Honestly, We Cannot Build Anything ALL BY OURSELVES!

President Barack Obama in rally at CMU in Summer

By Kollengode S. Venkataraman

In the days leading up to their convention in August, Republicans perversely and cynically truncated President Obama’s words from this quote: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbeliev­able American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

They twisted the word “that” totally out of context to imply Obama does not understand the American ethos built on free enterprise, subliminally telling their base Obama is a Closet Commie. They dedicated an entire day in their convention at Tampa taunting Democrats with the slogan “We Built That.” This was the cheapest cheap shot in political sloganeering in 2012.

This was jarring for most people.  Yes, we work hard to earn our degrees, residencies, and fellowships; yes, we indi­vidually build our careers and businesses with great commitment and dedication. And it’s true, over the years we’ve paid, and we will continue to pay, tens of thousands of dollars in income and other taxes. But most of us are also well compensated more than monetarily.

Of course we make valuable contributions as researchers, engineers, doctors and business owners. In accomplishing all these for which we are legitimately proud, we need to remember, we use the creations, services and skills of others, often taking them for granted—the supports that we did not create, but without which we simply can not accomplish all that we do. This is true for everybody in all well-organized societies. 

Immigrants in the US would know this better.  They use the excellent roads, reliable communication services and EMS and the 911 system; tax-payer funded public education in high schools and public libraries; reliable professional services of auto mechanics, home repairmen, analytical labs that they can not get in many parts of the world from which the immigrants come… …

Besides, all of us Indian-Americans—even those who come from influen­tial and powerful families of land owners, politicians, business people, officials in government and the private sectors in India—received highly subsidized, tax-payer-funded university education. We paid as tuition only a tiny fraction of what it costs to run the colleges. Those who got admission into US universities received teaching and research assistantships funded by Federal and State governments; fellowships and fee deferments from endow­ments established by individuals and corporations in universities.

While nothing of worth is ever achieved without the initiative and drive of the individual, it is outright vanity and pride – which are sinful in the Christian tradition, and which the Dharmic faiths warn, are sure to lead to man’s downfall – to claim or even believe that all our accomplishments are out of individual effort alone. Along the way, many lent us their shoulders for us to stand on.

Honestly, some of us have even stepped on others’ toes, or used our parents’ strong elbows, influence, and wealth in accomplishing our goals.

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