Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 251- Leadership

Dear Mr. President,

I generally do not hold you accountable for the actions and beliefs of those who support you. Martin Peretz, for example, may be a prominent member of the media and a self-described democratic loyalist, but when he expresses his view that Muslims have no claim to first Amendment rights, I don't blame you for that. I do, however, expect you to speak out. I do expect you to show the rest of the world that America cannot accurately be represented by cult leaders in Florida or racists in The New Republic. I expect you to speak out because the world is watching these people and it is watching you.

I don't expect that you act alone. I think that you should get every prominent and influential politician in this country, Republican and Democrat, to collectively issue a condemnation for these hateful acts and words. To challenge Americans to rise above this, to be better than these small-minded men and women would represent us to be. I can imagine the power of you, both former Presidents Bush, President and Secretary Clinton standing together to make this request. I may not have agreed with President Bush, but he has an obligation to speak to the parts of the country still irrationally enraged at Muslims over 9/11. A tangible demonstration from current and former GOP leaders might go a long way toward calming down the violent Islamophobia on the right, just as you, Bill and Hillary Clinton might do for the left. I believe that silence in the face of these dangerous swells of anger is tantamount to complicity.

We expect our leaders to stand up in moments like these. I'm not asking that you outlaw the perfectly legal actions of these groups (no matter how reprehensible or dangerous they might be.) This isn't a legal issue but a moral one and you still wield enough influence over any audience you speak to that a few words from you might yet summon the humanity in these people to make them reconsider their actions. At the very least, it will demonstrate clearly that they do not act in the name of all Americans. This morning all I could think about were the young boys and old men in Palestine who asked me over and over again to tell my country they were not terrorists. Their own helplessness in the face of a media narrative that could not be stopped was deeply moving. I think I finally understand what they felt like. I want to write a letter to the world and say, please, believe me, American's aren't racists, we're not bigots, we're not violent and hateful and irrational. Please don't judge us by the actions of a few crazy people who act in our name.

So I hope that before Saturday you and every other influential American with access to a microphone has taken to the airwaves or written in the papers or published on the internet an unequivocal denunciation of the Qur'an burning and the rallying cries against Islam as a religion and Muslims as people. We must show the world that this is not who we are, and that has to start with our leaders. I think that few days in recent memory have as much power to transform as this year's eleventh of September has; I don't want to wake up Sunday morning and wonder what country I'm living in.

Respectfully yours,



  1. Is it that you are dishonest or that you do not know how to read?

    Peretz did not say that the 1st Amendment should not apply to Muslims, but questions whether Islamists (y'know, the people who would do away with the Constitution) are worthy of it?

  2. Kelsey. when I tried to post this to my FB page the Anon comment shows up instead of your letter - just letting you know I read you, agree with you, tried to post! and this is one I fully support, too.

  3. "And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse."

    I'm fairly certain that "these people" refers to "those muslims led by the Imam Rauf" who are not "the people who would do away with the Constitution" by any stretch of the imagination.

    But even if Peretz did mean only those extremists who would do away with the Constitution, and, again, I don't think he meant that at all, it doesn't matter. People who hate the constitution are just as entitled to its protections. I think the 2nd amendment is archaic, but that doesn't mean I'm not still protected by it. The glory of the Constitution is that it doesn't discriminate based on a persons beliefs.