This Is Our Country Too: On Duelling Chants, A Mother's Grief and Trump's Black Soul
The Khans at the convention. Photo by Getty Images
The improbable drama of the Khan family, their memorable shaming of Trump, and his sneering incomprehension of it continues to play out, as the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq - and much of America - charge the sociopathic Trump with owning what is clearly a "dark heart" devoid of empathy. The appearance of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son Army Captain Humayun Khan was killed in 2004 by a suicide bomber in Iraq as he protected hundreds of others, was one of the Democratic Convention's most searing moments. A Harvard-trained immigration attorney, Khizr praised America as a nation where his three sons were "free to be themselves and follow their dreams” before, in what was dubbed "an elegant act of patriotism," pulling out his well-worn, pocket-sized copy of the Constitution, brandishing it in the air and asking Trump if he'd ever read it. "I will gladly lend you my copy," he said. "Look for the word 'liberty' and 'equal protection of the law.'" Finally, referencing the graves of all races and ethnicities at Arlington Cemetery, where his son is buried, he thundered, "You have sacrificed nothing, and no one."
Khan's speech sparked a complex storm of reactions - except from Fox News, which didn't run it; instead, they showed a bizarre Benghazi attack ad. Trump, who many thought couldn't go any lower and sicker, did: He whined he'd been attacked, suspiciously wondered why the grieving mother didn't speak up, and harumphed he'd made so many sacrifices you wouldn't believe, like making all that money and building all those crappy hotels - a tack that spawned a flood of devastating cartoons and the hashtag #TrumpSacrifices. Samples: "Gave up his military slot to five other men...Donated his other wives to the poor...Had to wear suit and tie not hood and robe to convention...That time they were out of Beluga caviar...I had to do my own hair today...Had to give up his integrity, compassion and moral compass." Until Monday's surreal suggestion by a Trump "adviser" that the Khans are in fact all jihadist bad guys, only the loathsome Ann Coulter managed to go lower than Drumpf, tweeting during Khan's speech, "You know what this convention really needed? An angry Muslim with a thick accent like Fareed Zacaria" (sic); she earned responses like "You are an awful awful woman" and "Were you not hugged enough as a child?"
Pretty much everyone above ground, including veterans and Republicans, has since shredded Trump. Stressing that "running for president is not an entitlement to disrespect," the dignified Khizr Khan charged Trump is "devoid of feeling" with "no decency," "a dark heart," "a black soul." Ultimately, he insists, "This is our country too." His wife Ghazala, who stood silently and tremulously by at the Convention because she remains so ravaged by grief she cannot look at a photo of her son without breaking down - "the place that emptied will always be empty" - said of Trump's cruelty in a later interview, "Please Mr. Trump, feel that pain and you will be better." Many were less kind: An incensed John Oliver said Trump's vileness was "what you'd expect from a damaged narcissistic sociopathic half-man." Most damningly, it was noted that while the world saw a grieving mother, the monstrous Trump saw a Muslim, The Other. Thus does he persistently lack, and miss in others, "that which makes us human."
Along with outrage, the Khan vs Trump spectacle prompted a more nuanced dilemma for Muslim Americans and many others who acknowledge the service and loss of Humayun Khan, but insist on their right to question what it was for. That dichotomy was clear during Khan's speech, which was often met with fervent duelling chants of "U.S.A!" - hard for many of us to hear without cringing - and "No More Wars!" and "No More Drones!" from Sanders delegates. Against the backdrop of an aggressively nationalistic convention that often resembled jingoist RNC gatherings of the past - and amidst the even greater threat of the racist Trump - there was little recognition of Muslim American disapproval of Clinton's hawkish policies, her willingness to use them as props or symbols, or her dismissal of Palestinian rights. When the Clinton campaign jubilantly posted a tearful photo of Nida Allam in her hijab declaring, "We made history,” Allam, a North Carolina Bernie organizer, retorted she was crying because Sanders had conceded and told Clinton's people, “Guess you didn’t get the memo.” Most vitally, writes Noting, "There are other ways to work for the good of the nation than fighting in its wars," he adds, "To be a Muslim citizen of the United States, you don’t have to die as a Muslim American. You can live as one, too."