There Is No "Other" America

Thursday, February 25, 2016 - 5:34am
Photo by Jamelle Bouie

There Is No "Other" America

“It is not American.”

That’s what most of my friends tell me when I tell them about the latest horrific comments made by Donald Trump, who at the moment appears to be heading towards being the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land. Even by the admittedly outrageous standards of Donald Trump, this seemed beyond the pale. Shooting Muslims by bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. This, not in an anonymous hate group website, but under the full glare of spotlights, from the mouth of the leading Presidential candidate, in a political rally.

This is America.

During a recent rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, Donald Trump talked about how he would protect Americans. To make his point, he told the story of John Pershing, a U.S. general who took some 50 Muslims captive in the Philippines in the early 1900s:

“He took fifty bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood. And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the fiftieth person he said ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, okay?”

As if the moral of the story was not clear enough, the GOP front-runner reiterated the message for the mob crowd:

“We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”

This is where we are as a nation. This is our America.

Donald Trump, the leading presidential candidate of a major political party, can approvingly talk about shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig's blood, and there is no outcry or statements from other Republican or Democratic candidates. [Update: Eventually, Rubio called the story “bizzare.”]

As for Trump's comments, this is merely a continuation of what we have heard over the last few months. After all, this is the same Donald Trump who seems to perpetually lower the moral bar by talking about Mexicans as rapists, calling for a registry of Muslims, and shutting down mosques. This is what a slide towards the moral gutter looks like.

Donald Trump's comments disgusted me, but did not surprise me. What hurt my soul was hearing the crowd roar in approval. Who are these people? Where is their humanity? Where is their compassion?

No. These people are us. Who are we? Where is our humanity? Where is our compassion? This is we the people. There is no “other” America. This too is America. This is us.

We are the beautiful. We are the hideous. Each one of us is where the beautiful and the hideous mingle. It would be comforting to pretend that all of this is taking place somewhere else, on some other strange and unfathomable planet where hatred and xenophobia roam free. It would be comforting, but it would not be true. We live on this planet.

This too, alas, is America. I refuse to believe that somehow what is taking place in these rallies is an aberration, something that is taking place “outside” of America. No, this level of hatred is America. It’s not all that we are. And it is certainly not the best part of who we are as a people. But it is a reflection of where at least some of us are in this very moment.

There are a few points that come to my mind and heart: If we want to be better than this, we have to confront the demon of racism and xenophobia. If we wish to believe that this is not what it means to be Americans, then silence is not an option. We have to repel darkness with light, apathy with love, and ignorance with education.

This language of fear-mongering and violence being directed against a visible minority is reminiscent of so many episodes in our shared history. Yes, it is from the book of lynching of African-Americans, internment of 110,000 American citizens of Japanese heritage, and anti-Semitic pogroms. And so much of this is not merely in our distant past, but part of the reality that we construct each and every day.

Horrifically, the tale reported by Trump is not even real history, though the fear and hate-mongering he both creates and amplifies is awfully real. The event never happened. A simple search on or similar sites reveals that this shooting of Muslims by bullets dipped in pig's blood never actually happened. (Although, there is a frightening company that makes bullets tipped with pig's blood to send “Muslims straight to hell.”)

Trump's statement was made in a rally 13 minutes from where Dylann Roof shot and killed black worshipers in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Our suffering, our lives, and our dignity are all linked. Have we learned nothing, nothing at all from the bloodshed?

No, Muslims do not have a monopoly on suffering. It is not just about saving Muslim lives. It is about saving our own democratic experiment. We are all in this together. When we allow hatred and venom towards one of us — be it Muslims, Jews, Hispanic, gays/lesbians, poor people, undocumented people, African-Americans, combination of the above, or others — we all go down together. As Martin Luther King used to tell us, either we go up together or we go down together. But either way, we are together.

It cannot be simply the responsibility of Muslims to counter this venom. It is up to all of us.

There are resources for us in the American tradition to counter this. We go back to the legacy of Mamie Till, and the hundreds of Mamie Tills, making their suffering public. Oh how poignant it is, and it has been, to stand with tears in our eyes and say it: My life is too short to hate. My heart is filled with pain, but I will not bring more darkness into a world already cursed with too much hate. I am going to dedicate myself to a life committed to love and justice for all.

And this Mamie Till response, this prophetic witness against hate and venom, was again on display this week. The most powerful response to Trump's pig-soaked bullets came back from a powerful, brilliant, and charismatic Muslim woman, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, the sister of Deah Barakat. It was Deah, along with his wife Yusor and Yusor’s sister Razan, who were murdered in Chapel Hill a year ago. Suzanne Barakat, embodying the best of this dignified response in addressing Trump, offered these words:

Thank you Dr. Barakat. Thank you to the community and the tradition that has made you who you are. And a thank you to each and every person who works to bring light, compassion, sanity, and love into this wounded hurting world.

A better, more compassionate America, a more loving and just world is possible. We must be participants in making it so.


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Omid Safi

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

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Thank you for writing this. As an American living in Berlin, it is frightening to hear that someone so hateful and ignorant could be gaining traction in his campaign through fear-mongering and every other dirty bully trick. We need more voices like yours. I work long hours with the refugees and I can tell you: they are HUMAN and they need OUR help and we become more human by giving it. America takes such a fractional number of refugees that I feel ashamed. WE are all human, in this together.

thank you so much. I hope we can keep focusing on how we are all in this together. with Blessings....

