WASHINGTON – When Indian-American actor Kal Penn announced his support for presidential candidate Barack Obama, he did so because the senator from Illinois inspired him like Mahatma Gandhi.
“I’m not a registered Democrat, and I’ve never gotten motivated before, mostly because I wasn’t a fan of the political establishment,” he explained. “But I was really inspired by Barack. I haven’t been that inspired since hearing my grandparents tell stories about marching with Gandhi.”
In fact, Gandhi’s name has come up repeatedly in the Democratic presidential race – with both Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., outspoken admirers of the Indian independence leader – perceived as a virtual 20th century saint thanks to mythologizing books and movies.
Yet, the real Gandhi was not the little man revered by the U.S. civil rights leadership for his commitment to non-violence, according to the authors of “Gandhi Under Cross-Examination,” which, using the India leader’s own words, portray him as an anti-black racist, an admirer of Adolf Hitler, a critic of George Washington and a man who believed Jews should not have resisted Nazi Germany’s efforts to exterminate them.
Here are some of the lesser-known quotations from Gandhi’s explosive writings:
During his early civil disobedience in South Africa, Gandhi, the authors say, made it clear he was not fighting for a colorblind society, but one that would be dominated by whites and Indians at the expense of blacks: “Ours is on continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life of indolence and nakedness.” “Kaffir” is a pejorative South African term for blacks, equivalent to the “n” word in America.
- “We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do. … We believe also that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race.”
- In a letter to Hitler in 1941, Gandhi wrote: “Nor do I believe that you are the monster described by your opponents.”
- “Hitler killed 5 million Jews. … But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.”
- Regarding Washington, he wrote: “I do not hesitate to say that it is highly unlikely that had I lived as (his contemporary), I would have called (him) a misguided patriot.”
Not only has Gandhi been credited with being the inspiration of the American civil rights movement beginning with Martin Luther King Jr., but he remains a revered figure among the U.S.’ top progressive political leaders, including Obama, Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“In my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things,” said Obama in February.
Indeed, Gandhi did extraordinary things. His independence movement in India led to one of the most massive and bloodiest population movements in history.
“I have admired the work and life of Mahatma Gandhi and have spoken publicly about that many times,” reminded Hillary Clinton.
Reid had this to say last year: “If there were ever a time with this international war on terror that we’re fighting now where people have to understand how important peace is, think of Gandhi, a man who gave his life for peace, a tiny, little man in physical stature, but a giant in morality.”
The book is authored by G.B. Singh and Tim Watson. Singh is the author of an earlier book, “Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity,” while Watson is the author of “The Ethics of Timelessness.”
Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence was, by all accounts, extreme. In 1940, when the British Isles appeared to be on the verge of invasion by the Axis powers, Gandhi offered the following advice to the people of England: “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. … If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”
Gandhi was killed by an assassin’s bullet 60 years ago.