he can choose to take a genuine stand against ignorance, racism, and blind conformism... or he can take the other road and just do whatever is expedient and wins him the support of Ricketts and the Republican Party.
If he does that, he might come to realize that the "rage" that he so conveniently ascribes to Obama is actually his own.
Sanjay Sanghoee has worked at leading investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein as well as at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and received an Award for Business Ethics from Henry Kravis. He is the author of two novels (available below), including "Merger" which Chicago Tribune called "Timely, Gripping, and Original" and writes regularly about politics, corporate excess as well as for the Indian website Lassi with Lavina. Please visit www.sanghoee.com to sign up for updates.