Wajahat Ali: ‘Reach Out to Trump Supporters,’ They Said. I Tried.

Still better to reach out and listen.

Dialogue doesn’t have to lead to agreement but should improve understanding of the issues and perspectives if entered in good faith on all sides and a willingness to look at the evidence and facts (not “alternative facts”).

But agreed given some of the cultish aspects of Trump followers, hard to break through:

73 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. He doubled down on all his worst vices, and he was rewarded for it with 10 million more votes than he received in 2016.

The majority of people of color rejected his cruelty and vulgarity. But along with others who voted for Joe Biden, we are now being lectured by a chorus of voices including Pete Buttigieg and Ian Bremmer, to “reach out” to Trump voters and “empathize” with their pain.

This is the same advice that was given after Trump’s 2016 victory, and for nearly four years, I attempted to take it. Believe me, it’s not worth it.

The Quran asks Muslims to respond to disagreements and arguments “in a better way” and to “repel evil with good.” I tried. “You might not like me, and I might not like you, but we share the same real estate. So, here’s me reaching out across the aisle. American to American,” I said in a video message to Trump supporters published the day after the election.

I really thought it might work. Growing up, I often talked about my Islamic faith with my non-Muslim friends, and I like to think that might have helped to inoculate them from the Islamophobic propaganda and conspiracy theories that later become popular. So I assumed I could win over some Trump supporters whose frustrations and grievances had been manipulated by those intent on seeing people like me as invaders intent on replacing them.

So in late 2016, I told my speaking agency to book me for events in the states where Trump won. I wanted to talk to the people the media calls “real Americans” from the “heartland,” — which is of course America’s synonym for white people, Trump’s most fervent base. Over the next four years I gave more than a dozen talks to universities, companies and a variety of faith-based communities.

I reminded them that those who are now considered white, such as Irish Catholics, Eastern European Jews, Greeks and Italians, were once the boogeyman. I warned them that supporting white nationalism and Trump, in particular, would be self destructive, an act of self-immolation, that will neither help their families or America become great again.

And I listened. Those in the audience who supported Trump came up to me and assured me they weren’t racist. They often said they’d enjoyed the talk, if not my politics. Still, not one told me they’d wavered in their support for him. Instead, they repeated conspiracy theories and Fox News talking points about “crooked Hillary.” Others made comments like, “You’re a good, moderate Muslim. How come others aren’t like you?”

In Ohio, I spent 90 minutes on a drive to the airport with a retired Trump supporter. We were cordial to each other, we made jokes and we shared stories about our families. But neither of us changed our outlook. “They’ll never take my guns. Ever,” he told me, explaining that his Facebook feed was filled with articles about how Clinton and Democrats would kill the Second Amendment and steal his guns. Although he didn’t like some of Trump’s “tone” and comments, he didn’t believe he was a racist “in his heart.” I’m not a cardiologist, so I wasn’t qualified to challenge that.

In 2017, I was invited by the Aspen Institute — which hosts a festival known for attracting the wealthy and powerful — to discuss racism in America. At a private dinner after the event, I was introduced to a donor who I learned was a Trump supporter. As soon as I said “white privilege,” she began shooting me passive aggressive quips about the virtues of meritocracy and hard work. She recommended I read “Hillbilly Elegy” — the best-selling book that has been criticized by those living in Appalachia as glorified poverty porn promoting simplistic stereotypes about a diverse region.

I’ve even tried and failed to have productive conversations with Muslims who voted for Trump. Some love him for the tax cuts. Others listen only to Fox News, say “both sides” are the same, or believe he hasn’t bombed Muslim countries. (They’re wrong.) Many believe they are the “good immigrants,” as they chase whiteness and run away from Blackness, all the way to the suburbs. I can’t make people realize they have Black and brown skin and will never be accepted as white.

I did my part. What was my reward? Listening to Trump’s base chant, “Send her back!” in reference to Representative Ilhan Omar, a black Muslim woman, who came to America as a refugee. I saw the Republican Party transform the McCloskeys into victims, even though the wealthy St. Louis couple illegally brandished firearmsagainst peaceful BLM protesters. Their bellicosity was rewarded with a prime time slot at the Republican National Convention where they warned about “chaos” in the suburbs being invaded by people of color. Their speech would have fit well in ”The Birth of a Nation.”

We cannot help people who refuse to help themselves. Trump is an extension of their id, their culture, their values, their greed. He is their defender and savior. He is their blunt instrument. He is their destructive drug of choice.

