Feature

Better watch what you say about the U.S

The week's news at a glance.

India

Immigrants in the U.S. have to watch their mouths, said Bachi Karkaria in Delhi’s Times of India. The Indian-born president of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi, discovered the limits of America’s much-vaunted free speech last month, when she gave the commencement address at Columbia University’s business school. Her “innocuous remarks” included a metaphor comparing the five continents of the globe to the five fingers of a hand. The U.S., she said, was the biggest, central digit, the middle finger. When it stands alone, she continued, it gives offense. Any “objective listener” should have understood that no insult was meant. But huffy Columbia students lit up the blogosphere with their outrage, denouncing Nooyi’s speech as unpatriotic and inappropriate. Such an overreaction is just the latest manifestation of a “smoldering anti-immigrant sentiment” in the U.S. With the country at war in Iraq and on high alert elsewhere, any criticism of U.S. policy is suspect—and criticism from a brown-skinned, foreign-born woman doubly so. What the American students don’t realize is how silly such defensiveness looks. They should ponder another metaphor: “The more the U.S. gets its boxer shorts in a twist, the more it exposes its vulnerable parts.”

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