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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 29, 2007

Written by C.N.

Expanding Racial Categories in Admissions

One of the recurring themes within Asian American Studies and from Asian American scholars is the notion that, perhaps ironically, in order to truly understand the entire Asian American category, one must first recognize and understand each of the unique ethnic groups that are included within that larger category. As an example of this, Diverse Education reports that the University of California system is expanding the selection of Asian ethnic groups that students can choose in order to better identify the characteristics of each group:

The University of California is expanding the categories undergraduate applicants use to self-report their ethnicity as part of an effort to collect and better report the “complexities” of its Asian American and Pacific Islander students. It will become the first public institution of higher education in California to collect and report data specifically on Hmong, Filipino and other Asian subgroups.

“The data UC collects are a reflection of how well we are serving the diverse people of California,” said Dr. Judy Sakaki, UC’s vice president for student affairs. “My goal is for improved data reporting to spur greater accountability regarding overlooked populations in our student body.” Next year’s undergraduate application will include 23 Asian American and Pacific Islander categories, up from the eight that are currently recorded.

The “Count Me In” campaign, a student-led crusade to get the University of California system and the state to disaggregate data so that the needs and challenges of the various Asian subgroups aren’t overlooked, played a role in UC’s decision as did calls from UC faculty for richer research data and state legislative interest.

Through aggregated data, Asians are often portrayed as academically, socially and economically successful. But in a report released last summer, the federal Government Accountability Office warned that the “Asian” umbrella masks the underperformance of some Asian subgroups, like Vietnamese and Native Hawaiians.

As UC noted in its announcement Friday, a closer look at the Hmong community in California shows that 66 percent have less than a high school degree, compared to 23 percent of all California adults.

This is definitely a positive step in the right direction and I applaud the University of California system for implementing this change, and everyone associated with the “Count Me In” campaign for working to make this important change a reality.

November 27, 2007

Written by C.N.

Increase in Hate Crimes

As many media organizations report, the FBI has released their data on hate crimes reported in 2006 and the official statistics indicate that all hate crimes are up 8% from 2005. However, as this article at CBS News mentions, the real numbers of hate crimes committed is almost guaranteed to be much higher:

“It’s unfortunate that the numbers went up by almost 8 percent, but the truth is the FBI Hate Crimes statistics severely undercounts the number of hate crimes that we have in the United States every year,” [Heidi Beirick of the Southern Poverty Law Center] told CBS News. That’s because only 12,600 of the nation’s more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies – roughly three-quarters – participated in the hate crime reporting program in 2006.

In addition to only about two-thirds of law enforcement agencies reporting their data, as any criminologist will also tell you, another big reason why the true number of hate crimes committed is actually much higher is because only about a third of violent crimes and 40% of property crimes are ever reported to law enforcement by their victims.

Therefore, taken altogether, the real number of hate crimes actually committed (as opposed to reported to law enforcement agencies) is likely to be over 30,000 incidents a year. Overall, it’s not an encouraging picture or trend.

November 25, 2007

Written by C.N.

Big Plans for Little Saigons

The Vietnamese American community is one of the fastest-growing Asian ethnic groups in the U.S. Many scholars would also say that based upon their refugee experiences and their relative recent arrival into the U.S., Vietnamese Americans also have one of the highest levels of ethnic solidarity of all Asian groups as well.

Much of their social cohesion centers around their ethnic enclaves in the two largest metropolitan areas with the largest Vietnamese American populations: Orange County and San Jose. As articles from the Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury News describe, both these Vietnamese American enclaves are poised for some upcoming changes: the Orange County one is debating plans to add New York City-style high rises while the San Jose one adopts a controversial official name:

About the Orange County Little Saigon:

Imagine what would happen if New York City-style development came to the heart of Orange County’s Little Saigon, now a jumble of mom-and-pop shops in mostly old strip malls. Lofts would sit atop high-end stores. People would lounge at outdoor restaurants and sidewalk cafes. The area would have hotels and a sculpture garden.

And the street of old newspaper and TV offices would become the “Vietnamese American Times Square,” complete with plasma screens and electronic headline news signs. That’s the ambitious vision put forth by a group of land-use experts to transform the area, home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese Americans in the country. Little Saigon has not lived up to its potential as a tourist spot, the group says, and it’s going to take a lot of money, cooperation and faith to get it to the next level. . . .

Community leaders have long worried that the three square miles that make up the district would slowly decline as the second and third generations of Vietnamese families moved away.

