Khizr Khan, the Right Messenger at the Right Time

IMG_0068This post first appeared in the Opinion section of The Santa Clarita Gazette, by Andrea Slominski on 8/04/2016

It is possible that the words of a Harvard-educated Muslim immigrant from Pakistan, and his wife, may just save us from ourselves. How fitting, that by sharing their love of America, their reverence for the Constitution, and the insurmountable loss of their son to suicide bombers, that Khizr and Ghazala Khan remind us of the principles that structure our republic, and that have held it together for our brief 240-year history. We are stronger together. Together, Americans have achieved the improbable.

Khizr and Ghazala Khan’s son, Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, was killed by two suicide bombers at a checkpoint north of Baghdad on June 8, 2004. In fact, suspicious of the approaching vehicle, Captain Khan ordered his men to “hit the dirt” and stay back, while he took another 10 steps forward, stopping the car. The two suicide bombers inside detonated their vests, killing Kahn and wounding 10 other U.S. soldiers. That is the definition of a hero. He put the lives of others before his own. He protected his men.

In an interview with “Vocative,” an online news source, Khizir Khan said, “Muslims are American, Muslims are citizens, Muslims participate in the well-being of this country as American citizens. . . . We are proud American citizens. It’s the values (of this country) that brought us here, not our religion. Trump’s position on these issues do not represent those values,” he said.

How ironic and beautiful that a Muslim American Citizen, an immigrant, whose story IS the American Dream, should school Donald Trump on what it means to be an American, what is means to defend the Constitution, and the equal rights it offers all citizens.

Khan continued, speaking of his son, “Values that he learned throughout his life came together and made him a brave American soldier. This country is not strong because of its economic power or military power. This country is strong because of its values, and during this political season, we all need to keep that in mind.”

Yes, we do need to keep that in mind. We also need to remember Mr. Khan’s remarks at the Democratic convention.

“If it was up to Donald Trump, (my son) never would have been in America,” Khizr Khan said. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities – women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. . . . Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one. We can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing division. We are stronger together.”

Boom. Mic Drop.

Read More?
http://www.vocativ.com/259159/the-father-of-a-muslim-war-hero-has-this-to-say-to-donald-trump/

Darkest before the dawn…

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It is the longest night of the year. Literally and figuratively.

As a nation, we are experiencing a national, dark night of the soul.

In a time like this— when corporations are people, and their influence in the electoral process has taken political representation away from the people, empowering the biggest money donors and their agendas, leaving citizens without a voice,

in a time like this— when 41% of the world’s wealth is in the hands 1% of the people and “a new report released by the World Economic Forum, ranks rising inequality as the top trend facing the globe in 2015 ” (1), and the poor are getting poorer,

in a time like this— when racism and inequality have their smoldering embers fanned into roaring flames across the country, due in part to the deaths of three black men Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of three white men, and when one jury and two grand juries neither convict, nor indict the white neighborhood watchman nor white police officers for the deaths of the three men,

in a time like this— when citizens in cities across the country demonstrate against racism and police brutality, when medical students at Columbia, Brown and Yale Universities stage die-ins to protest racism and police brutality, and congressional staffers walk out of their jobs to stage a silent protest against the same, on the capitol steps with their hands raised,

in a time like this—when protests turned violent in Ferguson and businesses were destroyed, fires were set, and a peaceful protest in Berkley was turned into a melee by a splinter group of masked looters, smashing windows, looting stores and injuring police officers,

in a time like this—when two police officers were gunned down while sitting in their car on duty in NYC by a black man, who shot his girlfriend and was on a hunting expedition for white police officers to even the score,

in a time like this—when there has been a 31% increase of the deaths of police officers on the job from the same time last year and “Firearms were used in 69 percent of the nation’s murders, 40 percent of robberies, and 21.6 percent of aggravated assaults.” (2)

in a time like this—”The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,501,043, … and… there were an estimated 79,770 rapes (legacy definition) reported to law enforcement.”(ibid)

in a time like this—we have to stop. On this, darkest, longest night of the year, we need stop to look deep within ourselves an Americans, beyond race, gender, sexual orientation and political affiliation to our common humanity.

In a time like this we have to ask, what are we doing to each other? We have to find a way to turn down the rhetoric and get the the heart of these difficult, vital issues and work together to find real solutions if we are to survive as families, neighborhoods, cities, a society, a nation and a species.

We have some really big issues to solve together if our children and their children’s children are going to be able to thrive. How can we ever hope to solve global warming, environmental pollution, world hunger, genocide, war, nuclear threats, find cures for diseases like Ebola, Cancer and AIDS if we can’t sit down at the table and respect one another?

