February 23, 2009

'Slumdog Millionaire': Why Its Big Night at Oscars is Good for America

My annual Oscar-watching ritual ended years ago, coinciding roughly with parenthood, but I caught the end of the awards Sunday night after watching "The Dark Knight" on DVD in anticipation of the late Heath Ledger winning for best supporting actor (and deservedly so from what I saw).

By the time Steven Spielberg announced Best Picture, "Slumdog Millionaire" had already snagged a half-dozen awards. And even though I've yet to see it (again, waiting for the DVD), it was moving to see so many people from India on stage after the film won the top award.

Why does this matter? Because India is likely to become our most important ally in this century, if it isn't already. We share a natural kinship -- another English-speaking democracy and former British colony that places great value on education, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, situated in a most volatile part of the world. It was only a matter of time before the jihadists took notice, as they did in Mumbai last December. All the more fitting it was the setting for "Slumdog Millionaire."

Many people resent that when they call for tech support, the person on the other end is most likely in India. Not me, I'm glad. That the tide is rising there and wherever else people have languished in poverty for centuries is a good thing. And thanks to a big Oscar night for "Slumdog," millions of our brothers and sisters in India have seen once again how the West offers far more than the jihad's cult of death.

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