On a day when Republican National Convention speakers focused on “Making America Safe Again,” a Charlotte woman – and the reaction to her – illustrated the choice the country faces in working through violent and unsettling times: We can uphold our values or we can betray them.
The presidential election is increasingly becoming a contest centered on the candidates’ ideas on combating terrorism, domestic and foreign, and appropriately so. Those old enough to remember compare 2016 with 1968. Then it was the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, civil rights protests and increasing tension over Vietnam. Now it’s Paris and Brussels and Nice, and San Bernardino and Orlando and Dallas and Baton Rouge.
The violence against innocent civilians and police officers demands leadership that can move the country past it to more harmonious times. Many voters will be influenced by who, in their minds, is better equipped to do that.
We know where Donald Trump stands. His words have stoked, not dampened, division and fueled an animosity toward minorities – in particular encouraging a rising anti-Muslim sentiment. It is the precisely wrong reaction. His proposals are not only unconstitutional, but also counter-productive and based on a false premise. His surrogates Monday did little to suggest a new bridge-building approach going forward.
Which brings us to Rose Hamid. She was born in Buffalo, grew up in Cleveland and is now a flight attendant who lives in Charlotte. Loves America. She also grew up Catholic, but later converted to Islam.
On Monday, she stood in her white hijab at a lectern in Cleveland’s Public Square to deliver a very simple but important message:
“We are in this together. As Muslims, we are not the enemy. We are part of America. We can be faithful Muslims and still be patriotic Americans.” Her supporters wore t-shirts bearing the name of her effort: “Salam – I come in peace.”
From behind her came a very different message. “Muhammad is in hell,” said a man’s t-shirt. “Every real Muslim is a jihadist,” said a sign. “Muhammad is a liar, false prophet, child raping pervert,” said another.
A group of people yelled and chanted, but Hamid ignored them and delivered her important and peaceful message.
If we want to make America safe again, she said, empowering people to be hateful is the wrong way to go about it. “It does not have to be us versus them,” she said.
Trump aide Paul Manafort said Monday that the protests outside the arena would show “a lawlessness and lack of respect for political discourse.”
They did, but it wasn’t Rose Hamid’s side. It was the protesters aligned with a man who spews hatred and yet has become a major party’s candidate for U.S. president. Besides violating core American values of inclusion, Trump’s approach foments division, and does nothing to lead us out of a distressingly scary time.