MOSF 18.8: A Modest Proposal: Vivek Ramaswamy Takes My Civics Exam

Memoirs of a Superfan Vol. 18.8: A Modest Proposal: Vivek Ramaswamy Takes My Civics Exam

By Ravi Chandra. Posted on August 25, 2023.

I recognize I rib/insult Mr. Ramaswamy, my younger South Asian American brother, quite a bit here, but my purpose is satire, not demonization. His cardboard candidacy is a prime example … of something. But it’s also potentially dangerous. I’m trying to take the situation seriously, even as I can’t take him seriously. He can’t take the situation seriously, apparently, but he somehow wants us to take him seriously. Sigh. Even as the American Dream percolates fantasies of Winning, as mature adults we have to ask – what is winning? What is losing? What is the loss we’re running from? The American Continent seems a Gambler’s Paradise, and I’m all for turning it into a Native American Casino. Let them run the House. The White House too…

If language is born from babies’ babble, which mother is Vivek cooing too? The Great Mother of the racist nation, of course. The Great Mother promises all, in exchange for total obedience. The military, or police states, are examples.

Ramaswamy’s rhetorical campaign aligns with the GOP’s violent rhetoric, and there is danger ahead. Please see my videos and takes on violent rhetoric at the end of this article.


At the first GOP presidential debate this week, Vivek Ramaswamy proposed a Civics exam as a requirement for high school graduation. (EDIT: after I wrote this, I read that he had actually proposed it as a test for the right to vote. If that is true, it is blatantly unconstitutional and disqualifying for this amateur, ignorant fool.) At first I wondered what his exam would look like…

Then I wondered how he would answer my Civics exam. So I made it up, on the spot.

1. America was founded upon the genocide of American Indians, the kidnapping, enslavement, and genocide of Africans, and the disenfranchisement of women… alongside freedom from British colonial rule, the creation of a constitutional democracy and advancing of many egalitarian and noble principles, in theory if not always in practice. The rise of the country included horrendous militarism, racism, colonialism, and greed, begetting widespread socioeconomic, health, moral and spiritual disparities, and a tenuous conscience that is a fragile work-in-progress. It’s not an all-bad history, but it’s certainly not all good. We are still wrestling with a lot of deep and fundamental questions. Given all this, what would you like to do with your American citizenship?

A. Help in some way to address the kinds of suffering outlined above, and generally care for others.

B. Make a buck and a name for myself. “YOLO! Name and a buck, eff you Chuck!” (The Ayn Rand option)

C. I dunno. I am… a STEMigrant ma-a-an – oh yes I am…

D. I dunno. I am… an ignorant ma-a-an – oh yes I am …

E. I’m not sure.

  1. Are you sure?

  2. Are you really sure?

  3. Are you really really sure?

  4. Are you really really really sure?

  5. Are you really really really really sure?

  6. Are you really really really really really sure?

  7. Are you really really really really really really sure?

  8. Are you really really really really really really really sure?

  9. Are you really really really really really really really really sure?

Depending on your answers, you will be sorted into sub-countries A B C D and E, and these countries will then go to war.

Any questions?

Wait for it…wait for it… What a turn.

***

This post started out as a joke, but then became a reality. Country B is trying to get it over all the others, isn’t it?

I’m not sure if Mr. Ramaswamy is running to sell books, be Trump’s VP or Cabinet pick, or if he seriously thinks he is presidential material. He was like a sophomore on the high school debate team turned tech bro libertarian, courting MAGA Republicans or maybe Trump himself. Or maybe he’s angling for Tucker Carlson’s old job.

MAGA Pixie Dream Boy.

He apparently rapped Eminem’s songs in Iowa, so I guess he’s practicing rhyming with White Republican a$$holes, in hopes of becoming an earworm.

Notorious B.I.G.O.T.

He said his parents came here “poor.” As far as I can tell, his dad is an engineer from a top IT college in India who worked for GE, and his mom is a … uh… geriatric psychiatrist. (Hey, Auntie, can we talk?) It would seem a stretch to call them “poor.” Interestingly, his parents are from Kerala … known as India’s most Communist state – one with the highest literacy rate and the lowest infant mortality.

I wonder if anyone will ask him about that … I mean, who knows, maybe he’s the Keralan Condor of South India* … or maybe he’s Putin’s finger puppet.

In any event … let’s just say Vivek … is no Vivekananda.

Captain Pike knows what to do when encountering an anomaly….

Chris Christie said Ramaswamy “sounds like ChatGPT” – and there is, indeed, something artificial about his “intelligence.” He is, literally, VR. He quipped soundbites and slogans like an insane Twitterbot. I guess he wants to be … memorable? Indeed, he and the others articulated the platform and mouthed the talking points of the modern GOP.

  • Pro-Trump, even if he’s a felon or insurrectionist.

  • Anti-abortion, anti womens’ rights

  • Anti-China

  • Anti-Trans, anti-LGBTQIA+ (they are the parents that kicked their child out of the house)

  • Unsure about Russia, Putin and Ukraine; maybe even pro- the first two.

  • Pro-fossil fuel (An aside: why can’t we turn “drill, baby, drill” into “plug, baby, plug” and “real men plug in at night”?)

  • Climate change denying

  • Law and Order all the way! (EDIT: While also somehow being against justice when it comes for one of theirs.)