Mr. Safi, as a "moderate" ex-Muslim, I am going to take this opportunity to point out to your readers: yes, we are all in this together. Including you.

The surge in Trump's popularity in response to his declarations of banning Muslims entry to the US reflects the resentment that has built up over the years of the constant lies, whitewash and obfuscation that Islam apologist like yourself tirelessly engage in regarding Islam's role in the misogyny, homophobia, brutality, barbarism and obscurantism that we can observe wherever Islam is dominant and the more faithfully it is practiced true to the teachings that are clear for anyone to read in the Koran e.g.

Koran 4:89: "Take not unbelievers as friends until they fly in Allah's
way; but if they turn back, seize them, kill them wherever you find them"

Koran 8:12: "Instil terror in the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike off
their heads and cut off fingers and toes."

Koran 9:5: "Fight and kill the disbelievers"

As an apostate defector from this medieval desert cult I come in for an especially nasty bit of consideration. When not threatened with decapitation and flogging in this world
having my skin boiled off in the next is on the Koranic menu.

Who can blame Americans if they don't want to welcome people who come from regions that condone and fervently believe in the righteousness of these practices?

The esssence of a religion is found in the hearts of its followers, not its written scriptures. There are plenty of passages in the Bible that make the hairs on the back of my head curl. Every montheistic religion has those who see God as a jealous, angry god and those who see God as the source of love. Which one is right? I'd say both of them, because as a limited human being all that you will see when you look at God is reflection of yourself. I am looking forward to celebrating Spring with my Muslim friends, even though I am not Muslim myself.

"The esssence of a religion is found in the hearts of its followers, not its written scriptures. "

Then go to any public square in a Muslim country while a public stoning or decapitation is taking place and set a Koran on fire and find out what is in the heart of its followers.

"There are plenty of passages in the Bible that make the hairs on the back of my head curl. "

Yes, and the very same process of intelligent thought that should compel you to reject any compilation of superstitious, genocidal, homicidal, fratricidal, homophobic, patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, pedophilic, "honor " killing, genital mutilation promoting nonsense should work for the Bible as well as it does for the Koran.

Thank you

It is very much a concern that so many Americans are following and voting for Trump. When he uses the horrific murder of those Philippine Muslims by John Pershing it should be remembered that this is the same tactic of fear and murder used by Saddam Huessein.

Hitler. He reminds me of Hitler. The world has learned nothing. :'(

The Pershing story is simply false. It did not happen as described. However truth or falsity does not seem to bother Trump one whit. So what does this say about all the other promises and exhortations he has made? In his book, The Art of the Deal, he describes exactly how to pretend to be the other person's "friend" and pretend to like what they like. Then when they are on "your side" you can get them to do what you want and accept what you tell them. Doesn't this sound like what he is doing to the gullible American public?

The fourth reich?

Sure sounds like it to me. If he is elected I plan to ask Germany for political asylum. I think they will understand.

Yes, the fourth reich-no question mark needed.

Of course Rabbi, any nationalism not manifested by any people other than a particularist people at the eastern end of the Mediterranean is on the road to Auschwitz.

The slide into the moral gutter has been going on for some time. Our nation and its leaders worship wealth, power, and sensual pleasure and we allow nothing to stand in the way of what we want. This will not end well.

Mr. Trump may have the stage for now. He is NOT America. He will not be elected POTUS. This expose of all that is ugly in this land is a blessing...if we act against it.

Very well said.

Thank you.

Thank you, Dr. Safi. I also am more deeply troubled by the cheering crowds at Trump's rallies than by his statements alone, hateful and despicable as those words are. I struggle to know how to respond in a meaningful way. So I go to sit in meditation, with a focus on equanimity and lovingkindness. We are all Americans, those of us who respond to Trump's declarations with horror, and those who respond with applause and cheers. We are all citizens of this crazy, diverse, beautiful world. Thanks for your writing, for the call to stay involved in the quest for justice and understanding.

I am a Canadian, married to an American, living in the US. I have lived here for nearly 40 years. I have never been afraid to live in any of the 6 states in which I have resided . I don't think that I will be able to stay in this country if that man is seriously considered by the Republican Party for Presidential candidate. This election feels like a nightmare....something that I would have considered to be impossible, and frightening to even contemplate. I hope that his true colors are revealed to the extent that no one,no matter what they believe,can in all conscience consider him a viable option for election. The people who have allowed their anger to blind them to this behavior need to wake up. He is never going to be able to do anything for the average American....he doesn't care about the average American....he just wants a larger "business " to have full control over. Power is everything to this person and he will say anything to get it. I am appalled by the knee-jerk reaction that fear has inspired. He cannot do the things that he is promising, and there is no point to voting him into office. I think that the biggest problem that this country faces at this time is that people need to read the whole story, and know more facts and truth about what is happening, to make an informed decision about the privilege of being able to, and actually voting.

