Humanizing The Narrative

Guest post by Joshua Salaam | Muslim Chaplain, Muslim Life at Duke

I get frustrated every time I vote in an election. I park my car and begin the political gauntlet walk. I accept all flyers from the extended hands, none of which will sway my decision. But what frustrates me is the flyer encouraging me to vote entirely Democrat or Republican. Why don’t people encourage voting for the most honest, respectable and considerate candidates? The candidates that have the most integrity? Is there a flyer for that?

Is there any group that is looking long and hard at candidates and recommending the ones with the best character to the American people? I don’t see that… and maybe it’s not possible. Instead, what I see is a growing acceptance of demonizing the other. Some of the most intelligent, influential people are on television and radio waves speaking of the other political party as if they are the devil. I’m hearing words that create fear and anger. The way the Hatfields used to speak of the McCoys.  The way Crips used to speak of the Bloods. The way Protestants used to speak of Catholics.

And it’s not that crazy uncle that everyone has. It’s primetime, mainstream media. It’s in your face, all day every day enough to brainwash the best of us. It’s dinner table jokes that we all laugh at. It’s water cooler insults that are now acceptable to say in public. It’s the norm. I’m afraid it’s the norm. I’m frustrated it’s the norm.

However, this is not only happening with Democrats and Republicans. This smooth, subtle demonizing is happening to Blacks, Whites, Immigrants, the wealthiest 1%, the Poor, Muslims, Jews, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Trump, and more. Let us not forget that these are real people, with real families, with real dreams and real concerns. Let’s remember that each human being has the right to be heard and understood and not to be dumped into a common denominator bag for the ease of conversation. Life, people, our differences and similarities are a little more complicated than that. In the right circumstances, each person on earth has the opportunity to be the friend and hero of someone they thought they were supposed to hate. Today’s war-torn refugee is tomorrows CEO. Today’s CEO is tomorrows victim of violence. We all need each other.

In my limited time on this earth, I have learned that fear and hatred can be countered with knowledge and communication. I have been taught that we are created differently to learn from one another, not to hate one another. Let that be America. Let that be mainstream. Let that be the norm!