  • Tough-to-cruel-to-warlike postures on immigration and the border with Mexico.

  • Anti-government

  • Pro tax cuts for the wealthy

  • Anti Department of Education and the teachers’ union, which are evils worse than Russia, according to the debaters.

A few of them deviated somewhat from the slide deck, even impressively at times, but right now, it seems like they’re just floating trial balloons to moderates, perhaps in the hopes of a miracle, a frontrunner collapse, or a third-party nod. They would all probably fold when “The Boss” calls, even Mike Pence, though he pretty much called out the Donald as an insurrectionist on Wednesday night, after ably resisting him and surviving the onslaught he unleashed on January 6th, 2021. And if you buy one of them, you get all these talking points and policy pushes for free for the next four years.

Georgia is going to be on his mind, according to the RC song I’m hearing.

Ramaswamy did not come off as deep in either policy or understanding of any of the issues or histories, from domestic affairs to national security. He’s a flashy, elbows-out, sloganeering punk who can’t be taken seriously for a second. He deserves eye rolls, not eyeballs.

Maybe he’s chumming the water to prepare for the second coming of the Great White himself.

The rhetorical strategy, employed most by Ramaswamy and DeSantis, but used by many on stage, was to pillory, villainize, dehumanize, and even demonize President Joe Biden and the Democrats, and essentially anoint themselves heroes and saviors, supposedly for the common man. Pay no attention to the wealthy wizards behind the green curtain!

I’m not sure if they will approve my comment. Leaving it here for posterity. On Michelle Goldberg’s article Vivek Ramaswamy Is Very Annoying. It’s Why He’s Surging in the Polls.

Another strategy is to play into dominance myths. Ramaswamy seemed to be courting Trump voters (or Trump himself) and blowing the usual dog-whistle against minorities, for example by blaming the Black family (or specifically, Black men) for poverty and crime instead of recognizing systemic and historical issues, racism, and the real dangers of a police and carceral state. But to him, these aren’t bugs, they’re features. Social dominance theory, advanced by Sidanius and Pratto and backed by much research, recognizes that the those with a social dominance orientation target subordinate males in order to maintain and project dominance.

Punching down is the way to prove you’re worthy of being on top, for these folks.

Buyers beware.

 

For more, see my article in Psychology Today, How to Protect Yourself From Demagogues and Disinformation, published August 24, 2023.

“At the pitched extremes of the American political spectrum, each side thinks the other is off the rails and taking the country toward doom. In this environment of intense perceived threats, demagogues and megalomaniacs can operate in the political, religious, business, and interpersonal spheres.”

And update – The NYT did approve my comment.

As I took a late evening walk the night after the debate, I listened to this song… tears came, for the suffering I saw coming from the men on stage…and on the way back, ancient tears for the partitioning of a continent…the partitioning of the South Asian soul … why did it have to be so? What is love and what is hate? Is love just a waste? “As the dawn began to break/I had to surrender/ The universe will have it’s way/ Too powerful to master/ Oh-oh-oh-what is love and what is hate/ And why does it matter/ Is to love just a waste?/ How can it matter?”

 

* (was going for a combination of Manchurian Candidate and Maltese Falcon, maybe with a Pink Panther twist?)

Also: I thought more about violent rhetoric in current GOP politics, and started curating a playlist. I also landed on a personal and hopefully therapeutic summary in a 7 minute video called “Late Night Thoughts – On Violent Rhetoric – While Listening to Beethoven.”

Late night thoughts – on violent rhetoric – while listening to Beethoven

The full playlist is here:

YouTube playlist: Extremism: Leaders push an ecosystem for violence (short video clips)

Enjoy your week and Labor Day Weekend 🙂


For further reading:

  1. Gupta P. Vivek Ramaswamy and the lie of the “model minority”  Vox, September 5, 2023 (added 12/23/2023)
  2. Weisman J, Robbins R, Farrell M. How Vivek Ramaswamy Made the Fortune Fueling His Presidential Run. (unlocked article), New York Times, June 27, 2023, updated August 25, 2023. I think this comment summarizes my view pretty well.

  3. Vasishta J. Opinion: Why Vivek Ramaswamy’s swipe at Nikki Haley was so off base CNN Opinion, September 2, 2023 accessed Sept 3, 2023.

 

 


Photo by Bob Hsiang, 2022

Ravi Chandra is a psychiatrist, writer, and compassion educator in San Francisco, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Here’s his linktree. For fourteen years, he was lucky to have his MOSF posts published by the Center for Asian American Media, and is now at work broadening and building a diverse creative community and coalition through reflecting on culture and psychology for East Wind eZine. Sign up for updates here, and see all the posts here. He writes from the metaphorical intersection of The Fillmore and Japantown in San Francisco, where Black and Asian communities have mingled since the end of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He literally works there, between two Indian restaurants, go figure. His debut documentary was named Best Film (Festival Director’s Award) at the 2021 Cannes Independent Film Festival. The Bandaged Place: From AIDS to COVID and Racial Justice is available on-demand, and with the discount code “Awake” you can get a 20% discount. His nonfiction debut, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, won the 2017 Nautilus Silver Award for Religion/Spirituality of Eastern Thought. You can find him on Psychology Today, MediumTwitter, @ravichandramd on Threads, Facebook,  Instagram,  YouTube,  SoundCloud, or better yet, in the IRL.

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