I am an American, who married to a Canadian. I have lived and now hold citizenship in both countries. I am back in America at this point but my children are in Canada. In 1980, my wife found living in the U.S. unacceptable. Thinking it was a safe bet that Americans would never fall for Ronald Regan's propaganda, I promised her that if Regan was elected we would move Canada. I spent the next 23 years living in Canada. The antics and dirty dealings of the Regan election and administration seem like child's play in today's America. I appreciate this call to action because there is no doubt our beloved country and its grand experiment are in peril. Words like appalling, nightmare barely scratch the surface. In my lifetime America has fought the Commies, the hippies, the Iraqis, the Afghanis, and Muslims. We have expended wealth, lives, promise, our national treasury and seemingly our very soul only to find we are the enemy. Violence, war, and rhetoric can not save us; we all must take up the cause of becoming personally involved. The old lines of the GOP vs the Dems are gone. America has dissolved into political chaos, traditional pandering, petty corruption, and political manouvering are gone. It has become the most frighteningly real "reality" show ever. The candidate who can lie, cheat, steal, backstab and shout down everyone else will seemingly win the prize. It might make great theatre but we stand to lose everything those who came before us built, fought and died for. Taking an honest look at ourselves and our history, the good and the shameful, requires courage and conviction. The same courage and conviction that all reasonable, rational people in this country will need in the coming months to overcome the chaos. To me the choice is simple; do I vote for those calling for continuely increased division or for those calling for unity, progress and a hopeful future? The most important question is: will you take a stand, become involved, walk the walk, and most importantly exercise the most powerful freedom of all and vote!

I agree, Trump is a horrid person, but you say you are Canadian married to an American? Aren't you forgetting that Canada is America too? It really bugs me that so many think of the United States as the only thing that is America. It is the United States of America. Not the United States is America.

Canada is NOT America as you describe it. Everyone knows when someone says America they mean the United States. Canada is the northern half of North America and still tied to Britain and to a lesser extent - France. The difference is HUGE. You should learn more about why.

You have no idea what you are talking about. Probably a product of the pathetic public education system in this U.S. Most likely traveled very little. The rest of the people in the countries of N. and S. America consider themselves Americans. The U.S. is not America, it is a part of the Americas.

It is so refreshing to read intelligent well thought out posts. I fear for our Country, fear for the "take over" by Trump followers who have no doubt hid their true selves all these years knowing that such views were frowned upon by a civilized society and dare not expose their violent, racist views in public. Donald has allowed them to come out of the shadows. The light has shined on the thousands among us who freely express violence, hatred, racism in our "public square." Yet, there is no shame. No accountability, no education to permit them to understand how very wrong is this stance. Instead, a potential leader of the free world, encourages more of it each day. This all feels apocalyptic somehow....those who are posting here...I will need to take my family and move...and Canada, particularly with your lovely new leader, Trudeau...but where shall we go to be among like minded civilized friends who understand that while we may disagree there is mutual respect, understanding, compassion....under Trump....I fear all of that and much more is lost?

As a Canadian, I appreciate the many kind reflections on my country. That notwithstanding, many here suffer from similar, if perhaps not as extreme, frustrations as do many Americans. Fortunately, to date, overwhelming general public rejection of hatemongering has confirmed the basic values of the majority. Our recently ousted federal Conservative Party tried to take the nation to places uncomfortable for most of us, even Conservatives such as myself.

I watch, along with the rest of the world, in shock and dismay the political and social unrest taking place in the USA. Is this really how people feel? Is this the result of middle class disenchantment? The end result of the politics of fear? Is it the failure of the American Dream or recognition that it is/was largely myth? Regardless of the answers to these and countless other questions we Canadians must not sit back and feel smug. If the Canadian economy continues to struggle (a relatively recent event as a result of oil prices falling) we too will see rising intolerance towards those seeking a new and better life here and the failure of governments to fix matters.

I fear for the USA or perhaps I fear the USA and what the current batch of Republican or perhaps even Democrat presidential
candidates might believe is necessary to restore the USA to its former perceived glory and temper revolution.

Thank you very much for this "illumination." You are helping me form my own response in a much more educated framework with the big understanding of "together. " I will be looking to learn more.

Thank you for this, Omid Safi. It touched my heart and soul deeply. God is with you.

Thank you so kindly Fran. God is with all of us.

Yes, Omid, thank you for pointing out so beautifully that there is only one people, one struggle and one Earth. Love and light to you...

Thank you for passionate truth. I will do all I can to face my own shadow to understand and bring humanity to our collective shadow. May peace prevail. Oh, and Bernie Sanders for President...

I am filled with sorrow and my world view, I know NO One who supports Donald Trump. Over and over, I think, this cannot be happening. Beyond confusion,I am sharing the Ted talk Monday..,"when you look at me what do you see". What can we do? What can I do?

I appreciate the truly spiritual reflections that routinely appear in On Being. I must say, though, your frequent forays into politics--and its always left-wing politics--turn me off and and are certainly devoid of any spirituality. There is nothing spiritual about attacking the followers of any politician, be he from the right or the left.

Thank you Avi. The prophetic tradition that I find meaning in is one that sees God as being ultimately concerned with the suffering of the people who at the moment find themselves weak and vulnerable. Because of that, I don't draw any ultimate distinctions between the spiritual and the social, the religious and the political. That is consistent with what Martin Luther King towards the end of his life, and I would urge you to study his words as well:

"It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do."



I posted this on my Facebook wall soon after reading this article.

