Run - Don’t Walk - to Vote in This Election
By C. Naseer Ahmad
“This is an election that really is America looking in the mirror, and what is it that we see there? This is a self-definition election. We cannot afford to get this wrong. We have to win” said Senator Tim Kaine in Houston on September 23, 2016 . These words have been coming out on the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee’s stump speech, as he travels across the country.
Those who have seen him up close realize that Senator Kaine is a thoughtful man, who measures his words carefully. “ As a politician, Kaine has elements of Joe Biden’s heart and Barack Obama’s brain: schmaltz in service of political advantage. He has never lost an election ,” wrote Evan Osnos in New Yorker.
Talking about the books he is reading, Senator Kaine said, “ … I have another book—it’s called ‘The Saint and the Sultan’—that I’m halfway through, about this weird moment in St Francis of Assisi’s life, where he went to Egypt to meet with one of the main religious leaders to try to broker an end to the Crusades. I didn’t know that part of his life. ”
Osnos article also notes that as Virginia’s governor, Senator Kaine “mastered the political tide that pulled Virginia away from the past.” What many would not know is that as Richmond’s Mayor, Tim Kaine helped force a night club being called “the Mosque” – because it offended the Muslim citizens in Richmond, Virginia.
At the top of the ticket in this election is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has spent a lifetime working for helping improve the lives of women and children . The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, said on Oct. 6, 2007: “The children’s health program wouldn’t be in existence today if we didn’t have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Secretary Clinton has demonstrated both leadership and courage to stand up for the rights of every American regardless of the religious or ethnic background. “ When they go low, we go high ,” said Secretary Clinton quoting First Lady Michelle Obama.
Opposing the inclusive message of “Stronger Together” from the Clinton-Kaine ticket is Mr Donald Trump’s “Crippled America” a jaundiced viewpoint. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate proudly proclaims his orientation - Christian, Conservative and Republican - in that order and his record in Indiana shows a narrow-minded approach to governing. He talks about giving second chances to Mr Trump after the embarrassing tape revelations but he would not pardon a man who was apparently exonerated by DNA evidence.
Trump has called Spanish-speaking immigrants “ bad hombres ”, Mexicans rapists and called for excluding Muslims from entering the United States .
Through an advertisement featuring Khizr Khan, father of Captain Humayun Khan, the Clinton Campaign raises an important question as to whether those who do not agree with the Trump-Pence dark view have a place in America. This is a question reverberating with the younger generation. An example is a recent Facebook posting: “This is a beautiful commercial although it's very sad. There are some nice shots of the Rotunda from old photographs. Could we have imagined, walking around Grounds all those years ago, that one of our fellow #Hoos would play such an important role in such an important election? A very belated thank you to Humayun. You set the bar high for the rest of us.”
Yes, this is an important election – as correctly noted by the Facebook postings and by Senator Kaine. We have a lot at stake and the world is watching. President Obama’s message of “ Civility is on the ballot ,” was heard across the world.
Ironically in Gettysburg where President Lincoln – who espoused malice toward none and charity for all - brought the nation together at the conclusion of the Civil War, an unrepentant Trump threatened to sue his accusers thereby providing yet another evidence that his campaign has been much about malice toward many and charity for none.
For those living in Virginia, it is hard to escape the historical markers of the Civil War and reminds us about the resilience of this great nation in which the common humanity unites us more that the differences in how we pray or from where we originate.
Daily I travel on Hunter Mill Road which is a few yards from my home. This is also the same road that was contested by the militaries of the Union and the Confederacy. Giving meaning to E Pluribus Unum is the Unity Church, hardly a few steps away from the Civil War Marker Hunter Mill Road, which hosts the annual Iftar of the American Turkish Friendship Association .
Trump’s alternate reality of a divided America with irreconcilable differences is at odds with the decency of the big hearted Americans who run this wonderful house of worship that facilitates a confluence – not clash – of faiths. His utter disdain for facts does not change the reality that across the world, United States sets the standards for advances in many aspects of life. Trump confuses healthy criticism with a false narrative.
A short walk from my house is also a cemetery that is an eternal resting place for those who served in many eras of conflict, just as Captain Humayun Khan rests in peace at the Arlington National Cemetery. By the teachings of my beloved parents and their faith, I have prayed at any grave I have passed by in Oakton, in Gettysburg, in Antietam and Normandy.
So it is natural for me to think of the lives these people would have lived, just like my parents to leave behind a country that remains a beacon of hope. As I walked along Hunter Mill Road it occurred to me that “ our greatest monument on this earth won’t be what we build, but the lives we touch , ” as stated by Secretary Clinton at the Al Smith Dinner, in this election we must do everything to preserve the beautiful character of our country.
Walking further along some tombstones and thinking about Senator Kaine’s remarks in Spanish at a church in Miami . Those words would mean much to my Spanish-speaking friends. That speech reminded some warm words: “ Bienvenidostodos a nuestropaís (...), todossomos Americanos -” meaning “welcome to your new country … we are all Americans.”
Pondering on Clinton’s and Kaine’s, I realized how far this country has come and how much we can lose if we don’t get it right. So then some profound words by the legendary Civil Rights Leader John Lewis at a Human Rights Campaign brought it all out to share with everyone we come in contact with in the next few crucial days: “Ours is not a struggle against flesh against blood but against falsehood and lies.” And perhaps the most memorable of all: “ We need to run not walk to the polls … our lives depend upon it!!”