In early 1900 till around 1950’s there used to be a much different culture in America. People used to be more family oriented, close together, respectable, mannerly, good natured etc. Over the past 50 years these good parts of American culture have slowly seeped away. This very same thing is happening all over the world as this "western / modern" melting pot has slowly eroded away on all cultures.
Many of us have heard about the valor and bravery of Sikhs in the World Wars, along with many other events in history since the times of the Gurus. I sometimes wonder how this erosion has affected the Sikh character that historically we are so well known for (Bravery, courage, honesty, service, dedication, spiritual, etc). Would your average Sikhs of today go out of their way to save someone’s life in the face of danger? When I see pictures of the Sikhs in the armies of the older times (1900’s) there is a certain feeling that I get which looks different from what I see in most Sikhs today. I think we as Sikhs have great potential for these good qualities to come out, yet in this more peaceful and prosperous environments we tend to get lazy and over time loose our identity. It’s important for us all to recognize how much Sikhs sacrificed before us to bring Sikhi to us today and to keep the Gurus mission alive within ourselves and our children.
In 2005 an American woman wrote a letter on the SikhNet Question & Answer forum sharing some things that I thought you might like to read.
MAKING AN IMPRESSION: A TRUE STORY
“First, I would like to say Hello to everyone here and wish you all the Peace of God in your lives. I am a Christian who came here to learn about Sikhism, and I have never posted before, but I would like to do so now, as I have recently read some posts from the young people here about the difficulty of keeping hair, beard and turban in a western country.
“I am not young, I am 44 years old. The reason I wanted to learn about Sikhism is that during World War II, in Italy, my favorite, and very loving uncle was an American soldier. At the battle of Cassino, he was wounded, could not walk, and was buried so deep in the mud that when the American troops went by, they thought he was dead. When my uncle regained consciousness, he thought he was finished, and began what he thought were his final prayers. After some time, he saw the legs of soldiers, and he cried out in a weak voice "water". A Sikh soldier came to help him. He carried him over two miles on his own back under heavy gunfire to a medical aid station. If it was not for a Sikh, I would not ever have had the opportunity to know my Uncle Danny, who was very special to me. Uncle Danny did not know what a Sikh was, but he was very thankful for being saved. Before the Sikh soldier left him at the medical station, he asked him what his name was, all the soldier said was ‘Singh.’
“Uncle Danny wrote from the hospital to his sister, my grandmother, about this soldier over 60 years ago, in a letter. He also wrote to his commanding officer to tell him that this man should get a medal, but all he knew was that his name was ‘Singh,’ and he could never locate him.
”Way back in 1965 when I was 5 years old, Uncle Danny took me to the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia because everyone else in the family was tired, and I was the ‘baby’ of the family, and his children were already grown at that time; he volunteered to keep me quiet:-) Well, when we were downtown at the parade, a man with a turban, beard and the biggest moustache I had ever seen walked by, and I asked my uncle to pick me up because I was frightened of him. Uncle Danny picked me up and said, ‘Elena, don’t be afraid of him. He is a ‘Singh’, and ‘Singhs’ are the bravest and kindest people I have ever known. They come from a far away country called India, where I know there are a lot of brave people, but they are the best.’
“Uncle Danny died of cancer in 1977, when I was in my first year in college. Before his death he was the father of two daughters, and grandfather of four children, not to mention loving uncle to my mother and all of us. If it were not for a Sikh, he would not have come home to us.
“Although I have known Sikhs in the past, and was friendly with several especially during my college years, I became interested in understanding their beliefs because of two incidents; the first being the hate crimes committed against Sikhs after 9-11, and the second was inheriting the family photos and papers when my grandmother died in December 2003, three weeks away from her 92nd birthday. When I went through the box of papers and photos, I found the letters Uncle Danny had written to her during the War about the ‘Singh’ who saved his life. At the time I found the letters, I also recalled that Thanksgiving Day when I first saw a Sikh. The Sikhs I had known in the past were also very upstanding and decent people who would help anyone, of any faith, or race, and I became interested in what their religious teachings were, as I thought it may have something to do with the way they behave towards others. I also wanted to learn about Sikh beliefs because I live in an area where there has been a lot of prejudice after 9-11, and if there is anyway that I can help by teaching people, or even just saying something positive about my Sikh neighbors when I hear ignorance, I wanted to be able to tell them more than just, ‘they are not Muslims.’
So please, to all the Sikh youth out there that are considering giving up your hair, beards and turbans, I would ask you to reconsider, and keep your identity. Practice your faith, as it is very beautiful.
“Although I am a Christian, I am of Middle Eastern back ground, so I know what prejudice can do; I also belong to a Christian group that believes in head coverings, and after 9-11 it was frightening for a while. I really wanted to take off my headscarf, and look like everyone else. After much prayer and soul searching I came to the conclusion that God and my belief in my path to Him was the most important thing, not the opinions of others.
“All you need to do is to be a faithful Sikh, and let people get to know you, and the wonderful person you are, because you are faithful.
Thank you for allowing me to share with you, and I wish you all of God’s blessings in your life.”