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So far, I’ve been mostly quiet about the American election—by design. Both my personal philosophy and my religious conviction as a Baha’i compel me to steer clear of partisan politics and avoid any party affiliation or partisanship.
At this point, however, I’m ready to say some things. First—I don’t know about you, but I’m so relieved that the campaign season, which was a complete circus (and not the fun kind), is finally over.
I voted, because I see it as my civic duty and a right other people died for, and therefore should not be taken for granted. I won’t say for whom I voted. I will say that I respect the office of the President, and I hope all the best for our new President-elect.
Regarding the protests, I can understand why some people feel compelled to object. I absolutely support your right to protest. I also absolutely condemn and refuse to support violence, property destruction or dangerous antics like trying to block streets and freeways. If I see anybody engaging in such actions, trust that I’m going to call you out on it, and then probably alert the proper authorities. And if I see anyone verbally berating or trying to attack somebody with whom they disagree, I will intervene on their behalf.
Regarding those who keep insisting the protesters are nothing but “sore losers” (and yes, there is some of that going on), I think you might be missing or deliberately ignoring some important things. By design, coincidence or accident, I think it’s clear that the tenor of the campaign cycle contained overtones of racism, xenophobia, sexism and bigotry that no reasonable person can or should deny. Some people are quite worried and even fearful, and for good reason. If nothing else, please don’t try to deny that some truly bigoted people have seen the results of this election as an affirmation of their beliefs, and are starting to act accordingly. There has been a sharp uptick in hate crimes and overt acts of intimidation toward people of color, Muslims, gays and others. So, again, please, let’s quit trying to deny the very ugly undertones and overtones this election cycle brought out.
This might surprise you: I’m actually glad those things are coming out and coming to a head. In my nearly half-century of life so far, I’ve known America to be a place that paid a lot of lip service to fairness, racial harmony and equality—but in all honesty, this country has a considerable amount of bigotry bubbling just under the surface. But now that it’s on the surface, naked and bold, it’s going to be easier to spot and deal with.
It needs to be dealt with. When Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, visited the United States over a century ago, he observed that racism was America’s most pressing problem. He said, if it wasn’t dealt with properly, racism would end up ripping this country apart. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, repeated that warning in 1954:
No less serious is the stress and strain imposed on the fabric of American society through the fundamental and persistent neglect, by the governed and governors alike, of the supreme, the inescapable and urgent duty—so repeatedly and graphically represented and stressed by Abdu’l-Baha in His arraignment of the basic weaknesses in the social fabric of the nation—of remedying, while there is yet time, through a revolutionary change in the concept and attitude of the average white American toward his Negro fellow citizen, a situation which, if allowed to drift, will, in the words of Abdu’l-Baha, cause the streets of American cities to run with blood… – Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 125.
Baha’is believe that prejudice, racism and hatred will only disappear when we recognize the oneness of all races and the unity of the whole Earth:
…the world of humanity is one race, the surface of the earth one place of residence and that these imaginary racial barriers and political boundaries are without right or foundation. Man is degraded in becoming the captive of his own illusions and suppositions. The earth is one earth, and the same atmosphere surrounds it. No difference or preference has been made by God for its human inhabitants; but man has laid the foundation of prejudice, hatred and discord with his fellowman by considering nationalities separate in importance and races different in rights and privileges. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 232.
Now, we’ve made some great strides since then—but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s still a huge problem, as are misogyny and other forms of bigotry. It hasn’t been fully dealt with, not by a long shot.
So, to those who feel “empowered” in their bigotry: Know that without apology or compromise, I stand for the First Amendment rights of Muslims, the human rights of immigrants and refugees, the civil rights of LGBT people, the safety and well-being of people of color and the dignity and equality of women. The days of letting stuff slide are over—for all of us. I will call out and argue against ignorance and bigotry on social media. If I see it in person, I’ll call it out. If I see you trying to intimidate somebody, I will come to their aid. If you try to attack somebody, I will physically put myself between you and them.
Here’s to hope—and God bless America.