And regarding San Jose’s Vietnamese American enclave:

In a dynamic and dramatic scene before one of the largest crowds to ever gather at City Hall, the San Jose City Council on Tuesday designated a busy hub of Vietnamese-owned businesses “Saigon Business District,” enraging several hundred people who stormed City Hall demanding the name “Little Saigon.”

Throughout the night the boisterous crowd of mostly “Little Saigon” supporters shouted and booed, forcing Mayor Chuck Reed to repeatedly tell the crowd to “calm down, calm, down,” and council members to defend colleague Madison Nguyen, who proposed the name “Saigon Business District.” . . .

Nguyen, the first Vietnamese woman elected to office in California, proposed the name “Saigon Business District” as a compromise, she said, for dueling factions in the Vietnamese community who wanted either Little Saigon or New Saigon. . . . Nguyen’s proposal infuriated many of her constituents. “We will not forget those who break our hearts and we will remember those who honor the Vietnamese-American community,” said Van Le, a “Little Saigon” supporter. . . .

Nguyen said the area should have its own identity – separate from other Little Saigons. And business owners prefer that the name have “business district” in it. “Little Saigon” is opposed by the Story Road Business Association and the San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has members in the area.

As you can see, there are certainly elements of controversy regarding both of these proposed changes, particularly debate between Vietnamese Americans as different sides tout their own vision of what their community should look like, or even be named.

As a Vietnamese American myself, I know better than to choose sides in either debate at this point. For now, as a sociologist, I will point out that issues surrounding land use actually play a very vital part in terms of maintaining social solidarity among a particular cultural group. In other words, for any group to maintain cohesion, it helps to have a physical space that can serve as a central focal point.

Within this physical space, more concrete mechanisms serve to maintain ethnic identity — social organizations, churches, political offices, businesses, residences, an official name, etc. These elements form the basis for any strong ethnic enclave and the “Little Saigons” in Orange County and San Jose are no different.

In addition and in the case of a refugee group such as Vietnamese Americans, their original homeland was “taken away” from them by the communists at the end of the Viet Nam War, so the physical spaces of these ethnic enclaves also serve as a “temporary” (in the eyes of some Vietnamese refugees) or even a more permanent replacement for their original homeland.

With this in mind, when there are proposals to change any of these elements, not only is the physical characteristic of such enclaves subject to change, but so too is the nature and strength of the existing ethnic solidarity placed at risk as well.

That is why you already see a lot of contention surrounding the different questions in each of these Vietnamese American ethnic enclaves — not only is the nature of their physical space subjected to change, but so too is the fundamental nature of their ethnic identity.

November 21, 2007

Written by C.N.

Miscellaneous Links #1

Here are some miscellaneous links that have come my way. As always, I mention them to disseminate information and perspectives, not to necessarily endorse every single aspect of their content:

Studio 360 Podcast on China:

Podcast of Radio Interview with Noted Vietnamese American Writer Andrew Lam:

Immigration Pro-Con: exploring both sides of the illegal immigration debate

November 20, 2007

Written by C.N.

Human Costs of Immigration Raids

For those who haven’t noticed, in recent months, there has been a notable increase in the number and size of raids against illegal immigrants and the businesses where they work. The Homeland Security department (home of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service) have now shifted their emphasis from stopping illegal immigrants as they cross the border to rounding them up and arresting them at their workplaces.

I can understand the need to enforce existing laws against hiring illegal immigrants, although I think there are better ways to address the larger issue of reducing illegal immigration. However, what I cannot support is how families are literally being torn apart and lives at risk as a result of such raids and mass arrests against illegal immigrants. Case in point — as the New York Times reports — babies being ripped from their mothers arms and separated indefinitely:

Ms. Umanzor had been at home with two of her three children, both American citizens, when the immigration agents arrived, along with a county police officer. . . As the agents searched, Ms. Umanzor breast-fed her jittery baby, she recalled in an interview after her release. . . .

She was forced to leave both Brittney and the other American daughter, Alexandra, who is 3, since the agents could not detain them. “Just thinking that I was going to leave my little girl, I began to feel sick,” Ms. Umanzor said of the baby. “I had a pain in my heart.” . . .

In jail and with her nursing abruptly halted, Ms. Umanzor’s breasts become painfully engorged. With the help of Veronica Dahlberg, director of a Hispanic women’s group in Ashtabula County, a breast pump was delivered on her third day in jail. Brittney, meanwhile, did not eat for three days, refusing to take formula from a bottle, Ms. Dahlberg said. After four days, the county released all six children to Ms. Umanzor’s sister, who managed to wean Brittney to a bottle.

