By Alan Howard
The 2016 Republican Party National Convention has been consigned to history. And what a convention it was. It seemed like the overarching theme was one word: Fear.
Fear of lost jobs, of immigrants and refugees, loss of Christian identity, fear of terrorism and Muslims, fear of black people, fear of LGBTQ communities (though yes, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump did awkwardly vow to protect the LGBTQ communities) – you name it and it came up either through coded speech.
If you watched the RNC, you understood that there is real fear out there in America being perpetuated by the Republican Party. But the fear that was on display was a very one-dimensional fear: The fears of white America.
The fears gripping other communities across America look very different and are often diametrically opposed to the fears expressed at the convention.
- The Hispanic American and Latino communities are fearful of scapegoating and deportations.
- African Americans fear more police violence and death inflicted upon their communities, and the fear the ever-increasing militarization of our police forces.
- Muslim Americans (and to some extent Sikh Americans) worry about their perceived lack of loyalty. The fear of another attack by terrorists not related to them in any way that could trigger attacks on their communities or worse a government that could punish them collectively. A possible ban on Muslims, greater surveillance done in ways that restrict civil liberties and rights.
- LGBTQ communities live in fear of attack and the rights they have so recently won being rolled back or destroyed.
The anger and hate permeating convention was palatable. If unleashed, the consequences will be far-reaching and devastating. These circumstances have led me to think more about where this fear leads and what the possible outcomes could be. But more than that it has made me reflect on what a society looks like just before a crisis takes hold:
- In the days leading up to Kristallnacht in 1930s Germany, did the Jewish man comfort his family saying, “I fought for Germany in World War I, there is no way they will target me”?
- A month or more before the Rwandan genocide, did a Tutsi mother reassure her child, “Everything is okay. We get along with our neighbors”?
- Did the Cambodian schoolteacher comfort his students after the Khmer Rouge took power, saying, “It will be okay. At least the fighting has stopped”?
I am sure many Muslim-American and Latino households are saying that everything will be okay, that nothing bad will happen. They are concerned and fearful, but perhaps not enough to push them into action. They will say that Trump is a bloviating blowhard and will pass into history.
Except, that he might not at all.
He might win and become president. And then will the conversations still be about comforting each other? Even if Trump loses, there is also the truth that remains — that millions of Americans supported Trump, and they will remain your neighbor, your colleagues, your boss or another significant person with whom you interact with every day.
And, you will live with them knowing that they supported an American agenda that did not include you and your rights.
The scars from this election will burn and fester long after the election is over. How much lasting damage it will do to our country remains to be seen.
Alan Howard is heavily involved in interfaith dialogue work and community activism out of Atlanta, GA. He enjoys hiking, kayaking and international travel. He is a contributor to Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex and Intimacy.