All this talk of people yelling "Traitor!" and "Kill him!" at McCain/Palin political rallies this week, the subject of Barack Obama's ethnic and religious identity hit home a few days ago in a conversation with a woman I talk to fairly regularly at the gym. We were both commenting about the dismal state of the New York stock market when she said that while she didn't want McCain (or Palin) to be President, she was afraid of Barack Obama. When I asked why, she said "Because he's a Muslim and has Muslim blood", or something like it.
Now let me say that I haven't really done my homework on this issue. I assumed at the time of this conversation that all of this talk about Mr. Obama being a Muslim had something to with his father. My parents informed me over the weekend that no, it has more to do with his stepfather, a Muslim from Indonesia.
I didn't want to let that comment stand, without probing further. When I pointed out that he was raised in Kansas by his grandparents, and had only seen his father once when he was 12, the woman at the gym was unruffled. Some of the "worst" Muslims she'd seen were people raised in the United States but who'd rejected Western ways to return to their faith.
It was at that point that the light bulb turned on in my head, and her comments made more sense. This woman, from what I know of her, is from a conflict-ridden part of southern Lebanon. She grew up there, and has still has a lot of family there -- family who were in the thick of things when the Israelis, Hamas, the Syrians, or whoever it were dropping bombs just a few years ago. Given that kind of background, I could see how she might view people with a more "tribal" sort of filter to her reality, and experienced situations where Westernized Muslims may have returned to the Middle East to more authentically experience their faith by becoming fundamentalists.
The conversation pretty much ended at that point. The whole incident reminded me that this election is rousing all sorts of passions, and that the man who I hope will be our next President is going to brake all kinds of new ground just be making it to Inauguration Day. Beyond that, this country needs leadership, and not of the "if you're not completely with us, you're completely against us" kind we've gotten in the last 8 years. I hope that Mr. Obama is the man to lead us.
on 2008-10-13 at 1:29 p.m.
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