Who really killed Laquan McDonald?

We know that on the fateful night of October 20, 2014, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 bullets into the body of 17 year old Laquan McDonald. Officer Van Dyke was charged with 1st degree murder. The criminal investigation will take its due course. It is highly likely that Officer Van Dyke will be convicted of 1st degree murder, and based on evidence at this point, rightfully so. Van Dyke was at one end of this tragedy, holding a gun in his hand, firing bullets. But why did those bullets meet the body of a 17 year old teenager who had a knife in his hand and was breaking into vehicles and slashing tires? Answering that question is critical to answering who really killed Laquan McDonald.

It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child and similarly, it took a village to kill a young black teenager. Failing social support structure, lack of political leadership for the south side, teacher’s unions unwilling to take responsibility for failing schools, racially motivated police force, lack of employment opportunities, incarceration rates for young black males, and lack of individual responsibility all combined to make sure that Laquan McDonald was at the other end of those bullets the night of October 20, 2014. But let there be no doubt about it – if not that night, he would have been at the other end of bullets some other night. Instead of Officer Van Dyke, it would have been a different officer or a gang member firing those bullets. Or he would have ended up incarcerated. He was marked man – one way or the other and we know that he is not the only one.

Why then all the anger is focused on the Chicago PD or Officer Van Dyke? Because that helps everyone else in the village escape culpability – the culpability that comes from betraying Laquan McDonalds of the world. But focusing only on the source of bullets and not on what put Laquan McDonald on the other end of those bullets, we will never solve the root of this problem – we will merely keep hacking at the symptoms of the problem.

A tale of two love stories in Bollywood

The mid-1980s were the best of the times, they were the worst of the times for Bollywood.

Amitabh Bachchan – In and As ‘Mard’

At one end, it was going through a terrible phase – the era of Amitabh Bachchan was on the wane and his favorite team of producers-directors, in a desparate attempt to recapture his lost magic produced terrible movies such as Mard, Shahenshah, Giraftaar etc. To make matters worse, a bunch of Amitabh wannabees such as Govinda,  Mithun Chakraborty, Chunky Pandey were busy creating their own cacophony of movies with bad storylines, lousy music and terrible production values.

At the same time however, Bollywood saw the rise of two whiz-kid directors, both with a deep sense of destiny and a strong pedigree. Sooraj Barjatya came from the strong tradition of Rajshri Productions, while Mansoor Khan was the son of famed producer-director-writer, Nasir Hussein. The similarities did not stop there. Both the production houses had seen better days, although the financial situation of Rajshri was way more precarious. And both sought to revive the fortunes of their legacies through marquee love stories that redefined Bollywood forever. And both of them introduced two stars that still rule Bollywood, although in different ways and degrees. Yes, we are talking about Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Maine Pyaar Kiya.

Both movies were huge hits, although Maine Pyaar Kiya really took the nation by storm. At the same time, almost everyone who came of age during that period had a strong favorite. People watched both the movies, loved both of them but had a visceral following for one of the other, starting from songs, the actors, and the movie itself.

Two decades after the movies were released, I watched them again recently in quick succession and realized that my own opinion still remained the same – that Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was a better allround movie overall – it was better scripted, had better production values, was better acted and as Bollywood movies go, was less over the top compared with Maine Pyaar Kiya. And those qualities have allowed Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to become a classic that can be watched multiple times even after two decades, while Maine Pyaar Kiya comes across as too loud, too card-boardish, too amateurish, and way over the top.

The trajectories of the two directors later on vindicates this judgement. Mansoor Khan carried on to make another all time classic called Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. His next two movies unfortunately were copies of Hollywood movies (Akele Hum Akele Tum based on Kramer v/s Kramer and Josh based on The West Side Story) and pretty mediocre ones at that, but no one can accuse him of having shoddy production values, or having cartoonish, over the top characters. Sooraj Barjatya however went on to make travesties such Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Saath Saath Hain, Main Prem Kee Diwani Hoon and Vivah. Several of these movies were major hits and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is one of the biggest Bollywood hits ever but these were some of the most regressive, unrealistic movies ever made in Bollywood (which is saying a lot) with some terrible production values and acting. In some sense, they were the non-violent equivalent of the formulaic, later stage Amitabh Bachchan, or Mithun/Govinda movies – the wheel had come full circle for Sooraj Barjatya.

