“Equal Dignity in the Eyes of the Law” 0

“In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.” ~ The New York Times,  April 26, 2015

“There are times we must pause our more typical environmental concerns, such as climate change, the global water crisis, and the fate of other species, to consider what we humans require of, and owe to, the members of our own species; to reflect upon the adequacy of our social institutions at-large, as the original vision for Earth Day demanded.” ~EarthDesk on the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, June 27, 2013

AnthonyKennedybw_sm“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage … They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” ~ Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, June 26, 2015
GaylordNelson bw_sm“The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings … a new American ethic … emphasizing human dignity and well-being.” ~ Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970
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Into the World of India 0

Scattering of light from particulate matter and pollution in Bangalore, India.By mproopesh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Scattering of light from particulate matter and pollution in Bangalore, India.  Mproopesh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ed. Note: Kiefer Kofman, Pace ’16, is a political science major studying in India under a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Kiefer led the community energy team in the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic during the spring 2015 semester. Ben Gilman, a loved and respected congressman in the Hudson Valley, served in the House of Representatives from 1973 until his retirement in 2003. During his tenure he chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and was a congressional delegate to the United Nations. He lives in Middletown, NY., in his former district. ~ JC.

Coming from the U.S., India must be seen through a certain lens. But it takes time. India is a far more complex, nuanced, and enigmatic nation than most of us understand. It can be a culture shock.

I am living in Bangalore, more properly Bengaluru, capital of the State of Karnataka. It is one of India’s more modern and economically ascending cities. Still, the nation’s culture, from its deep flaws to its splndiferous diversity, is in abundant evidence here.

Laborers taking a rest in front of a store in Bangalore. Kiefer Kofman.

Laborers taking a rest in front of a store in Bangalore.  Photo Kiefer Kofman.

India is composed of twenty-nine states, each with a vastly different culture, landscape, government and demography. Most have their own regional language. People tend to identify themselves by their region and religion underlies much of the culture. 82% identify themselves as Hindus, while most of the rest of the population are Muslim, Sikh, Jainist, Christian or Buddhist.

To put this in perspective, India’s Islamic population numbers only 15% of the national population of approximately 1.25 billion, yet it is the second largest Islamic population in the world. Further crystalizing the potential for divisions in India, is the caste system, which was a human rights issue even before 19th century British rule, though it is often played down in the 21st century. Given its size and diversity, India more closely resembles a continent of twenty-nine different nations.

India’s economic, political and social issues and disparities are mostly hidden to the outsider.

To understand India, and the experience an American takes from it, these are the nuts and bolts. India presents a fusion of challenges, experiences, and moral tests. The Indian experience becomes that much more illuminating when one can understand this background, and the foundational reasons why complex issues of inequity persist.

For a political science major and public policy wonk like myself, India presents the ideal challenge: a political and judicial system mired in deep corruption, immense economic inequality, religious tension and subjugation. Though it has the seventh largest GDP, it is one of the lowest ranking nations on the Human Development Index —  135th out of 187 .

Bangalore is an excellent hub for a recipient of a Gilman Scholarship to study and conduct political research. It represents the inequality of the nation and its clash between rising globalization and those who have been left behind, economically and culturally. Studying here at Christ University and taking courses on human rights, the issues and challenges facing India begin to organize themselves in much clearer fashion.

India’s economic, political and social issues and disparities are mostly hidden to the outsider. Yet, an acceptance of the status quo seems a natural aspect of Indian society. One of my goals in traveling here is to identify the root factors contributing to these problems that seem uniquely immutable. I believe I am nearing my answer, as I will attempt to outline in more descriptive, on-the-ground blog posts to follow.

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Charleston, South Carolina Church Shooting by Dave Granlund 0

After all these years, it is still the case that we fight “strangeness” – the fear of anything different — to protect “our own.” But the larger ideal of respect and decency for all must be the backbone of any movement, the environmental movement included.  ~ Pete Seeger, EarthDesk, June 27, 2013

By Dave Granland. Via Cagle Cartoons. Used with permission.

By Dave Granlund. Via Cagle Cartoons. Used with permission.

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Dave GurlundDave Granlund’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, GateHouse Media, Cape Cod Times, Newsday and magazines such as Newsweek.  Also shown nationally on FoxNews.com, MSNBC.com, HBO, PBS, NPR, CNN and NBC’s Today Show.

His newspaper honors include awards from: UPI, New England Press Association, International Association of Business Communicators, Bronze Quill Award IABC; Associated Press, Massachusetts Press Association and New England Press Award.  His work has been entered numerous times for the Pulitzer Prize.

To visit Dave’s website follow this link.