Monday, 25 October 2004
As I mentioned yesterday, I have been reading things over at Muslim Wake Up!, and something I saw today set off a big string of thoughts. There was a partial endorsement of Kerry by part of the leadership groups, that left out (deliberately) another part of the leadership groups. I think. It's all kind of vague to me because I don't know the acronyms so I got confused. But this partial endorsement set off a string of comments and weblog posts about how neither US presidential candidate is very good for the Muslim community, neither is paying any attention to their needs, and all of America gets it wrong on Palestine. There's one post about why Bush is better on Palestine, which treats that one issue as enough of a reason to chose Bush over Kerry (and I realize I may not grasp the intent or know anything of the background here).
I make no judgement on why people chose to vote for one candidate or another. Your issue is not my issue. (My issue is the separation of church and state, and I am backing the candidate who does not intend to legislate his faith onto other people). If you're working from false information I will tell you, but I have never understood the Palestine issue at all. This is sheer ignorance on my part, that's all. I know it's a hot issue, but I've never gotten enough information to make up my mind even what the threads of the issue are, let alone how I feel about it.
But reading all of this, some of which got very heated about how Muslims are not being catered to by anyone and therefore they are left out and marginalized and what should they do about that?, I at first got indignant. Here I am, still to the core an ardent supporter of Howard Dean and all his works. And because I think first of the greater good of the whole rather than my own individual gains, I am going to vote for a candidate who I believe caused political harm to the man who would be the very best president this country could possibly have right now. If Kerry didn't do it himself, he was certainly aware of it and didn't do anything to stop it. But I am putting aside my anger at that, and my anger at the party that orchestrated that harm, to vote for the person who is better for our country.
Why do I have to put aside my own personal feelings and my belief that the two party system is a complete failure so therefore I should always vote third party? Why do I need to do that when this person intends to vote for Bush because of Palestine?
And then I stopped myself. Despite the issues I've faced as a woman (and please don't think I'm dismissing those, because they exist and they're very real), I have always enjoyed the unfettered ability to participate in mainstream American society. I haven't always done so, nor have I always wanted to, but because I am white and not poor I can make that choice. This society caters to people like me all the time. My representatives in government, for the most part, look like me and share some of my background. I have not been marginalized to any great extent. I am not necessarily catered to individually, but as a white, middle class (some would argue upper middle class), well-educated, white-collar, well-travelled, intelligent woman, I am a sought-after demographic.
The fact that most of what mainstream culture produces is of little interest to me is somewhat irrelevant here. I have the means to seek things of interest from outside the mainstream, and I have little fear of being persecuted or punished for that.
When I look at it like that, I start to think that maybe The Muslim Community (which is not one monolithic thing either) is seeking to define the issues that are most important to them, and they do not have the automatic assumption that I do, that they will be heard. They are used to being not heard, to being ignored, to being left out and marginalized and even, still, persecuted. They are absolutely a part of the reason why I have decided to put my own interests second this time. I still have hope that some day in my lifetime I won't have to do that anymore, but for now because I see and I listen and I think and I feel, I want to add my voice to those of the disenfranchised, the disenchanted, the unheard, the unseen. Those who could use my help. I don't want to be their voice, I want to say to others, "Stop, listen. Have you heard this?" This culture, these voices, have value. It matters, and this needs to be incorporated into what we call mainstream. Not co-opted, not diluted and Disneyfied, but accepted and celebrated and heard.
It was this same kind of feeling that led me to be a member in good standing of the Student Organization for Black and Hispanic Unity in school, despite being neither Black nor Hispanic. I didn't speak for them, I merely stood with them and listened. Sometimes, that is a big thing.
I want a society that is inclusive. I want to celebrate our differences, and I want it all to be about the quality of your character, not the color of your skin or the size of your bank account or to whom you pray, if you pray. I am an idealist, but for the rest of my life I will be working towards that vision, because it's such a wonderful place and I think we can create it. Want to help?
Oh, and I just remembered. Happy third birthday to this journal! Three years ago today, I posted the first entry here. I'm still not sure why I'm doing this, but I have figured out that I have something to say. I hope it's meaningful to you, too.
If you want to: contact