Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The repugnance of Trump

By attacking the parents of a fallen Muslim American hero, Trump not only betrayed his pettiness, but also his classist ignorance, writes Aijaz Zaka Syed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Nothing Donald Trump says or does surprises anyone anymore. While the former reality TV star and business baron has always been known to shoot from the hip, it’s as if he is on a suicidal mission to offend and outrage since he jumped into the fray for the White House.

But his incredibly crude and insensitive attack on the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier, Captain Humayun Khan, who died in the line of duty in Iraq, is outrageous even by Trump’s standards.

Appearing at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) last week, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the grieving parents of Captain Khan, shattered all the stereotypes about Muslim Americans and immigrants that Trump has aggressively spawned and preyed on since he announced his candidacy.

Here was a model family of Muslim Americans that unlike the draft dodging businessman had offered the ultimate sacrifice for the nation.

According to Trump’s worldview and his proposed policies, the Khans — because of their faith and their Pakistani roots — are innately suspect and their son would have never made it to the military.

Khizr Khan, with his wife beside him, reminded the Republican candidate of his son’s courage under fire, his faith, his patriotism and his final sacrifice for the country he loved.

Speaking at the convention that formally chose Hillary Clinton as the party’s candidate for the top job, Khizr Khan asked Trump: “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

As few would have expected, the passionate speech by the grieving father of the fallen Muslim soldier turned out to be the best and most talked about highlight of the convention, with major US and international networks repeatedly featuring and debating it, almost overshadowing Hillary’s. Millions shared it on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

Any sensible politician would have simply ignored the Khans or come up with something nice and harmless to say to minimise the damage.

But no, Trump had to come up with his racist and Islamophobic riposte to the Khans, reminding everyone once again why he is so widely despised.

Speaking on ABC, he said: “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

In an interview with The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, he tried to further reinforce the stereotype of “oppressed Muslim woman” by saying, “I’d like to hear his wife say something.”

As ABC helpfully explained, the candidate Trump was trying to suggest that “Khan’s wife didn’t speak because she was forbidden to as a Muslim.”

This is utter nonsense, as Ghazala Khan soon proved, with her fine Op-ed in one of the most respected US newspapers and subsequent television appearances, reliving her pain and sense of loss with great dignity and eloquence, as perhaps only a mother could.

In interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, she repeatedly broke down, reminding everyone that she remains overwhelmed by grief. Which is understandable given that she lost her son in the prime of his youth.

Any other politician would have understood and respected her loss. But Trump is not any other politician.

As an angry Ezra Klien writes, “Trump listened to a speech by the bereaved father of a fallen Muslim soldier and used it to slander the fallen soldier’s family. That was his response. That is his character.”

The man who could be the next US commander-in-chief came up with this gem of a response, arguing that like the Khans he has made sacrifices too: “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

This is not just unbelievably insensitive, it’s downright stupid to compare what the Khans have been through with what the inheritor of the Trump empire has “suffered”. There is no comparison at all and only someone totally bereft of all common sense would attempt one.  

In the words of Klein again, how can a human being respond to a family that has lost their son for the country by saying that he has sacrificed too, he has worked really hard, he has built “great structures,” and he has had “tremendous success”?

By doing so, the candidate Trump has only shown his character, his convictions and class. By dissing the Khans just because they happen to be Muslim by faith and ignoring their epic sacrifice for the country that he claims to love and vows to “make great”, the Republican candidate not only betrayed his craven pettiness, he offered a peek into the dangerous loony world that he inhabits.

And this is the man the Republicans and millions of Americans have picked to lead them? It just beats me. But then I guess we Indians have no right to lecture others after what we have lately gifted ourselves!

As Art Spander would argue, the great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid! And if voters in the “land of the free” are begging to be led by President Trump, hey, who are we to object? They deserve him as much as he deserves them.

While Hillary Clinton enjoys a slight edge over her Republican rival, anything could happen between now and November. If someone with the kind of colourful history and crazy worldview of Trump can outlast everyone in the race and come this far to win the nomination of one of the two major parties, I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to eventually win the White House.

Indeed, Michael Moore, the cerebral activist filmmaker, lists at least five reasons in his Huffington Post piece why Trump could win in November.

In any case, when it comes to major policies, pro-war rhetoric and fealty to Israel, there is not a great deal of difference between the two candidates and their respective parties. Let us not forget how Hillary and her clever husband supported neocon wars in Muslim lands.

Why should the same family enjoy the fruits of power and another long vacation in the White House after eight years of Bill Clinton, not to mention his numerous “sexcapades”? Is there a dearth of talent in the world’s most powerful democracy?

Many Americans, especially those of immigrant heritage and Muslims, have rallied around Clinton because they have no alternative and cannot imagine life under a Trump presidency.

It is a shame Bernie Sanders couldn’t defeat the power and influence of the manipulative Clintons, although he came very close to doing so. Despite his Jewish heritage, Sanders was the first mainstream politician to courageously recognise the pain and dispossession of the Palestinians.

With his integrity, honesty and liberal worldview, Sanders would have made a great president. But then honest folks aren’t exactly cut out for the stinking cesspool of US politics. A scheming dynast who voted for the destruction of the Middle East and a xenophobic, walking joke are apparently more suitable for the White House.

The irony, however, is lost on America.


The writer is a Gulf based author.

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