On Nov. 7, after two dozen women’s health advocates and researchers sent a letter protesting Ms. Umanzor’s detention, Ms. Myers issued a memorandum instructing field officers “to exercise discretion” during arrests by releasing nursing mothers from detention unless they presented a national security or public safety risk. . . .

In their study, released this month, La Raza, a national Hispanic organization, and the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, examined three factory raids in the past year, in Greeley, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb.; and New Bedford. . . .

The study found that . . . many families hid for days or longer in their homes, sometimes retreating to basements, the study reported. Although many children showed symptoms of emotional distress, family members were reluctant to seek public assistance for them, even if the children were citizens, fearing new arrests of relatives who were illegal immigrants.

Baby Tomasa crying in the arms of her mother, taken during the New Bedford, MA immigration raid in March 2007 © Peter Pereira

As the article also notes, federal immigration officials and opponents of illegal immigration argue that while their goal is not to victimize children, ultimately it is the fault of the parents for putting their children in these situations, based on their status as illegal immigrants.

Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning is a textbook example of what sociologists call “blaming the victim.”

Yes it is true that by virtue of the fact that they came into the U.S. without authorization that they are here illegally. But as scholars and other halfway informed observers will tell you, the reasons the vast majority of border-crossers come here is not to get rich off of welfare, but to try to earn a living by working in jobs that most Americans will not accept.

In other words, illegal immigrants come here to work. Once they are inside the U.S., data also show that the vast majority of them obey the laws and pay taxes — sales taxes, property taxes, and even federal and state income taxes that are estimated to contribute $60 billion a year to Social Security funds. It’s also worth noting that because illegal immigrants often use fake social security numbers, income taxes get taken out but they will most likely never see any of those funds themselves.

The point is, the choices that illegal immigrants make, more often than not, actually results in net benefits to American society. And how do we as a society treat them as a result? By vilifying, demonizing, and dehumanizing them. And by literally tearing families apart and putting innocent lives at risk.

As the article notes, even the Homeland Security department has apparently come to its senses, recognized the inherent brutality and inhumanity in their actions, and reevaluated its draconian tactic of separating mothers from their young children. As a result of incidents like that described in the article, they now instruct their agents to release mothers who have young children unless they pose a direct threat to national security.

I’m not a legal scholar, but I might actually describe what happened to families like the Umanzors in the article might be classified as cruel and unusual punishment, perhaps even torture.

There must be a better way to address the problems associated with illegal immigration than to treat them like animals.

That better way is to enact comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the issue on all levels — stricter enforcement of laws against knowingly hiring illegal workers, creating some legal arrangement to allow temporary workers to come and work in the U.S., giving law-abiding illegal immigrants the opportunity to become citizens and continue their contributions to American society, and efforts to strengthen foreign economies to reduce the push factors that drive many to leave for the U.S., to name just a few.

But to focus the brunt of our country’s resources on forcibly separating families and exacting incalculable human costs and suffering is nothing short of barbarism.

November 19, 2007

Written by C.N.

Online Survey: Asian American Women Body Image

A colleague of mine asked me to post the following announcement about an online survey that some of her students are conducting about body image among Asian American women. The survey should take about 15-20 minutes to complete. Please consider helping them out and contributing your opinion by taking the survey.


We are conducting a preliminary survey on body image among Asian American women. The study is for Professor Miliann Kang’s Women Studies course, “Asian American Women” at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
(The link to the online survey)

As a participant, you should be a college student who identifies as female. If you decide to be part of the survey, participation should take 15-20 minutes. You will be asked personal questions about your body image. If a question makes you uncomfortable, you do not have to answer it. You are also able to stop filling out the survey at any time. Conversely, if you have a story to tell or a comment to say, we welcome and appreciate any additional elaboration.

Your survey responses will be strictly confidential and data from this research will be reported only in the aggregate. The information you provide will be used for the class project and will be presented in class (Dec 3 and Dec 5, 2007). If you have questions at any time about the survey or the procedures, you can contact me at 626-588-8949 or via email at

Thank you for your assistance.

Sandy Yu, Mike Kauffman, Sarah Colen, Judea Beatrice, and Jessica Brooks
(The link to the online survey)

November 15, 2007

Written by C.N.

