Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Danger of "Letting it Slide"

I've had a big problem in this recent election of the 'whisper' campaign to paint Barack Obama as a Muslim. Of course, he is not a Muslim, but the fact that trying to paint him as such is seen by some as reducing his appeal as a potential president is what bothers me.

There is nothing wrong with being a Muslim.

There is nothing wrong with being an Arab.

There is no direct link that indicates that every Muslim or every Arab is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer. Drawing that link is misguided.

And yet, that is the implication that has been made by those trying to destroy the Obama candidacy and support John McCain.

I do not believe that John McCain shares this perspective, but I have been disappointed by his relative silence on the issue. Some of the things going on at Palin rallies have been indeed troubling, and she has done nothing to shut them down. If you read yesterday's blog, you know how I feel about that.

McCain himself did make a noble effort when a woman at one of his rallies had the microphone and said, "I don't trust Barack Obama." McCain nodded in agreement. She continued to say, "He's an Arab..." and McCain began shaking his head no. He took the microphone and said, "No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's not," McCain said. "He's a decent family man -- citizen -- that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."

So Kudos to McCain for correcting a false statement. Barack Obama is indeed, not an Arab. That's where my praise ends, and my issue begins. His 'answer' to this misguided woman made it sound like there's a difference between being an Arab and being a decent family man... citizen. The two are not mutually exclusive. Oh how I would have loved for him to say something like, "No ma'am, that is not a true statement. There are many fine Arab Americans... but Barack Obama is not one of them. The reasons I think you should choose me over him have nothing to do with any of that." How different would that have been.

Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President this past weekend. While I find that interesting, by far more powerful to me were the remarks he made on Meet the Press when he discussed the 'Muslim' issue. His feelings mirror my own. Here is the excerpt of the transcript that covers this portion of the interview:

"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."

I say "AMEN" to General Powell. I may not agree with him on Iraq, but on this, I wholeheartedly agree.

"Accusations" of Barack Obama being a Muslim, or an Arab, should be met with more than a simple correction of fact. Those "accusations" should be met with a direct challenge. That is what America is all about... or at least, it should be.

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