8B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Maoniie - Thursday, February 6, 2003
ARI PAUL - I FOUGHT THE LAW
You can't be neutral in the
of tra ic
The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine--1
Stars come out at SAAN conference
Daily Arts Writer Sravya Chirumamilla caught up with Kal Penn and Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the South Asian Awareness Network confer-
ence held last weekend. While Penn was made famous by his role as Taj Mahal Badalandabad, the oral-sex crazed exchange student in
"National Lampoon's Van Wilder," Gupta, a Michigan alum, is the chief medical correspondent for CNN and a White House fellow.
ast week, in another public dis-
play of Beavis vs. Butthead, a
bunch of Palestinian support-
ers held a vigil on one side of State
Street, while a pro-Israel counter-
protest took place on the steps of the
Michigan Union. -
While I could have been doing
homework, housecleaning or gener-
al mischief that night, I instead
decided to take a peek.
My presence that night completed
the "Israelestine Love Triangle" as
each of the respective groups was
organized by my secret admirers,
Fadi Kiblawi and Rick Dorfman.
It started off with a simple singing
of the Israeli national anthem from
the blue and whites, and silence from
the other side. A guy I knew from
freshman year approached me and
asked, "Ari, why don't you come to
these pro-Israel things?"
"Because you're all a bunch of
idiots," was my reply. "When will
you and them realize that all killing
Man, what a controversial state-
ment. It provoked an Aryan looking
kid with an Israeli flag and a Young
Americans for Freedom button to
inquire how I could justify suicide
He went on to enlighten me that the
real reason why there are suicide bomb-
ings is because Palestinians hate Jews.
I ventured over to my associates
on the other side of the street. One
of them informed me that the reason
why there are so many suicide
bombings is because Palestinians
are oppressed, and the thing about
hating Jews is a big lie.
Right as I began to contemplate
this, the fireworks started.
"Divest from hate!"
To which the Jews responded,
"Death to bin Laden," accompa-
nied by a performance of the "Star
This was too good to be true.
I got in the middle of State Street
and conducted the orchestra, and -
wishing that I had both an Israeli
and Palestinian flag - came up
with my own chant, "You are all
lame and stupid."
After several honking horns, near
misses and people yelling "you're
being ridiculous," I came to the conclu-
sion that discretion was the better side
of valor and returned to the sidewalk.
I walked away with dirty looks
from protesters on both sides. Alone
in the middle of State Street I was
the one most at risk, and people to
either side of me could probably
agree on something:
They didn't like me one bit.
It's getting harder and harder to
make an unbiased analysis of the
situation these days.
People don't want to hear that
they may be at fault, but I got the
answer right here: Suicide bombings
happen because Palestinians are
oppressed and they hate Jews.
Let me explain.
Pro-Israeli activists contend that
Palestinian children are taught to
This is true.
Pro-Palestinian activists contend that
they kill because they are oppressed.
This is also true.
If it were one and not the other,
there would be no suicide bomb-
ings; there are suicide bombings
because both phenomena exist. If
Palestinians lived a pleasurable
existence, it would be pretty hard
for Hamas to recruit suicide
But if you live without running
water and the fear of having your mea-
ger home demolished while Jews live
luxury, the ideology of such villains
isn't going to sound so crazy.
And nobody wants to hear this. I
brought up the notion to Anti-War
Action! that Palestinians are partial-
ly to blame for the conflict and there
could be no way that the group
could be exclusively on their side.
Some of them claimed that I hate
Arabs because of my position. I did
the same thing with the Israel kids,
and now I'm a self-hating Jew.
And it was me who was "being
ridiculous" that night on State Street.
It's sad when rational-thinking
observers are marginalized so that
one can advance an agenda, rather
than seek peace for all.
Just a few weeks ago there was
"debate" in the Union, in which Morton
Klein of the Zionist Organization of
America actually said, "there is no occu-
pation," and went on to explain why it is
perfectly just for a Jew from Russia to
live on the land that was taken out
beneath the feet of an Arab.
That is no way to win friends and
It is perhaps symbolic that I was
alone in the middle of street, allow-
ing myself almost to be killed and
honking horns and screeching tires
drowned out my radical cries of "all
killing is wrong."
Maybe now I can get my message
across, or are the honking and
screeching of hackneyed, hateful
phrases drowning out my words
- Ari Paul can be reached at
The Michigan Daily: What kinds of
stereotypes have you faced in your
Kal Penn: Stereotypes? What
Everything from going to an audition
and having people expect that you do
not speak English or being surprised
when you do speak English and telling
you that you speak good English.
I have been to auditions where a cast-
ing director asked me 'Where is your
turban? We thought you would show up
wearing a turban. Can you go home and
put on a bed sheet?'