"I rarely speak out on Facebook regarding political views. It's just not my thing. However, this article is so poignant and Donald Trump's messages are so hate-filled, this is beyond politics for me. With the power social media holds, I declare that Trump's words disgust me,too, and the crowds, as the author says, hurt my heart deeply. Trump nor his rally attendees speak for me. I want to be Christ-like. Jesus got angry and did not remain silent. I will choose the same because I choose love and I choose Democracy."

I felt much relief after doing so.

I have no problem what General Pershing did. I will stop at nothing to protect my family and my country from those that want to harm us. If a person is not radicalized, not wanting to destroy the USA, does not hack off others heads because they did not respect others religions, then there is no problem .

Didn't you read the post? Gen. Pershing never even did what Trump said. It's yet another lie from a man who has built his entire campaign off of them.

The Filipinos were not invading the USA during that time. The Filipinos were no threat to Americans. The USA invaded the Philippines who did not declare war on the US. The US went there because it wanted to fulfill its "manifest destiny" and become a colonial power. The Filipinos were defending their land and freedom. Therefore, there is a big problem when an American General committed atrocities on people who were no threat to the US.

Thank you. I have shared your article on Facebook.

You want to vilify Trump for the pig blood comment, but you seem to forget the "killing of white babies" comment made by the liberal Black Panther Party.

What does that mean, George Wall? When my children name call, I don't tell them to name call louder. I don't tell them to remember what his brother said a month ago to keep up the antagonism. No, we talk. We try to lower the volume. We calm down. We listen. We heal. We care. I don't see this with the GOP political discourse. As so much of history tells us, fomenting hate and viciousness is dangerous.
This article is so excellent....thank you for it.

In the first place, what in the world does a statement from the New Black Panther party have to do with this? And how do you characterize the New Black Panthers as "liberal". They have been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "virulently racist and anti-Semitic" and are in no way aligned with Democrats or liberals. They are a hate group and have nothing to do with Trump or his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

There is only one thing that can heal this world and that is love.

Thank you so much for this. It echoed so many of the thoughts I've been having about our current political state. Today one of my eight-year-old students told me during a serious conversation that he is afraid to write a letter to Donald Trump because "I'm afraid he'll ship me back to the Dominican Republic." Honestly I don't blame the kid for being afraid! Trump's hateful speech (and worse still the applause following the hateful speech) does make an impact. Whether we adults are joking about him or not, the nastiness still makes its way down to the children in our schools. That includes children of immigrants and children of a wide variety of ethnicities and religious faith. Do we really want to stand for this kind of politics and speech being modeled for our children very publicly? Are we really allowing this to happen? I am so grateful to anyone taking a stand and trying to bring more "light, compassion, sanity, and love" to our world. I am trying, and I wish I knew how to do more!

This article brought this video to mind:

I have read through these comments, and they are filled with fear. These words and phrases are from the comments: "frightening", "hateful", "fear-mongering", "horrific", "this will not end well", "despicable"... Earth has always had this duality; the path of unity vs the path of separation. Seekers of separation have always held positions of power, because hierarchy and pecking order is a characteristic of the path of separation. Relax into these events, it is both an individual and a national catalyst, and the purpose of all catalyst is to advance spiritual evolution. Nancy Hall, one commenter here, understands the potential here, by confronting her own shadow. You needed to speak up when Iraq was being bombed to smithereens, you needed to speak up when it was revealed that the weapons of mass destruction was a lie, you needed to speak up for Afghanistan, you needed to speak up for Syria, you needed to speak up for Lybia, but you didn't. You sided with the darkness, and now the darkness is on home soil, not some far away country on the other side of the globe. This is a mirror, look into it, look at what you see. You are a superpower drunk on arrogance and lack of empathy. The very phrase "American exceptionalism" denotes separation, instead of unity. We can go further back; Hiroshima and Nagasaki... do you even realise what you have become? A monster! We are all one, unity is the true reality. This is an illusion of separation, and America is being provided with a mirror. An uncomfortable, but necessary mirror.

Thank you for this.

Observer, there were those of us -- millions of us -- who DID speak out: against the Vietnam War, against Iraq War I, against Iraq War II, against war in Afghanistan, against US-led "liberation" by violence. We marched, millions of us. I was part of a group that stood vigil for peace in our village park in Vermont, week after week, for years. But nobody came to tell the world about us except a group of Dutch journalists doing a film on the effects of the Iraq War on small-town America. Coverage of the anti-Iraq War marches in the national media was nil. We have to love each other and join together in action, political and otherwise, nonviolent action, to strip the money power of its hold over us.

I believe you, and thanks for pointing this out. We only saw an American population being swept along by the propaganda and lies. Only love heals, and only love protects, and there is going to be a lot of healing required in the not too distant future... but they say it's darkest before the dawn, so let's hope they're right! I still believe that all is as it should be, because throughout history, evil has always self destructed, and now we're all seeing the implosion in front of our eyes...

Excellent! Thank you for your words so heartfelt and eloquently stated. You say what we all need to hear and act upon. After all, we rise and fall together.