Bloggers of Color Speak Out

One of the fundamental tenets of the Internet is that it gives marginalized groups and people the opportunity to express themselves more easily and freely than traditional media. As The Boston Globe reports, that promise is increasingly becoming fulfilled by bloggers of color (thanks to for pointing out the article):

These intellectual challenges to mainstream and other viewpoints are some of the opinions Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander-American, and black bloggers are exposing on a growing number of sites focused on social, political, and cultural issues. The sometimes facetiously named blogs range from Angry Asian Man to The Angry Black Woman.

Readers can find Latino viewpoints at Guanabee, The Unapologetic Mexican, or Latino Pundit. Those interested in information from an Asian angle head to Ultrabrown, Zuky, or Sepia Mutiny. Sites created by blacks include The Field Negro, Too Sense, and Resist Racism. But often these bloggers discard the handcuffs of their ethnic origins to tackle subjects affecting a range of racial or ethnic groups.

These sites – many of which launched in the past year, although a few are older – have become places where people of color gather to refine ideas or form thoughts about race relations, racial inequities, and the role pop culture has in exacerbating stereotypes. The writers often bring attention to subjects not yet covered by mainstream media.

Overall, the Boston Globe article portrays bloggers of color very positively. At the same time, I could not help but notice the quote (cited above), “these bloggers discard the handcuffs of their ethnic origins to tackle subjects affecting a range of racial or ethnic groups” (emphasis added).

I’m not really sure what the article’s author means by that statement. Is she implying that covering an issue that predominantly or most immediately affects one particular racial or ethnic group in a particular story is counterproductive and ultimately divisive? Does she mean that it’s not useful to point out specific issues, experiences, or characteristics of a particular racial/ethnic group?

I certainly hope that these are not the implications she intended because that only plays into the whole “colorblind” myth of American society — that everyone is all the same and should be treated according to a “standard” manner or set of rules.

In fact, I would guess that most if not all of these bloggers portrayed in the article would probably agree that while there are certainly many commonalities that different racial/ethnic groups share, there are many things that make each group unique.

Further, pointing out these unique characteristics ultimately benefits us by educating us and expanding our knowledge of others, rather than dividing or separating us. Let’s not fall into that colorblind (some would even say White supremacist) way of thinking.

November 13, 2007

Written by C.N.

New Research on Race and Genetics

As we all know, race, race relations, and racial discrimination are all very complicated and controversial issues. Up until about 50 years ago, the overall consensus (particularly among “average” Americans) was that different racial groups were biologically and genetically very different from each other. Further, most people believed that these genetic differences also included intelligence — i.e., some racial groups were genetically more intelligent than other groups.

Since that time however, as we began to learn more about the actual science of genetics, we as a society gradually came to a new consensus — that from a biological or physiological point of view, the idea that there are genetically distinct racial groups actually has no scientific validity at all.

That is, we now know that over 99% of any given person’s genes are identical to that of any other person on earth and that there are no distinct “racial” groups as we know them — there are just too many variations and exceptions to each “rule” about which person belongs in which racial group. In other words, the idea of “racial groups” is socially constructed, not scientifically-based.

However, new, emerging research is starting to challenge some of these consensus beliefs. As the New York Times reports, recent studies based on the latest advances in human genome mapping suggest that there might be something to the idea that genetic differences may exist between different racial groups after all:

Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases. . . .Ancestry tests tell customers what percentage of their genes are from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The heart-disease drug BiDil is marketed exclusively to African-Americans, who seem genetically predisposed to respond to it. Jews are offered prenatal tests for genetic disorders rarely found in other ethnic groups.

Such developments are providing some of the first tangible benefits of the genetic revolution. Yet some social critics fear they may also be giving long-discredited racial prejudices a new potency. The notion that race is more than skin deep, they fear, could undermine principles of equal treatment and opportunity that have relied on the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal. . . .

Though few of the bits of human genetic code that vary between individuals have yet to be tied to physical or behavioral traits, scientists have found that roughly 10 percent of them are more common in certain continental groups and can be used to distinguish people of different races. They say that studying the differences, which arose during the tens of thousands of years that human populations evolved on separate continents after their ancestors dispersed from humanity’s birthplace in East Africa, is crucial to mapping the genetic basis for disease.

But many geneticists, wary of fueling discrimination and worried that speaking openly about race could endanger support for their research, are loath to discuss the social implications of their findings. Still, some acknowledge that as their data and methods are extended to nonmedical traits, the field is at what one leading researcher recently called “a very delicate time, and a dangerous time.”

