Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell's Moving Endorsement

Yesterday I read about General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, but I didn't see the video until this morning. His explanation of his decision and his description of Obama as a "transformational figure" were great. Powell is a Republican "soldier/statesman" who has served three Republican presidents, and in spite of his role in promoting the disastrous Iraq War when he was George Bush's Secretary of State (which he regrets), he is known and respected by many Americans of all parties.

But the most surprising and moving part of his statement concerned the unofficial campaign that is underway by supporters of McCain to convince people that Obama is secretly a Muslim. It's a bit long, but I'm just going to quote that part of his remarks here:
I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in 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 headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a 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 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

Like so many others, I was greatly moved by this, and grateful that Gen. Powell used his national position to make this important point (the photo he refers to is here). Obama is not a Muslim. He's an American who happens to be a Christian. And while it's sad that you even have to make a point of this, Muslim-Americans are Americans too.

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