Mr. Trump is only the face of something deeper, an infection in our land. Although he expresses it in its most outlandish way, the other candidates in the GOP all hold similar views. Unfortunately, I know a number of people who support them, and am old enough to remember the people who supported Hitler. While some things cannot be compared to him, the early days of his coming to power are, in some respects at least, the same. He came to power when people were frightened, when they felt powerless and abused. The nation had gone through a brutal war, in which it had, more and more, come to see itself as "exceptional," not bound to the regular rules that bind humanity. A form of religion that supported this "exceptionalism" bound itself to patriotism, and was used to scapegoat its problems on minority communities, anyone not truly of the "Aryan" race, which was seen as in danger of being overwhelmed by "lesser" races. All this was fueled by an economy in trouble, and people who, in desperation, were looking for a "savior." Again, although the problems of the United States do not rise to those of prewar Germany, the basic drivers are the same: frightened people of a group threatened to become a minority, a sputtering economy, a nation constantly at war, a mentality that ties religion to patriotism and scapegoats others for its problems, the sense of historic "exceptionalism" that causes it to see itself as above the rule of regular law. All of these make for quite a frightening cocktail.

We should not think that Mr. Trump, or one of the other GOP candidates is "unelectable." And, make no mistake - they all are running on the same platform, saying basically the same things. In some respects, while he is certainly the most outlandish and outspoken, the policies of the others are more radical and fearful. Dr. King said that the only way to fight darkness is with light - only light can drive out the darkness. We must fight this cancer, first of all, with truth - not giving in to the same outlandish statements that have typified the GOP nominating process. When such statements are made by them, we must do the hard work of continuing to hold up what is true. Second, we must counter the fear they take advantage of. The other day, on NPR, I heard a fellow who used to work for the CATO Institute - the conservative think tank - say, to the effect that people are not really rational beings, they are rationalizing beings. That is, they will try to conform their perception of reality to what they hold to be true. They see themselves as part of a beset minority, in danger of being subjected to the same kind of discrimination, hatred, and powerlessness which they have subjected other minorities to over the years. It is frightening to them to lose the power they had. The only way to counteract fear is with love. They must find out that sharing power is more healing, more joyful, than keeping it solely for oneself. We need to show them that, as Churchill said, "there is nothing to fear but fear itself." But that love must be a "tough love," not putting up with the fear-mongering, expressions of bigotry and racism coming from those who wish to take advantage of these things to further their own interests. Third, we must stand together against this, and be outspoken in our condemnation of this kind of behavior - not simply ridiculing it as something belonging to the undereducated "rednecks," but rather pointing to our common humanity and common calling, holding up before them constantly a higher vision of the country that we could be, founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty. These are things Americans have been rightly proud of over the years, and should be the basis of a common calling.

We need to understand that this is not just a minor movement in the United States, like the KKK or skinheads in the past. It is a real threat, which will not simply go away once the election is over. We are in a world-wide recession, in which the U.S. is probably the least-affected. Refugees from wars and other violence, as well as economic refugees, streaming to the borders of ours and other countries, further frighten their inhabitants with differing ways, and the worry that they will bring the war and violence they are fleeing with them. Other countries are struggling with the rise of these groups as well as us. We need to fight the tendency to look after only what is ours, close ourselves off from those things that frighten us, hide behind walls, and give in to the worst that is in us.

Thank you for summing this up so eloquently.

Mr. Roth, thank you for articulating this so well and for reminding readers that Mr. Trump, indeed, is not "unelectable" given the atmosphere that seems to be permeating the U.S. at present. I'm a Canadian, born in southwest Quebec, 16 miles from the border with up-state New York. For the last 40 years I've lived in Western Canada, now living in central Alberta, about a days' drive north of Montana. I have family and friends in the U.S....and am distinctly worried about the hitherto cordial (if not down-right friendly) relationship along that 'longest undefended border in the world'. Alberta has been a settling place for some distasteful radicals -- mainly anti-Semites -- including one who tried to teach against the reality of the Holocaust in his local school, and was subsequently charged and jailed under our Hate Crimes legislation, which includes the public dissemination of material and/or speech against any identifiable group. In Mr. Trump's case, this would include his vitriolic statements about Muslims and others. There are very few instances that would be considered an exception to this legislation. In other words, he wouldn't get away with his behaviour up matter how many towers he built or how much money he invested. He needn't think we're so friendly and polite that, apologetically, we'd allow him to do so. It behooves you, dear neighbours, to stop this man and his followers before, like the frog in the soup pot, you are boiled to death.

I am horrified. Thank you for bringing this to the public view.

I could not agree more with these comments. I also weep for this America where there is no tolerance, no respect or courtesy of others beliefs, just look at the Facebook comments. How far we have fallen in the space of 20 yrs. I thought Trump was just the flavor of the moment, a clown who would swiftly be replaced by serious discussion among actual candidates. I am amazed, astounded, shocked and horrified that he has gained so much steam that he could actually be the republican choice. All of this by appealing to the most base of human qualities. Yet all of this is foretold in the bible. The only thought I can cling to is that we are indeed in the last days.

Dr. Safi,
Thank you for writing this. You are right to call attention to the fact that no one has yet rebuked Donald Trump for these remarks. For all the times I've heard about these leaders calling on Muslims to denounce Muslims who do terrorism (they already do), the silence from both sides is deafening when it comes to denouncing remarks such as Mr. Trump's about Muslims. As for the crowd who cheers such remarks, I fear that there will always be such crowds, and I hope that the voices of those, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "touched ... by the better angels of our nature" sound the true chorus of the day, lest fear take control of our country.

I am appalled at Donald Trump's rhetoric against our minorities; thanks to Mr Safi for his article; we all need to express our feelings to the Republican Party and ask the Party to take a stand against this.

