I recently listened to an Iowa imam interviewed by NPR and heard discouragement in his voice. It saddened me. But more than that, it embarrassed me.
Referring to his congregation, he recounted incidents of people on planes expressing discomfort about sitting near, or flying with, someone wearing a headscarf or calling their child by a Muslim name.
I could most especially hear his note of fatigue when the interviewer asked about the current climate for Muslims in the U.S. His long hesitation — 10 full seconds of silence during the interview — opened an opportunity to consider more thoughtfully his words, “You don’t need to make America great again. ... This narrative that wants to 'make America great again' — no, it wants to make America someplace that is not welcoming, that's not safe."
The silence gave me time to picture a scene where someone would look at a woman wearing a headscarf and respond with fear. It made me wonder whether anyone would look at me fearfully for wearing a cross. Or at a man sporting a bald head.
In those moments of silence, my mind flashed to recent sound bytes fueling my personal fears that those people arguing about "making America great again" are the same ones promising to block all immigration of Muslims, to bomb ISIS to smithereens — along with whatever collateral damage may be "necessary" — to rebuild the military to the greatest fighting force the world will ever know!
How is it we can sit idly by as loud-mouthed, rhetoric-spewing candidates and their followers allow the media to adopt the “narrative” he mentions as “normal?”
Millions of rational American minds know that America wasn’t ever “great” because it guarded itself against including those whose beliefs might differ from ours. America has been, and always will be, at its best when seeking to welcome and embrace those who, by their diversity, would expand the definition of "American" to include all who want to define liberty by a broader vision of nonjudgment and celebration of the differences that will make us all richer.
Speak out against injustice. Let’s create a new American narrative.