Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Arabs, Muslims and anyone who looks Middle Eastern have been the targets of animosity from mainstream Americans who have misdirected their anger about the terrorist attacks against innocent people.
And ever since terrorists from a small extremist corner of the Islamic world destroyed the World Trade Center's Twin Towers killing some 3,000 Americans (including some Arabs and Muslims, too), the Bush administration has been scrambling to excuse their failures by prosecuting innocent people.
The election last week of Barack Obama as the nation's first African American president with an Arab name and a history of exposure to the Islamic World can put an end to the post-Sept. 11th insanity. Finally.
In the weeks and months after Sept. 11, some 14 innocent people were murdered by Americans angered with the terrorists. Many of the victims were not Muslims or Arabs, but looked Middle Eastern.
Local authorities in almost every case brushed aside links to evidence that the attacks were related to the terrorist attacks and rejected claims that the victims were also victims of the Sept. 11th terrorists and deserved compensation along with the victims who died on that date.
For the past seven years, thousands of reported and unreported incidents of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes ranging from actual physical violence to vandalism have continued steadily each year since the terrorist attacks.
And, many Arabs and Muslims have been victimized in other ways, being forced from their jobs and into the unemployment ranks, denied promotions, ostracized by former friends and colleagues and business associates, and excluded from mainstream life.
Even in a few instances, Arabs and Muslims, and non-Arabs and non-Muslims, have fabricated hate crimes for political reasons.
Rather than help bring these hate crimes to an end, Bush and his administration fueled the anger by using a broad brush to describe anyone who opposed his foreign and domestic policies as "terrorists" or "terrorist sympathizers."
And worse, the ranks of hate-mongers in the mainstream media have only grown, while voices of moderation and reason have been shut out of the system.
That Americans on election day rejected the candidacy of John McCain, who embraced much of Bush's policies, and the hate-mongering of his vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin, and instead embraced the message of hope from Barack Obama clearly shows that this country's post-Sept. 11th trauma is closer to healing.
Americans are more educated about the truth about Sept. 11, that the terrorists do not represent the Arab or Islamic World, and that the invasion of Iraq exposed this country to more terrorist violence rather than making it safer.
Americans have slowly come to realize that much of the hate-mongering by media individuals like Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Anne Coulter and others have been based on selfish exploitation rather than on truth.
Prior to his election as president, his critics pointed to the fact that Obama's father is a Muslim, though not from the Middle East but rather from the African nation of Kenya. He spent several years as a youth in a Muslim country where the public school system was heavily influenced by Islamic religious education. His middle name is Hussein, a popular and common Arab name. And, he had many friends while building his career in Chicago with Palestinian American activists and supporters of a just Middle East peace.
All of these facts were used by hate mongers like Hannity and Malkin and Coulter as reasons to foment opposition to Obama's election. But the election proved that most Americans are far smarter than these hate mongers believe.
Most Americans saw through the insanity to recognize the truth that Obama's background may give him a special gift of understanding to make informed and educated decisions about the Middle East that can make this country more safe.
Decisions that can restore this country to the pinnacle of world respect. A life experience that might even help bring the Middle East conflict to an end while also ending the misguided war in Iraq that continues to claim American lives while failing to defeat the terrorists.
His election as president has changed America and can also make it a far better nation, one that truly embraces the ideals that motivated our founding fathers to seek to create a nation in a hostile world that could stand as the corner stone of freedom.
Barack Obama faces many challenges as this country's 45th president. But his greatest achievement might already be that Americans have not forgotten Sept. 11th, but see it in a new light of comprehension and understanding.
Nov 4, 2008 may have just become the most important date in the psyche of the American mind, replacing the tragedy and pain of Sept. 11, 2001 with a future of hope and healing.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talkshow host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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