New American Media has another article that summarizes many of the latest research findings on race and genetics. This NY Times article goes on to describe that, according to many scientists who are at the leading edge of this kind of genetic research, it is pretty much inevitable that many people (particularly nonscientists) will try to extend these emerging genetic differences into the conclusion that different racial groups are genetic more or less intelligent than others.

At the same time, these scientists are quick to point out that even if genetic differences in intelligence exist, the influence of institutional and socioeconomic factors are still much more important in explaining social inequalities between racial groups. As Dr. David Altshuler puts it, “[L]iving in America, it is so clear that the economic and social and educational differences have so much more influence than genes. People just somehow fixate on genetics, even if the influence is very small.”

In other words, at this point, the overriding message from scientists is that genetics still does not validate or legitimate prejudice or discrimination against different races.

But where does that leave liberals like me? As also noted in the NY Times article, many liberals largely dismiss these genetic findings and instead argue that, as noted above, even if such genetic differences exist, social and economic factors have a much more significant effect on achievement in society.

On the other hand, other liberals argue that we should use such genetic findings to tailor programs specifically to the needs of particular racial group involved in an effort to compensate for any inherent disadvantages.

To be honest, I’m not sure which side of the argument I agree with more at this point. For now, I will take a “wait and see” approach and see what other findings come up. A the same time, there is one thing that I do know for sure — regardless of the scientific details, extremist ideologues and racial supremacists will use and spin such findings however they want to suit their own agenda.

That point is for certain — we should expect the debate and controversy to get worse before it gets better.

November 11, 2007

Written by C.N.

Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century

I came across this 1999 article from Time magazine that caught my eye: The Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century. I had not seen this particular list before, and found it to be an interesting read. I’ve broken down the names on their list into my own categories below but you should definitely read the individual descriptions and biographies for yourself on the Time site:

Communist Leaders
Ho Chi Minh
Pol Pot
Mao Zedong
Deng Xiaoping

National Leaders Seen as Benevolent
Sun Yat-Sen (‘Father’ of modern China)
Mohandas Gandhi
Corazon Aquino
Chulalongkorn (‘Father’ of modern Thailand)

National Leaders Seen as Tragic
Park Chung Hee (President of South Korea during its economic rise)
Sukarno (Former President of Indonesia)

Economic Leaders and Artists
Eiji Toyoda (leader during Toyota Corp.’s international rise)
Akio Morita (founder of Sony Corp.)
Akira Kurosawa (famed filmmaker)

Embarrassed to Say I’ve Never Heard Of
M.S. Swaminathan (considered ‘Father’ of modern green revolution)
Issey Miyake (fashion designer)
Daisuke Inoue (inventor of the karaoke machine)
Rabindranath Tagore (Asia’s first Nobel Laureate, for literature in 1913)

Like I said, it’s an interesting list and each of their biographies is well worth the read.

November 9, 2007

Written by C.N.

Diwali Festival Starts Today

Today, November 9, marks the start of the Diwali (also known as Deepavali) Festival, celebrated by Indians and South Asians around the world as the “Festival of Lights” that symbolizes the triumph of light (good) over darkness (evil).

Wikipedia has a rather comprehensive description of the holiday, while the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has a summary of the how the festival and its cultural significance relates to gay and lesbian members of the Indian community. In GLAAD’s words, “The holiday and its themes of love, compassion and understanding also reflect the unique hopes and dreams that resonate within the South Asian LGBT community.”

The following YouTube video, made by the India Association at the University of Missouri — Rolla, depicts the ancient legend of how Diwali first began:

For more information on the Diwali Festival, you can visit the following sites:

November 7, 2007

Written by C.N.

TV Diversity Report Card 2007

For years now, the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) has given out an annual “report card” to each of the major television networks on how racially inclusive its shows are regarding the representation of Asian Americans as actors, producers, writers, etc. The summary of grades for each of the four major national networks is below, followed by an excerpt of APAMC’s statement and summary of the grades:

Asian Pacific American Media Coalition TV Diversity Report Card, 2007

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) is disappointed in the degree of progress that has been made by the four major networks — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — none of which improved their overall grades from last year.

Overall, only 29 Asian Americans were cast in regular roles in prime-time, only two more than last year. And many of the regular roles are not quality roles with significant air time. When compared to other racial groups, APAs are still far less likely to be in starring roles in prime-time programming, although a number of shows are set in cities with high APA populations. Furthermore, APAs are the only ethnic group that does not boast someone as the star of his/her own show.

