Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Muslims in American politics

I've been thinking about this video ever since I saw it a couple of days ago:

In it (in case you, like me, often wish bloggers would summarize the video so you don't have to watch it all the way through), a man at a McCain rally is giving out bumper stickers that suggest Obama is a secret Muslim. And then what happens is that several Muslims who are attending the McCain rally - as potential McCain voters - say, "Thanks for making up my mind for me; I'm voting for Obama." And THEN a McCain campaign staffer - WHO IS MUSLIM - comes out and tells the people gathered around this guy that he's not a part of the campaign, that he's doing this on his own.

And I see this guy (the one giving out the bumper sticker) looking absolutely baffled. It's a beautiful moment, actually, as (I hope) he sees that a) the McCain campaign isn't as "pure" as he thought it was (in the best sense of the word) and that b) maybe America is bigger than he thinks it is. Baffled. In the best way of being baffled, when reality impinges on our prejudices.

I thought Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama was important mostly for what he said about Muslims. I don't think a Democrat could have said what Powell did without some serious howling. Here is the transcript:
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.
He then goes on to talk about a photograph of a gravestone at Arlington Cemetery for a young Muslim-American soldier who "serve[d] his country and [gave] his life."

I do think it's odd that either party would be willing to give up (or cede to the other party) the Muslim-American vote. Republicans have, in that sense, done the Democrats a favor. It's very strange. I'm grateful to Colin Powell for speaking up as he did - not because of his endorsement, but because he's right about what America should be.

1 comment:

qoe said...

I very much admire Colin Powell for his integrity and courage in facing down his own party on dirty campaigning. He is not afraid to make political toast of himself by speaking and championing the truth. I loved what he said, how he said it and the examples he gave. Divide and conquer is not the way to win, fix or heal anything; it merely creates more wounds and more enemies and more brokenness.