As one proud American, I have frankly reached my pinnacle in the near-tacit acceptance of the rising tide of fear-mongering by un-American groups that are once again washing in the most heinous types of bigotry across our great nation. My now aging American grandfather proudly came to the United States in the late 1960s at the heels of war to seek liberty and freedom — things that he deeply cherishes until today. But his occupational purpose in being brought here was to help ensure that the United States beat the Soviet Union in the Space Race, by rocketing Neil Armstrong to the moon, as a brilliant engineer with NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. He was a patriot then, and he is a patriot now. And his love for country throughout the years has consistently fueled my own.
So as I learned of the success this past week of these fear-mongering groups in coercing our American companies [like Lowes] into taking bigoted stands [by withdrawing advertising from TLC’s “All-American Muslim], I helped to create this petition in order to say “enough is enough” and to bring back some sanity to our national conversation. And what a remarkable day yesterday became. In just hours, we collected nearly 3,000 signatures — which will continue into next week — from Americans of ALL walks of life.
We have gained the stellar support of Congresspersons and Air Force personnel; we have had unsolicited outreach from conscientious leaders and citizens across our country, we have further isolated the bigots, and we have seen media presence from well-known activists such as Russell Simmons, who has pledged that his support and that of other influential figures will only increase in the coming days. We have even seen an apology – albeit one that lacked any reversal of the bigotry – from the Lowe’s corporate office.
As the petition states, “It is these same critics who have often touted the question: ‘Where are the mainstream Muslims?'” So when a television station seeks to portray just that, one would think that these critics would have celebrated the effort, rather than have condemned it. Yet their reactions left no more proof necessary of their actual, bigoted, money-driven, and self-interested intentions, as the most dangerous thing for many who oppose this show out of personal bigotry or out of egregious self-interest is to see a far-reaching portrayal of the reality and truth of average American Muslims: That they are human, are prone to normalcy, cherish liberty, and are working for the best interests of their respective communities. And that “danger” is the reasonable human being’s victory.
So if there was ever a moment to say “enough” to those who continuously question how “American” you, I, or your neighbor is – I believe that this can be it. Now is the time to throw un-American, hate-mongering bigotry back into the hole from which it disturbingly emerges every few decades. We are all in this together as Americans — whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist – whomever we are, and whatever belief system we espouse. And, while we must strive to protect the homeland, together, we are one country. Personally, I will continue to work throughout my life to see that we remain that way.
This petition and the surrounding activism are only the beginning of an end, God willing, to this continuing absurdity. The next step will be upon our leaders, upon our politicians, upon our media, and upon all of us who continue to seek peaceful coexistence and American unity, to take back the microphone — and to put the bigots on notice.
For the outpouring of support seen yesterday, and for every day that I have lived on this Earth, I say God bless the only homeland that I have known — and God protect its freedoms and its values, for both our children, and for theirs.
Sami H. Elmansoury serves on the Immigrant Rights Task Force for the Office of the Borough President of Manhattan and as an invited member of the Generation Change initiative for the United States Department of State.