Early in this campaign I became very concerned with, what I saw as an attempt to counter the enthusiasm of Sen. Obama's candidacy by playing identity politics. In some ways it was subtle and in some cases it was clear and overt. This really became an issue during the Pennsylvania democratic primary. Pundits pontificated about why Obama couldn't "close the deal" with "hard working Americans". Hard working Americans was code for small-town, blue collar whites and immediately begged the question of whether or not they believed that Blacks, Hispanics or Asians actually worked hard. Of course they'd say no, but it bothered me enough to start a dialogue with a post entitled What Does This Election Tell Us About What A "Real American" Is? Now, with eight days left until election day I find myself needing to address the way Muslim's have been disregarded and disparaged during the course of this campaign season, something only Gen. Colin Powell has done adequately to this point:
How could it take so long for such a declaration as Powell's to be made? Why did it take a Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Former Secretary of State to make the point that should have been made as far back as the Iowa Caucuses? Why were so many, so afraid of saying that being a Muslim in America is every bit as valued as being a Christian?...Well the answer, to me is simple. Muslims aren't "Real Americans" by conservative standards. Muslims are second class citizens, other... How else could we allow the undercurrent anti-Arab sentiment to exist unchallenged by those who most espouse a commitment to the cause of liberty and freedom? How else could the silence be deafening that a national conservative radio and television host could get away with asking the first Muslim American elected to congress to convince him that he's not a terrorist?
I'm a Christian... A devout Christian and it disgusts me that other Christians haven't come out to repudiate the exploitation of peoples ignorance and fear in a post 9/11 America. It upsets me that more Jewish leaders have not done the same. I'm angered when I think that the people sending out these mailers that suggest Barack Obama is a Muslim and that all Muslims are terrorist that should be feared, were sitting in the pews of churches across America, reading scripture and verse form the old and new testaments, taking communion and praying under the guise that they are good and honorable men, women and Christians. I think it bothers me most of all because we can't ever expect to build bridges to the Muslim world when they feel that we view them as less than, or deficient rather than different (guess where that came from); when we harbor sentiments like the woman at the McCain rally that said she can't trust Barack Obama because "he's an Arab".
You have to ask yourself, "what if this were Joe Lieberman running at the top of the ticket rather than Barack Obama?". I'm sure that we'd see some shenanigans but I'm sure that the outrage by public figures from the smallest local officials to the highest would quickly squelch any effort to disparage a politician of the Jewish faith or the faith itself. The same should be true for Muslims, but after September 11th, all things Arab became all things bad in this country. It wasn't by accident. In a culture that relishes in it's ignorance, where American Idol carries a more intense and loyal following than a presidential race, where it's necessary for comedians to tell us about world events because the news is too boring, it's easy to get people to rally behind simple ideas. Simply put, Muslims are the enemy. Yeah, yeah, we might preface it with prefixes like "not every" or "not all" like Glen Beck in that clip but the message is still the same and before you know it, we're in Iraq. Simple constructs of good and evil bode well with simple minded folks.
Muslim, Islam and Arab are not slurs and what we see happening today amounts to a modern day attempt at red scaring and it needs to end yesterday.