Within the community the stereo-
types are equally prevalent. There are
many assumptions that if you are not
going to be a doctor, engineer or going
into business, you are doing something
wrong. These jobs that filled the post
65 labor need are often equated as
being South Asian. Actors then have no
support network from within and out-
side of the community and are therefore
left in limbo.
TMD: How have you surpassed
South Asian stereotypes?
KP: I do not think that there is a
start and finish. It is a continuing
struggle and there are varying degrees
to dealing with it. The best way to
change these stereotypes is by getting
into the profession and changing from
inside. As an actor, I have had to
accept roles that I have opposed per-
sonally, however I need them profes-
sionally in order to build my resume.
Other actors not of color have access
to larger and ethnic neutral roles. I took
these roles in order to open others
doors. I do not think we will ever get
LSA STUDENTS & MAY 2003 GRADS
REWARDING SUMMER JOB?
Be a Summer Academic Peer Advisor!
Info at LSA Advising Center, 1255 Angell or
attend an information session at 4:00 p.m.,
Wednesday, February 12, 1215 Angell Hall
Beggar's Opera: Bawdy,
hiting and beautiful
Bound for the gallows, an unrepentent Captain MacHeath declares: "If laws
were made for ev'ry degree...1 wonder I hadn't better company upon Tyburn
Tree!" A strong sentiment in 1728, but no less true today, as opponents of capital
punishment will agree.
The show is laden with social commentary such as this, often attached to a gor-
geous melody. This is a unique musical satire, for it is actually a play with songs
crafted from folk tunes of the day. John Gay, an English writer, had been snubbed
for political office, and decided to bring down his critics with a play. Not a musi-
cian, he borrowed popular melodies for his lyrics. The result was an immediate
smash, for all his tunes were already favorites. His characters- thieves, rogues and
prostitutes such as MacHeath, Polly Peachum and Jenny Diver- also became world
Ann Arbor's Comic Opera Guild brings the show to life with a cast that blends
top-notch singing with earthy portrayals. The show will tour to other Michigan
cities following its run here.
Courtesy of KalPennonline.com
Yoga mats? "What the hell is that?"
past all the stereotypes in our genera-
tion, but the only way to get past some
is to actively change things from the
TMD: What do you think about the
new breed of South Asian influences
in American media?
KP: I would hope that it is not a fad
and a more of a merging of the two cul-
tures, especially with rap music sam-
pling Hindi songs. Things like yoga,
when not fully understood, are exoti-
cised. Indian things have been overly
commercialized, like chai tea from
Starbucks and yoga mats. What is a
yoga mat? Nobody in India uses a yoga
mat. What the hell is that?
TMD: How should students actively
combat these stereotypes?
KP: The easiest way for people to be
heard is if they write a letter or pick up
the phone. If you are offended or even
if you see a South Asian depicted in a
positive role, let the advertisers or net-
works know how you feel.
The Michigan Daily: Why did
you choose to become a White
struck me was
when I was able>
to really affect
things in policy,
in areas such as
Africa, India and
other areas of the
writing, radio and Gupta
television can influence a lot of
change. While doctors impact peo-
ple one at a time, people in the
media affect millions of people.
But then again, maybe it is not a
good idea for others to do exactly
what I have done.
Everyone I have met has had a
passion that they do not always have
an outlet for. Everyone just needs to
spend time to figure out his or her
passions. I do not think everyone
needs to influence change, but I do
think people need to be passionate
TMD: What is one of your most
SG: I was at CNN on September
11 and I saw a newsroom that works
like clockwork turn into utter pan-
Since all the jets had been
grounded, they snuck me onto the
AOL Time Warner [CNN's parent
company] plane and got me to New
York City to be on the air the next
I was so used to seeing those two
buildings, the two front teeth of the
nation. It was as if they had been
I was in a unique position as one
of the only people of my ethnicity
that was on the air. I had to be the
best journalist at this time. I thought
it was important for the nation to
see someone of my skin color and
ethnicity on the air.
People had to see that while I-am
Indian, I am also credible. They had
to see that there were people of my
ethnicity standing behind the coun-
try and condemning these events.
TMD: How would you cure the
apathy that most students face?
SG: That is a double-edged
sword. There are so many choices
that it almost becomes overwhelm-
ing and then schoolwork suffer. Find
something that you are passionate
about and get good at it.
Be good at something and make it
a part of your life. Do not get too
bogged down by becoming a joiner.
Challenge the hierarchy.
Thurs.-Sat., Feb. 13-15, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb 16, 2 p.m.
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater
Adults $17.00 Students: $7.00
Major credit cards accepted Tickets available
at the League ticket office and at the door
made possible with the support of the
Michigan Counil for the Arts and
Cultural Affairs, a partnert agency of
the National Endowment for the Arts