“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that [Obama] is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
“I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at 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 head stone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It has a crescent and 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 fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life.” – Colin Powell 2008
That, my friends, is honor. That is duty. That is “Country First”. All this other stuff is some bastardized permutation of it. Thank you General Powell. You serve your country well and set the best example there is of what it means to serve. Underlying this “is Obama a Muslim?” smear campaign has been the frame that it somehow wouldn’t be OK if he was. We have members of Congress who are. We have Americans who choose that spiritual path. One of the last great demons we must defeat in this country – along with racism – is religious intolerance. We are not and never were intended to be a “Christian Nation”. Our true strength is in our diversity. Real Americans know this and respect this.
I’ve been telling everyone I talk to about this Powell to Obama endorsement and what it does. Two things specifically. It takes the experience argument completely off the table. It also demonstrates that you can be in the military and support Obama. The continual unspoken claim by the right that if you are in the military you have to support Republicans is offensive – especially to this military brat who knows better! The majority of the military fall squarely into the middle class demographic. They’ve been used as pawns, both literally and figuratively. Those days need to end. There should be a diversity of religious beliefs and political opinions in our military and we should fight like hell to ensure that the overall environment is not hostile to such a thing.
As great as this country is – and it is – we can’t lose sight of the fact that we are yet an imperfect republic and we must strive toward becoming what we are believed to be by the world. The only thing we can do individually is stand up when it is warranted and fight. Fight bigotry. Fight intolerance. Fight racism. Fight against those who have and will continue to bastardize that which our beloved America was built upon.
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