My dream candidate

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Like everything else in life, another election has come and passed. It’s funny how, on Wednesday morning after it was all done, a sense of calm enveloped everything. I love my neighborhood for the fact that I hardly see any yard signs at all no matter how heated the elections get, which means that my neighbors are either that apathetic or that intelligent – I will choose the latter. But even the passion of the most passionate advocates on both sides seemed to wither away in the cool winds of the Minnesota fall.

Although I didn’t vote for Obama, I do have a slight sense of relief. A relief not because he won, but because Romney didn’t. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes in most elections these days:  many are forced out to the voting booths not out of love, not out of enthusiasm or hope or a dream of a better future, but out of fear of the opposite side. When politics becomes so polarizing with every party smearing the other with caustic labels like “socialist” and “racist”, people vote because of fear.

Muslims are no exception. A poll showed that 85% of American Muslims who voted gave their votes to President Obama. Surely that’s not because he’s perceived as a friend to Muslims. Anyone who follows civil rights news (the news that no one cares about) will easily see that Obama’s administration has been positively horrific in its egregious encroachments on civil rights (indefinite definition, prosecuting whistleblowers, giving more power to the Homeland Security Agency, more aggressive surveillance and domestic spying). Outward displays of Islamophobia in many states have been by far the worst under the Obama administration. Muslims know this (I hope), but Republicans, with their conspicuously wide base of Islamophobes, are scarier to them than Democrats. Muslims voted against the greater of the two evils.

I voted for neither, because I’d rather vote for Cookie Monster than for the two choices that Big Money graciously provided me. Cookie Monster’s independently moving eyes speak of freedom to me more than any Democratic or Republican candidate. I’m not idealistic, I just didn’t feel the urge to make a choice between a president who signed the NDAA act (which allows the military to arrest and detain anyone inside or outside the US indefinitely and without due process based on suspicion of supporting terrorism directly or indirectly) and a candidate who would have lowered taxes on the rich.

Someone once told me that cynicism is optimistic in its nature. I’d say that cynics expect more from people because they have faith that people can do better. What’s so idealistic in hoping for a candidate who has fiscal responsibility and cares for the poor? Who defends family values and cares for the environment? Who loves God and is not totalitarian?

It’s not idealistic, because that would imply that such a candidate does not exist. But he does, and in large numbers. There are many who care for national security and seek a foreign policy that is not exploitative of developing countries. Oh, and they don’t view women as a “minority” and they don’t have a single racist bone in their bodies. They exist – I see tens of them every week..

In my local mosque.

And every mosque is teeming with them. They don’t change their views for money. They don’t womanize or drink. They are too humble to even realize how good they are. They love science and live by it because they see no contradiction between science and religion. They are highly educated. They are what America needs and they are what most Americans dream of for president, whether they believe it or not.

Food for thought. Muslims will always be victimized until they realize that what they have to offer is far superior than what current American politics is capable of. They can choose to keep voting for the lesser of two evils or start working on changing the system so that, one day a hundred years from now, Americans can vote out of love again.

For now, I will keep watching Sesame Street for poetic inspiration.

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