Don’t waste your time reaching out to Trump voters like I did. Instead, invest your time organizing your community, registering new voters and supporting candidates who reflect progressive values that uplift everyone, not just those who wear MAGA hats, in local and state elections. Work also to protect Americans against lies and conspiracy theories churned out by the right wing media and political ecosystem. One step would be to continue pressuring social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to deplatform hatemongers, such as Steve Bannon, and censor disinformation. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

Or, you can just watch “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix while downing your favorite pint of ice cream and call it a day.

Just as in 2016, I don’t need Trump supporters to be humiliated to feel great again. I want them to have health insurance, decent paying jobs and security for their family. I do not want them to suffer, but I also refuse to spend any more time trying to understand and help the architects of my oppression.

I will move forward along with the majority who want progress, equality and justice for all Americans. If Trump supporters decide they want the same, they can always reach out to me. They know where to find me. Ahead of them.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/opinion/trump-supporters.html?surface=most-popular&fellback=false&req_id=943976581&algo=bandit-all-surfaces&imp_id=846925651&action=click&module=Most%20Popular&pgtype=Homepage

After Christchurch, Commentators Are Imitating Sebastian Gorka

Interesting and sophisticated take, and good call for greater understanding of the differences within and between ideologies and perspectives:
After the 2015 Paris attacks by ISIS commandos, Donald Trump’s counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka wrote these notorious lines, blaming the ideology of “radical Islam” for the atrocity:

These attacks are the latest manifestation of a growing and globalized ideology of radical Islam that must be addressed at its source—which includes the mainstream imams and media personalities who nurture, promote and excuse it … They were inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalizes mostly men to save “the caliphate” from “the kuffar [infidels]” … The threat we’re facing isn’t just individual terrorists. It’s the global ideology of radical Islam. We have to take it seriously, and call out imams, academics, and media personalities who give it a platform under the guise of exploring both sides, fostering debate or avoiding political correctness.

Except these words weren’t by Sebastian Gorka at all. They were written in The New York Times by Wajahat Ali, hours after the massacre of 50 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. I swapped white nationalism for radical Islam, politicians for imams, and Western civilization for the caliphate.

A funny thing happened after the tragedy of Christchurch: Everyone discovered, all at once, that ideology matters. Four years ago, commentators were contorting themselves to attribute jihadism to politics, social conditions, abnormal psychology—anything but the spread of wicked beliefs that lead, more or less directly, to violence. Ideology for thee but not for me. Imagine the contempt any thinking person would feel for someone whose reaction to Christchurch was to wonder whether a few Muslim street hoods had once roughed up the shooter, or if during his trip to Pakistan the authorities had given him a hard time at the airport. Did he have trouble getting a job? Feel unsettled by modernity?

In dismissing these tendentious explanations so breezily—so breezily that they receive not even a mention—Wajahat Ali is absolutely right. So are the countless other commentators, Muslim and not, who have belatedly come to the conviction that if bad ideas permeate communities (virtual and real), their effect is not incidental but decisive. Ali has, in fact, been direct in his acknowledgment of the role of belief in some contexts. Others have treated it as an embarrassment, especially in their own communities. In the neighborhoods that were targets of recruitment by ISIS, community leaders emphasized nonideological causes publicly. But they all knew, on some level, that ideas mattered, and any parents who detected a whisper of ISIS ideology in their household understood that it was as deadly as bubonic plague.

Almost two years ago, I opined, meekly, that Sebastian Gorka was not wrong about everything. I complimented him for noting the role of jihadist ideology, and then roasted him for botching the particulars of that ideology. Gorka’s view of jihad is monolithic; he believes, erroneously, that “radical Islam” is a vast and united front against which the next patriotic generation should prepare to fight. In fact, jihadism is a complicated network, with mutually antagonistic elements (Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, say) and even some elements that aren’t violent at all.

I regret that the commentators post-Christchurch are imitating Gorka’s main virtue as well as his signature flaw. The transposition is astonishing. Gorka treats Hezbollah like al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood like Hizb al-Tahrir—all different Islamist groups, with salient resemblances; his post-Christchurch doppelgängers seem ready to treat Tarrant like Trump, and Trump like Tarrant. In The New York Times, Omer Aziz accused the neuroscientist and atheist Sam Harris, as well as the Canadian psychologist and lobster enthusiast Jordan Peterson, of complicity in mass murder for objecting to what they argued are overbroad applications of the word Islamophobia. C. J. Werleman, a columnist for Middle East Eye, tweeted last weekend that “ISIS appeals to roughly 0.0000001% of Muslims,” whereas “right-wing extremism represents the views and attitudes of roughly 30-40% of white people.”