He sounds too much like Hitler did against the Jews. The LAST thing America needs is a Hitler.

Trump hits a nerve with a lot of people. Whether you like him or not he realizes that the culture has changed. There seems to be another kind of hate developing and that is the hate for all things traditional to our country. The US is under no obligation to allow immigrants into this country. We are under no obligation to provide assistance ir free anything to anyone. We are under no obligation to make the playing field fair for everyone. Trump has managed to capture this sentiment. Love him,or hate him he is still right on some of the issues.

Many are asking: "How could this happen?" The very same question that people asked after WWII about Hitler's rise. It happened because no one spoke up. People believed Hitler would make Germany great again after a devastating depression after WWI, they believed his lies, Hitler was a great emotional orator and knew how to control the media (radio at the time) to his message and also turned a blind eye to his hatred towards minority groups as he was blaming them for Germany's their unemployment and out of control inflation. Sadly, even people considered, "intellectuals" never spoke up and paid the price. The only balance to Trump's hatred, lies and bigotry is to speak out now. Speak out every chance you get. Do not let this country fall into the morass of stupidity and ignorance because of this man. Remember history and let us not be "doomed to repeat it", while Trump is destroying this great democracy by appealing to its lowest common denominator.

Thank you for continuing to be a voice of sanity, love and compassion in the midst of this madness. I became an American citizen 3.5 years ago, having lived here since 1995. I was able to vote for Obama, something that carried more weight for me than any voting act in the U.K. I have great hope that our millenials, who are far more multiracial than previous generations, will be able to turn the tide of this xenophobia.

The author makes wonderful points. We are all responsible when someone makes these remarks and incites hatred or despair or terror. We must at least rebut what is said by one such speaker. It cannot be left for others to hear and not learn.

Thank you Mr Safi for writing this article, as an American I am disturbed also by this hateful bigotry especially , like you said , of the roaring of the crowds. He is bringing the worse out of people and I do believe his day will come . There are great people in this world doing exordinary things everyday and I want to believe those will overcome in the end. Just the responses gives me hope. Again thank you!

Thank you Doctor Safi. I am aghast that someone like Donald Trump seems to be an answer to the fears of so many Americans. And yet. And yet, I hold onto hope. For although ignorance and hatred are a part of the American (the human) psyche, ultimately we are so much more than this. Can we not appeal to our higher natures, natures of love and light, to pull each other out of darkness? This is the responsibility of each of us, to show by word and by example, that love trumps fear and truth trumps Trumps. Thank you for your call to action...

Thoughtful piece but why direct condemnation against Trump alone? He is, after all, not substantially different than Cruz, Rubio or Carson, who all peddle their own similar formulations of bigotry, xenophobia and degradation toward their fellow human beings. I am just as frightened by any of these other nominees as I am by Donald himself. Trump is simply more bombastic than the others.

dear J McHaffie, only because Trump seems so clearly to be headed to being the GOP nominee. I agree that Rubio and Cruz are equally terrible in so many ways.

You forgot to mention Trump's hatred of women in your piece. Why is that? Is it the one thing you and Mr. Trump might have in common or did you just decide women were not important enough to include?

How can you say that Trump hates women? He has two daughters and one of them (Ivanka) seems to be groomed to take his place running his company. He stood up and said that Planned Parenthood does a lot of good things for women and took a lot of heat for it from Ted Cruz and some other Republicans. Trump just doesn't agree with them in that that they also perform abortions. He made those blood comments about Megyn Kelly that I wouldn't have made. He is ruff around the edges and says some things that I don't agree with. The one thing that he says that I think we all agree is we must secure this country and keep bad people out. That is his appeal. He's telling it like it is.

I hate to break it to you but Hillary Clinton isn't any better-she has said some disparaging things towards women too. The only difference is they were woman that slept with her husband and /or were victims of her husbands sexual harassment. Just keep that in mind while you're considering a candidate. Another thing to keep in mind-do you want a person that has the poor judgment to leave a private, yet unsecured server in her house with state secrets on it to be president of this country?

Dear Stephanie, I am not sure where you got that from. Feel free to study some of my writings, in particular the Progressive Muslims volume, which argues that gender justice is the key measure for social justice in contemporary society. May God bless you, omid

You cannot build up
While you are tearing down.

I think it is time to organize protest rallies outside of Trump events. We can't hope for the best outcome of the election anymore. If we're democrats we shouldn't wait and hope that the Democratic candidate beats him. It's time to start confronting him about his words. The press is not doing it, and really it's not their job. It's our job to voice opposition and we have to do it where Trump followers will hear us - outside their rallies. I refuse to be a bystander to this.

This was beautifully written and true on all levels. I found myself agreeing (out loud) throughout this article's entirety. If only everyone would adopt the mantra "all life is precious." Thank you for your insight and words!

Well said, Omid. As a "natural born citizen" of the USA, I am embarrassed and appalled by Mr. Trump's ongoing hate-speech. He continues to prove his ignorance, lack of education in the humanities, and dreadful shortcomings as a "christian", and I cannot think of anything more foolish than trying to emulate the model he has presented us through his life and achievements. We are a nation of immigrants and welcome all who come here in peace.

Thank you Dr. Safi. I just posted this on my Facebook page. Your wise words always give me hope.