The 10 conservative principles

The 10 guiding principles of present-day conservatives (in no particular order):

  1. State and local rights are great – until those rights go against my beliefs. Thus, it is conservative to have local gun control laws be trumped at the federal level but it is liberal to have federal government mandate gay marriage rights.
  2. Government is bad – until it is used to enforce beliefs that I like. Thus, it is conservative to have the government peep in my bedroom, but liberal to enforce gay rights.
  3. Deficit spending is bad – until it is done to reduce taxes or pay for unneeded wars.
  4. It is not judicial activism if the conservative judges do it.
  5. Reagan could do nothing wrong – in fact, he was the one who proved that deficits don’t matter politically, as long as they can be spun the right way.
  6. I am righteous and you are a moron.
  7. “I heard Rush Limbaugh say it” ought to end any argument where you and I disagree.
  8. Melting ice-caps and glaciers are hoax – “I heard Rush Limbaugh say it”.
  9. Entitlement spending is bad – unless they are my entitlements.
  10. Down with high taxes – even though most conservative states end up taking in more dollars per capita from the federal tax base than they pay in.

Do you have suggestions for other principles that guide present day conservatives?

He helped raise two kids

We are planning to buy a minivan and last weekend I went to test drive a few. Now, you don’t expect a lot of profound thoughts to come from your car salesman but then, you never know where you might pick up nuggets of wisdom. While driving the van, we started talking about why we need a minivan and I told him about my daughter, and my dog at which point he reminisced about his dog as well which he had to put down at the age of 17. “Can’t complain though”, the guy said, “I have two teenager boys and the dog was with them from the time they were born – he helped raise two kids, he did his job.”


What a way to describe what his dog did for him and his family and most likely, there wasn’t an iota of exaggeration. I think only people with dogs in their family can related to what he said and I immediately thought of Mojo and how he is already helping to raise our daughter. He sits at her feet, he is always protective of her, he is restless when she is not around. I can see her becoming a more humane and responsible person because she will be taking care of a loving creature right from her childhood. I am so looking forward to Mojo help raise my daughter as well.

The real significance of the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign

Now that the Valentine’s Day 2009 and the Pink Chaddi campaign is in our rear view mirror – it’s` a good time to analyze the real significance of the campaign and what it portends for the Indian society. The campaign, if you want to read the tea leaves, shows why India has never been and never will be Talibanised, why it will never become a Saudi Arabia, an Afghanistan or a Pakistan.

There is a strain in the Indian population, that views any sort of extremism with extreme distaste and disgust; there is this natural tendency to pull back from extremist views and actions. This was demonstrated in the defeat of the four BJP state governments post Babri Masjid demolition, this was demonstrated in BJP’s governing style when they were forced to govern from the center during the Bajpai government and now, the Pink Chaddi campaign is a great example of this strain. What was even more laudatory about this campaign was the way in which the Indian society registered its protest. There were no violent demonstrations, no agitations – just a humorous,  tongue-firmly-in-the-cheek idea that poked fun at the extremists, ridiculed their nickname (chaddi-wallahs) and made them look extremely silly.

This idea of protesting at injustice in a non-violent manner is extremely Indian – or if I might dare say it, extremely Hindu. I firmly believe that the reason why India has stood as a stalward of secularism and a multi-cultural society while countries around it like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka have fallen prey to ethnic and religious divides is the benign and accomodating views of its Hindu majority. This could be due to the flexibility of the Hindu religion and culture or some other reason, but the strain is there – the Pink Chaddi campain again proves it. We have to zealously guard ourselves to make sure that we preseve and pass on this strain to our future generations and to not let the Modis, Thackereys and the different Senes of the world take over the Indian society. It is a very short road from beating up women for visiting the pubs to beheading them for wearing skirts and lets keep that road closed forever.

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