If we cannot distinguish Harris and Peterson from Richard Spencer, let alone Brenton Tarrant, then our problems are bad indeed. (Among those problems is arithmetic: 0.0000001 percent of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims is 1.8 Muslims, a substantial undercount of ISIS’s adherents, even when you round up to a whole number.) Harris and Peterson seem to think America under Barack Obama was a good place and getting better; this view is not compatible with fascism. To support Donald Trump (which Harris and Peterson in any case do not) is not to support the slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand. Just as there are many, many steps between believing in Sharia law and following ISIS, there are countless shades of difference between, say, supporting a border wall and wanting to snipe at Mexicans along the Rio Grande. If sharing a cause with ISIS or Tarrant makes you uncomfortable, perhaps it should. But it does not make you guilty of every crime they committed.

To differentiate on an ideological spectrum is hard. But to fail to differentiate leads to catastrophic blunders. If you blindly swat at enemies, and blindly extend courtesies to friends, the predictable result is that your friends get swatted and your enemies indulged. They may not send thank-you notes, but I promise they are grateful.

Source: After Christchurch, Commentators Are Imitating Sebastian Gorka

If Moderate Muslims Are Asked to Condemn Extremists, Where Are Moderate Christians on Jeff Sessions?

Valid points – and has happened but mainly in the context of child separations:

“Dear moderate Christian Republicans, as a Muslim always asked to defend my alleged moderation for the past 16 years, here’s a sincere opportunity for you to step up and reclaim the Bible, Jesus and your religion from men and women using it to separate kids from their parents.”

I tweeted this invitation and request upon hearing Attorney General Jeff Sessions cite the Bible, Romans 13, to defend the administration’s zero tolerance, deterrence policy that detains and separates undocumented minors from their parents at the U.S. border. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders supported his biblical justification by saying: “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law…It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”

On an ordinary day in America, it would be a great scandal when the nation’s top lawyer and the president’s liaison to the press both seem to be blissfully unaware that the United States is a pluralistic democracy that advocates separation of church and state and is bound by the Constitution which features the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that prohibits the establishment of religion by the government. But in the ever decaying, deepening, moral abyss that is the Trump administration, this is just another forgettable warm up act before the new horror show of the week.

In defense of Jeff Sessions, Romans 13 has been used in the past, but often to justify slaveryand apartheid. That it was used to defend a policy of detaining 2,500 children, some of them living in cages and detention centers, shouldn’t surprise anyone. People of self-professed faith often find their way to molding religion around their political objectives.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who is moved by the Christian Holy Spirit, insisted that these children were merely experiencing a “summer camp.” Ann Coulter, another conservative Christian, said we should give these kids Oscars because they’re “child actors.” Not to be outdone, Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, asked America to hold his beer while he mocked an undocumented minor with Down Syndrome who was separated from her mother. This is the same man who once said that Christian “faith played a big part in the [Trump] campaign.”

Trump himself never directly cited the bible to justify his policy. Instead, he blamed Democrats for wanting illegal immigrants to “infest” the United States and claimed his hands were tied to do anything else. On Wednesday afternoon, he finally reversed course and said he would sign an Executive Order ending family separation at the border.

But his new order only shifts the cruelty of his previous policy by seeking to detain undocumented minors and their parents indefinitely in “facilities” which are essentially modern day internment camps.  He seeks to undo the Flores settlement, which prohibits minors from being detained more than 20 days. He’s deliberately manufacturing a crisis and conflict with the courts —just to detain and punish migrants and their children.

In Isaiah 61:1, Jesus says God sent him “to bring good to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”

I ask: Will the moderate Christian Republicans please stand up?

I ask because, as a Muslim, I don’t recognize Trump’s Jesus or Christianity. I first encountered the Christian version of Jesus while reading the Bible at my all boys, Catholic high school. To the anguish of Father Allender, my religious studies teacher, I had the highest grade every semester, followed by Kalyan, a Hindu, and Naveed, a non practicing Muslim. I was attracted to the stories and the Jesuit motto of service: “men for others.” To me, the heart of the New Testament is Agape, which refers to God’s unconditional love. This is the love that fueled Jesus’s entire mission and is clearly articulated in Matthew 25:40, where he preached, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

I empathize with the frustration of millions of Christians horrified that their religious values and Holy Book have been hijacked by an extremist minority in power to rationalize bigotry and hateful policies. Ever since the 9-11 terror attacks, I’ve been asked to be a walking Wikipedia entry on all things Islam and Muslim-y and engage in an endless “condemnathon,”apologizing for criminal acts done by radicalized men and women I’ve never met in countries I’ve never visited. All robust condemnations, eloquent refutations, and sincere attempts at education fall on deaf ears to those who keep asking me to prove my alleged moderation. For many Republican politicians, conservative pundits, Christian leaders and their “Values Voters,” the fear persists that somehow Muslims, one percent of America’s population, will take over America, replace the Constitution and put a burqa on the Statue of Liberty.