Thank you so much Diane. We need to keep building shelters of hope, lest we give in to the abyss of despair.

It has been my observation during my 65 years of life (and 40 plus years in a nursing career) that in every race, religion, and nationality of human beings on this earth there is goodness, honesty, kindness, and love, and, unfortunately, also evil, dishonesty, meanness and hatred! America is the great experiment! Is it really possible for people from so many different backgrounds, with so many different spiritual beliefs and who look so different from each other to live side by side peacefully? Maybe I am just an idealist, but it seems to me that over the centuries people have come to America because that is what they want, too. That is what our founding fathers had in mind and that is what the USA stands for! So, do we let our fear destroy the very core of who we are? To me that is how America's enemies can defeat her! So, Mr. Trump, we don't need you to make America great again because she is already the greatest country in the history of the world! Sure, we have our challenges in this increasingly more complex world, but a leader who seeks to divide our diverse population of citizens instead of bringing us together to solve problems is no winner in my book!

The Elijah Interfaith Institute has been fostering deep and intimate friendships across religions. They've developed a document titled "An Interreligious Manifesto." You can find it here:

Dear Omid Safi,

I only this morning was able to read your latest column.
And it is like balm for my soul.
I thank God for your voice among us.
You truly are calling us all to becoming more human.
As a Christian,living Lent right now,I am called to examine my own living ,
and I am called to take care of my brother and sister best I am able to do.
I am given the choice of choosing good or evil at any moment of my day.
And I do know that the potential for good and evil exists in every human being/.
May I never forget that.
Thank you also for bringing Dr. Martin Luther King into your column.
I have learned so much from your writings,and I am deeply grateful.
I will share your column in my study group tonight .
Every blessing to you and your family.

Trump is not the issue. The vein, the open wound he has tapped needs to be exposed and discussed and lanced. Yes, the racism, the anti immigration message, the sense that authority in whatever form is the answer, etc. ,I find repulsive almost to the point of feeling sick to my stomach. But my and your repulsion, frankly Krista, are not the point. The question is what is happening to our country, why is he so popular, and lets look at the players who have contributed to this alienation felt by his supporters--Tea Party, lack of a middle class, an elite class represented by Obama and Hollywood, the very, very rich and the overall feeling if you are a day to day guy/woman you are lost in this economy and culture. Black Lives Matters is also addressing this sense of alienation, futility. Lets discuss these issues.

I think we are seeing our shadow(Jung)...the dark side of ourselves and our country. I agree we are all 'one' and further...there is only one g-d who has a thousand names. If we are ever to be a great country, we have to own the parts of us that are dark and hateful. We have to face our own tendency to want power and control over one another. Each of us must face our own shadow. The climate in our country frightens me. We can end up in a very dark place if we do not learn from our history. I struggle with how to deal with this...what to to think about it. Thank you for writing this piece. It feels like wisdom and a shining light in all this darkness. May we be blessed with the strength and courage to face what we have created. May we have the wisdom to see beyond the obvious. May we step out of the tired cliches and worn-out rhetoric and seek something new and beautiful. May we find love and light in the midst of our darkness.

Thank you for this. Exactly how I feel. It is mortifying, and I no longer know my country. In the 30's, the USA chose FDR. Germany chose Hitler. We know how that worked out. I hold television, radio, and wacko websites largely responsible for the hate and anger that is fueling the phenomenon we face. I further hold responsible the Republicans in Congress who have helped to perpetuate and fuel the distrust and anger against the president. It is unlike anything we have ever seen. Before I retired from teaching middle school history, I heard things coming from the mouths of my students that I simply could not believe. And when I listen to pastors who support Trump, I am stunned. Who are these people? We are in crisis. Dear God, let us choose peace and love.

Well said, MSS.
OBSERVER (above) said something to the effect that darkness is now on home soil. When I read this, I thought: Observer has nailed it for me. That's exactly the way I feel.
In reading these comments above, l'm struck by the pain, the angst expressed. I find it reassuring to know I am not alone with this sense of disbelief of what is happening...... that there is indeed a community of deeply concerned compatriots. Guess, even though I have never joined a "support group" before, maybe that is what I need to cope with and resist what feels like rampant hate unleashed in my country.

A part of me sensed this coming 15 years ago. After September 11th, the media has been filled with propagating fear among the population. It fueled the feeling of "us vs them" and "right vs wrong" and since that day I decided not to fall into that trap. A trap set by politicians and media to scare the population. To entice us to give up freedoms for a false sense of security. At the heart of things there is no "us" and no "them". We are all human beings. There is no specific "right" and "wrong" path in this life, we are all humans...being.

Trump’s success is not a passing fad, it is not a conspiracy, it is not a cruel joke. It is a symptom of a longstanding epidemic of bigotry and ignorance. Read the rest on my blog and let me know what you think!

We are NOT all responsible for the reprehensible actions of these miscreants. I learned about Hitler in middle school. I could not accept that I had anything in common with such an evil creature. The only conclusion I could live with was that such actions were bred out of those of us fortunate enough to grow up in the kind of environment that could accomplish such a miracle. Believing that does not absolve one of responsibility. In fact, it does quite the opposite. In order to claim innocence, one must fight the evil wherever it rears its ugly head.

"If we want to be better than this, we have to confront" the void.