The Coalition is pleased to see that the number of APA writers and producers have rebounded from the severe drop last year. However, there are still too few APA and other minority writers and producers on prime-time shows; and too few in charge of creative decisions.

As a result, there are only a small number of fully developed, quality roles for APA actors. This continuing deficiency of APAs and other minorities in key decision making positions also results in incidents such as the recent slur against Filipino American physicians made on Desperate Housewives.

Standout shows that have excellent roles for APA actors are ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and NBC’s Heroes. Grey’s Anatomy, which has Shonda Rhimes, an African American woman as show runner, illustrates the importance of providing opportunities for talented minority writers which helps to foster the creation of roles depicting minorities, including APAs, as quality, non-stereotypical characters. Both shows are good examples of how addressing the nation’s growing diversity can lead to both commercial and critical success.

Of great concern to us this year, is the declining number of opportunities for APA directors, which fell from 27 the previous year to 23 this year. Growing the number of APA directors working on prime-time shows is also crucial to increasing the presence of well-rounded APA characters with quality stories.

Of even greater concern is the serious lack of development deals in the pipeline at any of the networks that would lead to shows starring an Asian American as the central character or featuring Asian Americans as a couple or a family.

I don’t actually watch much television, so I can’t really add much more to what the APAMC already describes. Instead, I want to reiterate one point in particular with which I strongly agree: increasing the number of “decisionmakers” at each network is absolutely critical.

In other words, it is nice to have more Asian American actors and roles, but the place where it all starts is at the executive level where senior executives, producers, and senior writers decide which shows are made, which characters are included, what are the plots, and who should be cast in them. That is where the “real action” takes place and that is where it is essential for Asian Americans to be present when such basic and high-level decisions are made.

That is true whether we’re talking about the corporate/business world in general or the network television business — Asian Americans need to become the decisionmakers for any real change to eventually take place.

November 5, 2007

Written by C.N.

Reactions to Pakistani State of Emergency

Many people inside and outside the Asian American community disagree about whether Pakistan and Pakistani Americans should be included under the “Asian American” category. There are valid arguments on both sides and it’s not my intention to try settle that question here.

Instead, based on the general agreement that Pakistan increasingly occupies a prominent position in international politics and this administration’s war on terrorism, it is certainly appropriate to discuss its current political situation. Specifically, as New American Media reports, many Pakistani Americans are not taking kindly to Pervez Musharraf’s latest actions:

General Musharraf said he had to declare a state of emergency because he could not “allow this country to commit suicide.” But he’s not fooling anyone, not even his own diasporan community many of whom had tentatively supported him when he seized power in a 1999 coup.

Then, says Agha Saeed, founder of American Muslim Alliance, Pakistani-Americans were so fed up with the “corrupt and inefficient” civilian administrations of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, they’d given Musharraf the benefit of the doubt.

“At first Musharraf did introduce some amount of efficiency and stability, even increasing the number of women’s seats and minority seats,” says Dr. Saeed. “But now he’s shown it’s just business as usual.” . . .

The Pakistani American National Alliance (PANA), a coalition of Pakistani-American organizations has accused Gen. Musharraf of “high treason” and organized protests in front of the consulates in Chicago, Dallas and New York and is planning another one in Los Angeles.

The article goes on to note that in addition to the general anger directed at Musharraf, many Pakistani Americans also criticize the Bush administration for implicitly supporting Musharraf’s recent actions, despite the administration’s declarations to the contrary.

In fact, regardless of its public and official criticisms of these most recent events, the U.S.’s ongoing support of Musharraf’s increasingly totalitarian policies sounds a lot like another example of the U.S. supporting oppressive totalitarian regimes around the world merely because such governments are seen as useful allies against some “more dangerous” enemy.

In the past, that would have been communists or other “leftists.” In today’s case, it’s the Taliban and al Qaeda.

History also shows us that the U.S.’s support for such totalitarian regimes in the past frequently did more harm than good in terms of turning whole populations of citizens against the U.S. for decades and generations to come and sewing the seeds of anti-Americanism that are now flourishing around the world.

So the question becomes, is the U.S. going to learn any lessons from history here and persuade Musharraf to allow the democratic process to unfold, or will the U.S. stand by and do nothing and in the process, be complicit in the death of democracy?

In fact, as I’ve heard before, that is exactly the definition of insanity — doing the same thing but hoping for a different result.