I am finally with Her – but where is my country?
Last night’s debate decided it for me. The secret is out – despite my vigorous ‘get out the vote’ efforts in Michigan, voting for Democrats my entire life, in this election I was a closet undecided, veering towards the Green Party – not as a protest vote but as a vote of conscience. I did not expect this debate to change things. But now my conscience propels me to vote for my country. I have no choice but to vote for the only candidate who is prepared to be President, has the intelligence, temperament and patriotism to lead – Secretary Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump’s stark narcissism and ignorance are no longer trivial when the stakes are so high. But the biggest shocker for me was the reaction of the audience and the general public throughout this campaign who actually reflect the state of our union – and that union and our unity is a bit frayed.
Donald Trump states that his strongest asset is his temperament; that he knows how to win. Yet he sounds like a carnival hawker, peddling in hyperbole and hyprocrisy – mean, petty, simply wrong and plain dumb – desperate even. I admire President Obama and the First Lady for their stance to take the high road when others go low. I wish I could stop myself from calling Trump out. But the problem is that his low is so low that he has managed to drag the country down into the gutter with him and his campaign has emboldened hatred. Trump has defiled the national discourse by making racist, misogynist arguments seem okay. What has he won? Classic playground bully brought down by the president of the Honor Roll.
Living overseas the last seven years has given me a different appreciation for our nation and its unique role in the world. What Americans think, say and do matter – our institutions matter. One thing that Trump did get right is that law and order also matter. But what he doesn’t understand is that law and order is not simply an issue of policing but of principles. Every time our nation has gotten things wrong – slavery, the Japanese internment, the Patriot Act - our democracy and our rule of law have mostly managed to bring us back to our righteous core.
Now that I am back home, it is clear we still have a long way to go – Black Lives Matter, class still defines opportunity, and will we ever be able to say, so what if President Obama were a Muslim? Our nation rose to its highest ideals in its outrage against Trump’s comments about Gold Star parent Ghazala Khan. But with the highest increase this year in attacks against American Muslims and mosques since 9/11, Trump’s actual win may have been for the bigots as his words encourage some to harm fellow Americans. His campaign has let the genie out of the bag by legitimizing the worst impulses – whether it is actual violence at his rallies or spilling over, vulgar name-calling, or vicious innuendo. Even if he cannot actually ever change laws or policies, he has forever shown the world the real “Ugly American” and much damage has already been done to the world’s perception of us.
What scared me most in last night’s debate was the audience reaction. Despite being cautioned not to react, the first and loudest reaction was in response to Donald Trump’s comments about Clinton’s emails with loud hoops. Despite Trump’s poor performance, they seemed to egg him on like a wrestling match. But a softer response when Secretary Clinton was asked about her stamina – reaffirms that we have not all lost our minds when the person with actual stamina got through 94 minutes of debating without a sip of water.
A President Clinton, and yes – despite the narrowing polls, I have to believe that she will win – must set herself and the nation back on course. When as a young law student I had the honor of attending the 1995 United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, I still remember waiting in the pouring rain to hear First Lady Clinton speak to us at the NGO Forum. I cried when she stated that ‘women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.’ But somehow she lost me along the way – despite being a great advocate for my country of origin, Bangladesh, and a fellow Seven Sister, I detected a sense of opportunism and that the rules don’t apply to her which her hawkish foreign policy and coziness to power resurfaced.
But last night’s eloquent explanation on why Trump’s tax returns are important, the true economic reality and exquisite “Miss Piggy” call out remind me of that gracious, tough First Lady who stood her ground, who wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power by challenging our hosts about their own human rights. That’s whom I am voting for and whom our country needs more than ever, whose interests are with all Americans, not themselves, their families or their business as her opponent admitted openly and that she must avoid.
By Moushumi M. Khan, lawyer and development worker