I was wrong and I do not mind admitting it. My support for the front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was a mistake. Initially, I admired his outspokenness and his record of turning losses into wins. I believed — and still do — that America is lacking strong leadership. But when strength is partnered with ignorance and deceit, it produces a toxic mix threatening the US and our world.
In light of his recent bigoted statements and behaviour, I am amazed that he retains a double-digit lead in polls over his almost as poisonous main rival Ben Carson who wrongly stated a Muslim president would be unconstitutional and compares Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs”.
Each time Mr Trump came out with statements attacking or ridiculing minorities, political commentators used to predict his political demise. Not so today. The more hurtful and outrageous his comments are, the more his popularity with certain sections of the American public grows, which does not bode well for race relations.
While I fully understand Americans are tired of President Obama’s inability to lead, if Trump gets to the White House they will be jumping from the frying pan into the fire — one that will consume US relations with the Muslim World.
Bad enough that he has referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals, drug dealer and rapists”, described African-American youth as having ‘no spirit’ and stereotyped Jews as the ones he wants counting his money, his tongue-lashing is now pivoted towards Muslims, not merely with personal opinions but with a pledge to close down mosques and reintroduce torture, such as water-boarding. “I want surveillance of these people,” he said.
Worse, he has taken to spouting downright lies, proven lies.
On Saturday, he told a campaign rally that “thousands” of Arab-Americans in New Jersey were cheering as the TwinTowers came down on Sept 11, 2001.
“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down,” he said, adding, “I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it but there were people cheering as that building came down.” Ben Carson piped up to say he had seen the very same video, only to retract his assertion when a slew of US officials called it untrue.
There is not one scrap of evidence suggesting Arabs were celebrating 9-11 in New Jersey. Washington Post’s Fact Checker delved deeply into Trump’s claim giving it “four Pinocchios”. Politifactlabelled it “pants on fire”
However, there is something the US media has chosen to bury. The only Middle Eastern looking people known to have been high-fiving on that terrible day were five Israelis working for a removal company, as reported at the time by ABC News and Fox News. Their celebratory behaviour attracted the attention of a woman who called the police. They were arrested and detained for two months before being deported.
ABC quoted their lawyer Stephen Gordon admitting his clients’ actions might arouse suspicions. “You got a group of guys that are taking pictures on top of a roof …They’re speaking in a foreign language. They got two passports on them. One’s got a wad of cash on him, and they got box cutters. Now that’s a scary situation,” he told the network. Had they been Arabs they would nothave been allowed to fly home for sure.
When it comes to accepting Syrian refugees — mostly women with children, the elderly and orphans — Trump does not have an ounce of compassion. They are a “Trojan Horse” he says and if he wins, he would send them all back or make them carry special ID cards. If there was a competition among Republicans for vindictiveness, the award would go to another candidate, Chris Christie. He says the US should not even accept orphans under five years old! A man who has nightmares about toddlers has no business running for President!
What is going on here! Chris Christie is the grandson of Sicilian and German immigrants. Donald Trump’s mother was an immigrant from Scotland, his paternal grandfather was German. Marco Rubio, who has called for all places where Muslims gather, including cafes and diners, to be shut down is the son of a Cuban hotel maid and a barman. Ted Cruz, whose father fled Cuba in the 1960s, has introduced a bill preventing Syrian asylum seekers from entering America, whereas earlier he had shamefully blessed Christian Syrians only.
Their collective stance makes a mockery of the Statue of Liberty standing sentinel over New York Harbor and on which is inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”
It is worth remembering the last time refugees fleeing war and genocide were turned back which remains a deep scar on America’s much-touted values. In 1939, the ‘SS St. Louis’, a cruise liner carrying Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust hoping for a new life was barred from Cuba and was subsequently prevented from docking by the US coastguard as it neared Florida shores. The captain had no choice but to head back to Europe where many of those passengers died in Nazi concentration camps. How many Syrians being shut out now will suffer the same fate?
The word ‘Conservative’ is now being equated to ‘Callous’ when in essence the Conservative movement was thought of as one that holds to universal principles in which racism, discrimination and the stereotyping of whole communities play no part. It is an uphill task trying to find a good guy among the entire Republican line-up. Each candidate vies with the others on who can attract the most media attention with the most shocking sound bites.
Trump should have crossed everyone’s red line when he supported a group of his fans who kicked, choked and punched an African-American heckler during a rally calling the victim and his companions “monkeys”. “Get him out of here,” Trump yelled again and again. “Maybe he should have been roughed-up …” he said.
Hillary Clinton warns that “slamming the doors on refugees isn’t who we are,” and stressed that “We are not at war with Islam, but with extremists”. She is tough in the right way. She is experienced and, most importantly, she is one of the few in this race who sounds remotely sane. She is the one I will be rooting for on November 8, 2016 with the hope that Donald Trump will be forgotten in history’s dumpster as the bigoted bigmouth he clearly is.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor