Why Brandon Stanton’s Letter to Trump Means the World to Muslims, to Humans

Why Brandon Stanton’s Letter to Trump Means the World to Muslims, to Humans March 17, 2016

Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York blog, with his camera February 22, 2013 across the street from Union Square in New York. Some like New York's skyscrapers, bridges, his energy, taxis or lights. But Brandon Stanton has set himself another challenge: photograph of 10,000 inhabitants for a blog now famous "Humans of New York." In two years, he has photographed 5,000 New Yorkers, children leaving school, tramps, fashionistas, New York with a bouquet of tulips, old lady with a cane, municipal employees, etc. And nearly 560,000 fans now follow his Facebook page.AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York blog, with his camera February 22, 2013 across the street from Union Square in New York. (Photo credit STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Let’s pause.

Let’s pause in a time of frenzied information and sharing of videos, news, quotes, facts and opinions, in a time of seemingly endless what-the-hell moments in listening to the dumbfounding and hateful rhetoric and thoughts spewing from the mouth of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (and other candidates too – I see you Ted Cruz and your hiring of noted Islamophobe Frank Gaffney as a foreign policy advisor) — and let’s slow it down.

Slow it waaaaaaay down for a minute. Just stop. Stop and savor this. Absorb this. Appreciate this:

Human’s of New  York’s Brandon Stanton wrote an open letter in the form of a Facebook update to Donald Trump a few days ago. In which he said this:

An Open Letter to Donald Trump:

Mr. Trump,

I try my hardest not to be political. I’ve refused to interview several of your fellow candidates. I didn’t want to risk any personal goodwill by appearing to take sides in a contentious election. I thought: ‘Maybe the timing is not right.’ But I realize now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice. The time is always now. Because along with millions of Americans, I’ve come to realize that opposing you is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.

I’ve watched you retweet racist images. I’ve watched you retweet racist lies. I’ve watched you take 48 hours to disavow white supremacy. I’ve watched you joyfully encourage violence, and promise to ‘pay the legal fees’ of those who commit violence on your behalf. I’ve watched you advocate the use of torture and the murder of terrorists’ families. I’ve watched you gleefully tell stories of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood. I’ve watched you compare refugees to ‘snakes,’ and claim that ‘Islam hates us.’

I am a journalist, Mr. Trump. And over the last two years I have conducted extensive interviews with hundreds of Muslims, chosen at random, on the streets of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. I’ve also interviewed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees across seven different countries. And I can confirm— the hateful one is you.

Those of us who have been paying attention will not allow you to rebrand yourself. You are not a ‘unifier.’ You are not ‘presidential.’ You are not a ‘victim’ of the very anger that you’ve joyfully enflamed for months. You are a man who has encouraged prejudice and violence in the pursuit of personal power. And though your words will no doubt change over the next few months, you will always remain who you are.

Sincerely,
Brandon Stanton

That update is now being touted as the most shared and “liked” post in Facebook’s history.

And maybe that doesn’t mean much. Maybe it does. As much as the letter is being lauded, there are critics as well. Scott Meslow at The Week wrote:

But the real problem is that this letter — which frames itself as a courageous stance against a dangerous demagogue — stands no chance of doing anything but preaching to the choir. You can see it in the sheer virality of the letter. Sharing Stanton’s post is an easy and consequence-free way of making a statement about one’s values. In this case, the statement being made — anti-racism and anti-violence — is a little like coming out in favor of ice cream or ponies. It’s easy to be against racism and violence, and it feels good to be lauded for it. If you’re genuinely worried about Donald Trump ascending to the presidency, this kind of rhetorical broadside can be cathartic. But it’s also totally useless.

I disagree. It’s not totally useless. Of course, not for a minute do I think that Stanton’s letter will change an iota in Trump. It won’t ruffle even one hair on his comb-over head. I wouldn’t be surprised for one second if Trump doesn’t use it as fodder to whip his followers into even more of a hateful frenzy.

But it means something to the millions of Muslims, the millions of humans who day by day are more and more horrified at the Trump juggernaut on this election – at the similar statements said by his fellow candidates like Cruz and Ben Carson (who has now dropped out and given his endorsement to Trump.)

It means hope in the face of hate. Or as CAIR-Chicago Director Ahmed Rehab opined in two meaningful hashtags:

#ThereIsHope
#TheOtherAmerica

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