As a Christian, living in Canada, I am grateful that our recent election took us one step away from the hate filled rhetoric happening in the USA today. Nevertheless, I am aware that we also live on the edge of a very reactionary movement. It is necessary for us to stand for justice and the support of those who do not have the ear of the powerful. Trump makes a show of standing for those who feeling unsafe. A truly sad time and I pray that you will be blessed Omid Safi, for this work.

While the crowds roar in approval, there are millions who shudder in shame over Donald Trump... he does not represent the average American family here... he has appealed to the lowest common denominator in our country and has fed off their own hate and discontent ... He is reflecting back to them what they want to hear and that's what is so frightening about him. It is my fervent prayer that this nightmare ends well with anyone but Donald Trump leading this country for the next 4 years. A lot can happen between now and next November and I implore all around the globe to pray for this man to be discarded as a true candidate for the president of this country. He has no moral compass or any comprehension of what his words are doing to this country. He is a very rich man, playing a game with the future of this country and his narcissistic personality appeals to those who have only hate in their hearts and are always blaming others for their lack of success, always believing what anyone tells them without looking any further than what the storyteller has to say... Make no mistake, Donald Trump is a dangerous man and I can only continue to pray and speak out against him and the shame he brings to so many .... America deserves better and so does the rest of the world.

This is NOT about hatred, and as for the question 'who are these people?' These are people who are determined to defend their freedom of speech ,first and foremost. The fact that a Presidential candidate is not permitted to recall a piece of history in order to draw a comparison between where America was a hundred years ago, and where it is now, is one of the main problems. He did NOT say he would do such a thing today; he simply reminded people what was done a hundred years ago to have a point of comparison for how things are done today. His point was that things are now being done in such a way that America is going to be lost due to becoming so politically correct that leaders not only bend over backwards to guard against insulting perceived enemies, they will actually use the American tax-payers dollars to ASSIST the enemy in trying to take the nation.

I have yet to see this account of the bullets related in proper context in which he also relates things much worse that the enemy had done, and is STILL now doing, to innocent victims which makes the bullets pale in comparison. The media doesn't want anyone to actually listen to the full speech and get the proper context in which he basically says 'here's the worst the enemy has done and continues to do' versus 'here's the worst Americans have done and no longer do, and instead, do this other thing to actually enable the enemy to do even worse.' When Trump supporters witness the deliberate distortion of the facts and the basic smear campaign by the media, what we are really seeing is people who are angry about all the lies. Trump is someone who exposes the lies and has nothing to lose by speaking the truth. This is not about hatred; this is about genuine concern for people who are looking for a glimmer of the truth in all the lies.

Americans who support Trump come from all kinds of backgrounda but have one thing in common: they are sick of lies and half-truths and politically correct dumbing down of America to the point where they are being exploited to actually help America's former enemies destroy the country. Anyone who's truly a Christian ends up supporting Trump for that reason. Jesus said "whoever stands on the side of truth listens to me." True Christians don't promote liars or listen to liars. They'd rather have the truth, straight up, and hear the bad news in order to know how best to deal with it.

Ironically, now that there is someone who can afford to speak the truth as he sees it and who cannot be bought, all his opponents come out and exhibit the very things to which they claim to be opposed. They are against fascism, but behave as fascists by trying to suppress free speech and maintain tight control of their agenda, whatever it might be. They stand strong for the rights of certain individuals but attempt to deny the rights of others who want to gather in peaceful assemblies and hear the truth as they see it. In short, the Trump campaign is exposing the hypocrisy. That's SO MUCH better than choosing to believe lies in order to maintain an illusion of peace. The children of everyone concerned, deserve so much better from everyone concerned.

I love your articles. Thank you for writing this and putting words to mine (and so many others') thoughts.

After reading this piece, Omid, I began with prayer; then research. That led me to Vishavjit Singh, a Sikh who answers Trump
with a daily postcard mailed to his NYC address. You can go to and to HuffPost Religion: Why This Sikh
Cartoonist Is Sending A Postcard To Trump Every Day. 22 March 2016, by columnist Antonia Blumberg. Peace.

Omid, I took a seminar with you on the topic of Islam and Media Images of Post-Colonial Violence 20 years ago. As a young college student then, the difficult history of Western misunderstanding of not only Islam itself but of the actual lives and experiences of Muslim people was shocking, dismaying, but also inspired me to learn more. Reading Sufi poets, studying the Arabic language, and learning about different traditions of Islamic art also became part of my growing exposure to this universe of cultures and societies which are still, sadly, so misperceived. Thank you for this essay. Twenty years after being introduced to the ways media/fear/bigotry contorts and contrives to pit us against each other so predictably, and now witnessing how intense this current still is, I'm so happy for your hope and optimism!

Trump is a one-sided candidate that appeals to the one-sided masses, their own. He is where perceptual dialog and understanding ceases with those who disagree. Even my kids know a simple truth- how you treat the waitress, the elderly, the neighbor... shows your character, not theirs. And 'how you treat the least of these' really does matter. Trump, well he fails publically on so many counts just by opening his mouth.

I find great irony in Trump's statement: “We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”

I think he's correct though not in the way he thinks. If we don't use our heads and the country elects Donald Trump in November 2016, we won't have a country; it will be torn apart by our own ugliness.

Thank you, Professor Safi, for your encouragement and reminder we must all work together to participate in democracy and make our country a more compassionate and just place.