But what if it’s the Trump administration and its supporters that represent extremism that moderate Christians and Republicans should be pressed to condemn? Perhaps it’s their absolutism that will subvert democratic norms, freedoms and institutions, which to them are merely tools for their divisive and hateful agendas?

We know that the religious minded have flocked to Trump.  Nearly 81% of white evangelical christians voted for him in 2016 , along with 60% of white Catholics. This also is the group most likely to be dogmatic about immigration policy. In a January Washington Post-ABC poll, 75% of white evangelical Christians rated the “federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants” as a positive.

What’s the appeal of Donald Trump, a racist, lying adulterer who said he should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for avoiding STDs and never attends church? Well, he promised these “values voters” that under his administration “our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you’ve never seen before.”

But religion under the Trump administration has not been protected and defended. Instead, it has been invoked and unsheathed as a malicious sword against innocent, undocumented children, who have been used as pawns to enact a cruel immigration policy and a border wall. A sword is a fitting weapon for Trump considering he said his favorite Bible verse is “eye for an eye,” featured in Exodus 21. The irony is that Jesus singled out and rejected that old Mosaic law in his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus never said the Kingdom of Heaven would include a border wall paid for by the Romans and enforced by beefed up Praetorian Guardsmen who would keep out refugees, immigrants fleeing persecution, children and foreigners.

And yet, everything Trump corrupts is forgiven, because he is a “modern-day Cyrus” according to Evangelical pastors. Cyrus was the ancient, pagan, Persian King who welcomed exiled Jews back to Israel. Like Cyrus, Trump is apparently a flawed instrument with divine legitimacy chosen by God to “navigate in chaos” and fulfill a greater plan. But unlike Cyrus, Trump can’t welcome foreigners — undocumented immigrants and refugees — to America. Alas, nobody’s perfect, especially a flawed king.

Other prominent Christian personalities, such as Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron, absolve Trump by comparing his sexual discretions to King David, who impregnated another man’s wife and then sent him to die in battle. Although King David atoned for his sins and asked forgiveness, Trump has publicly said he doesn’t need to ask God forgiveness.

To his credit, Evangelical pastor Franklin Graham, who according to Trump was “instrumental” in helping him win over evangelical Christians, condemned Trump’s border separation policy as “disgraceful.” But, Graham still believes that God put Trump in the White House. Listening to these religious leaders, I’m reminded of a verse from the Bible, 2 Corinthians 11:13: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”

Will the moderate Christian Republicans please stand up?

Thankfully, several Christian leaders did stand up, and spoke out loudly against Trump’s “zero tolerance policy.” Earlier this week in Washington D.C., ahead of the President’s meeting with House Republicans on immigration, many evangelical leaders asked Congress and the administration to immediately end his policy of family separation. Citing the Bible, Kent Annan, Senior Fellow at the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, said, “As evangelical Christians, we’re committed to the Bible as our top authority, and the Scriptures speak clearly and repeatedly about God’s concern for vulnerable foreigners, including refugees…as Christians who believe that all people bear God’s image, as well as people committed to religious liberty for all, this is very troubling.”

I pray leaders in Trump’s administration listen to their fellow Christians who are invoking Jesus, the Bible and Christian morality to denounce their hateful immigration policy. I pray Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens to over 640 members of his own United Methodist church, who condemned his defense of the border policy and are seeking church law charges against him for alleged “child abuse.”

I pray that Vice President Mike Pence, perhaps the most devout member of Trump’s administration, is listening as well. Allegedly, Pence believes Jesus talks to him. I pray Jesus does. I pray he asks him to read Matthew 18: 4-5, where Jesus tells his disciples: “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” I pray Mike Pence understands the words and the spirit behind them and then counsels President Trump to act accordingly, like a proper Christian.

Mostly, I hope and pray for the moderate Christian Republicans to please stand up and finally denounce this administration and its cruelty.

Source: If Moderate Muslims Are Asked to Condemn Extremists, Where Are Moderate Christians on Jeff Sessions?