By NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN
The story of Saul becoming Paul on the way to Damascus is part of Biblical lore. At the risk of inviting the predictable “You’re no Saul (or Paul)”, let me tell you the story of my own conversion — of how NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN became Nelson Roberts on the road to California.
Except that unlike the apostle, my transformation took place unbeknownst to me. And I wasn’t even headed toward California.
Let me explain.
A few days back, there appeared in the website VDARE.com an article by one Joe Guzzardi titled, In Memoriam Senator Edward M. Kennedy: Joe’s Early Obituary. You can draw your own conclusions, but reading between the lines, I thought the article was unfavorable to Sen. Kennedy, but that was hardly be surprising given VDARE’s position on immigration. However, I found the article ghoulish in its eager anticipation of the man’s death, and ugly in its vituperation.
So I shot off a missive to the aforementioned Mr. Guzzardi, who has the following byline:
Joe Guzzardi is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988.
My email to him (reproduced here verbatim) went like this:
From: NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN <email@example.com>
Subject: Joe Guzzardi Obit – Cut And Run Californian had a bee in his bonnet about immigration
Date: Saturday, August 8, 2009, 2:02 AM
Now that I have your attention.
I agree with many things you write about illegal immigration and its depredations on California. However, what you have written about Kennedy is despicable. Further more, you have culled every stray junk accusation thrown by every reader of VDARE and assembled it in one place. Spite is not argument. This is beneath you.
For me personally this is a loss because I can never read your writing ever again without the bile of this piece rising in my mouth.
[Mr. Guzzardi sent me back a one line reply which I answered back. I haven’t heard anything further from him since.]
In the Aug 10 edition of the VDare site, I noticed a link saying, A California Reader Calls Guzzardi’s Kennedy Obituary “Despicable”; Joe Replies.
Intrigued by the word ‘despicable’, for I had used the same in my email, I opened the link. What should I find but my letter to Mr. Guzzardi reproduced, practically word for word, only replacing ‘you’ with ‘Guzzardi’ to make it appear as though this was a letter to the editor (see it here). I had obviously not titled it as such; as is clear from my email — it is addressed to the author. And the ‘Joe Replies’ part did not make any mention of our subsequent exchange, leaving the reader with the inference that ‘Joe’ had rendered an unanswerable question (What’s wrong with all the things the readers have said about Kennedy?) It was only after the initial burst of irritation at having a simpoe communication to the author show up as a letter to the editor without so much as a by-your-leave, that my eye wandered to the name under which the letter had appeared…
Nelson Roberts? Where did that come from?
I had, as you can see, signed my letter NR. The sender email contains my full name, of course, but if Mr. Guzzardi still wanted to christen me with a new name to match my initials, could he not at least have gone with something fancy like Nelson Rockefeller? I would even have settled for ‘Newt Rockne’. Instead, here I was , stuck with a nondescript Nelson Roberts.
At first I was unsure what this should be called — plagiarism, or identity theft. But it was so transparently silly that any sinister interpretation was most likely misplaced. Mr. Guzzardi, I’m thinking, meant well, and was merely trying to assimilate me in the manner he saw best. I appreciate this, for he was not always this ‘assimilative’: VDARE published something written by me a few years ago (I had submitted it to Mr. Guzzardi as an article, but he ran it as a letter — see The Partition of America). In that instance, he had a headline beginning, “An Indian Reader says…” Perhaps he thought A California Reader was a step up. Or down — I don’t know. At any rate, it’s not me he’s talking about, it’s Nelson Roberts.
All told, a mixup almost as spectacular as the one described by PG Wodehouse in his short story, The Amazing Hat Mystery, concerning Nelson Cork (that dratted Nelson again!) and Percy Wimbolt, both of the Drones Club. That story ends with a Crumpet musing, “the whole thing, as I say, has something to do with the Fourth Dimension. That is the true explanation, if only our minds could grasp it”.
A rum affair, in Wodehousian parlance. I did seek an answer from Mr. Bacardi, admittedly in a somewhat strident tone. No response thus far. So the Fourth Dimension it will have to be for now.
But I do want to raise something closer to our space and time, however. VDARE, as you might know, is a strong proponent of E-Verify, a program for employers to quickly check whether someone is eligible to work in the US. What’s that saying about charity beginning at home and what have you? I wonder whether there is not a need for an E-Verify-like program for VDARE (a V-Darify program, shall we say), to ensure that the names on the bylines belong to real people?
NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More of his writings can be found at http://www.indogram.com?centerpiece=gs-434&city-bay.
Postscript: Request to Mr. Guzzardi — please don’t change the site now. Let Nelson be Nelson. If we keep this up, who knows but that we may find ourselves sipping beer at the White House!