We have to craft a modern day Round Table, where everyone can be heard, and progress can be made. We have to stop listening to pundits argue on the various news channels as they inflame the issues further. Eric Deggan wrote for NPR on the news coverage of recent months,

” . . .Trying to talk about systemic racial issues during a crisis is always much harder. Real progress on racial issues happens when people thoughtfully consider perspectives different from their own — and that’s much tougher in a crisis.. . . In truth, this study is the starting point of a conversation that should include the effects of poverty, urban gangs, aggressive drug enforcement and more. But when people are trying to make a point, such detailed discussion is often left behind. Cable news has sped up the path from news reporting to punditry with disastrous results.” (3)

We have to find a way to talk to each other. People need to have confidence in law enforcement. The officers need to be just in their dealings with citizens and they need to know that the people have a stake in their well being also. One hand has to help the other.

Please, please stop the blood shed. As Mahatma Ghandi, a leader in non violent revolution once said, ” A eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  There is no way through the darkness but to move forward together, toward a new dawn. We have defeated dangerous enemies together in the past, let’s defeat the enemies within together and save our children and our future.

1.http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/11/08/with-41-of-global-wealth-in-the-hands-of-less-than-1-elites-and-citizens-agree-inequality-is-a-top-priority/

2. http://www.crimeinamerica.net/2014/09/06/56-percent-increase-in-police-officer-firearm-related-deaths/

3. http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/12/06/368713550/four-lessons-from-the-medias-conflicted-coverage-of-race

One clear note begins a symphony of change.

This image was posted on Facebook last week and it kicked up a storm of comments.

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The division of opinion seemed to run across narrowly defined political party lines, with a fair share of mud-slinging on both sides. These basic human needs and the desire to meet them for all people is not singular to our nation, nor to our time in history. Each generation faces it’s challenges and passes on to the next its ideas, solutions and unsolved problems.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is the growing division between those who believe in self autonomy, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” taking care of yourself and your own only and those who believe in taking care of those who either temporarily or permanently need help.

The main objection and concern seems to be how to pay for support and services in a time of economic recession and government debt. I don’t claim to have the answers to these difficult problems but I do know that tough problems take hard work to fix and no amount of complaining and backbiting is going to make any progress on anything.

This week we said farewell to an American Icon, Pete Seger. His life is a lesson in strength of conviction, tenacity and how little steps can lead to big change for all of us. Pete used his music as a catalyst for social change. He began his musical career trading songs for meals in the depression. He knew poverty. He traveled the country playing music and writing songs that represented his view of the need for social change. He supported the Labor movement in the 1940’s and 50’s. When he was charged with contempt of congress by the House un-American Activities Committee he kept singing. Shunned from mainstream media, he took to college campuses and small towns. He sang to support the civil rights and the anti-war movements in the 60’s and the beginnings of the environmental movement in the 70’s. He played for Farm Aid, Occupy Wall Street, after which he is quoted as saying “Be wary of great leaders, … Hope that there are many, many small leaders.” and at 90 years old played Madison Square Garden. He won numerous awards including  a Grammy, Kennedy Center National Medal of Arts Award, Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.

Awards are great, yet I feel his greatest gift to us was his music and his unswerving  belief  that, “Participation that’s what’s gonna save the human race.” He sang it, he walked it, he lived it everyday in poverty and success. Little steps collectively and individually lead to great change.

None of the great changes in the world have happened overnight. And none of them have happened without hard work and sacrifice, many people taking many small steps.  In 1776, at the birth of our nation, who would have dreamed that 233 years later we would elect the first Black President of the United States? The abolition of slavery seemed an impossible hurdle, civil rights was another long road that we walked as a nation together. The Great Depression, multiple wars, the creation of social security and Medicaid, Rowe vs. Wade, Gay Rights, same-sex marriage, all difficult issues that we have and must continue to face as a nation.

If the picture  at the top of this blog had been posted 200 years ago saying…

“Wanting everyone, of every color, and both sexes to have the right to vote, the right to interracial and same-sex marry, the right to a free, public, equal education, the right to use birth control, the right to have an individually funded retirement account managed by the government to prevent homeless poverty in old age- does not make you un-American it makes you a compassionate person.”

…we may have read in the local papers an outcry similar to what we hear today..

“Impossible!    Immoral !  Too costly!   It will destroy society!

I submit to you that all our most pressing problems can and must be solved.  “Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”

Providing Food, Water, Shelter, Education, Health Care, Dignity  to all people is a worthy mission-and possible, as well as making real progress on climate change, energy policy, environmental defense, money in politics, poverty,  privacy, education, terrorism, war and nuclear proliferation. We are going to have to make big changes in the way we think and act. We must consume less, reduce our carbon footprint, give more, help more, vote more, write more letters to congress, volunteer more, speak up more and care for and about each other a lot, lot more. This is it, there is no where else to go. No local planet yet to conquer. What do you want to leave as your legacy?

We can do it. We just have to make up our minds to do it. Little steps collectively and individually lead to great change.