Thursday, October 23, 2008

Moved by a Crescent

Colin Powell talked about this picture during his endorsement of Barack Obama for President.

In the issue of the New Yorker magazine, which I saw online, the picture appeared under athis paragraph:

This summer, the photographer Platon took pictures of hundreds of men and women who volunteered to serve in the military and were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. He followed them on their journey through training and deployment, after demobilization and in hospitals, to compile a portrait of the dedication of the armed services today. Sergeant Tim Johannsen, who lost both legs when he drove over an I.E.D. on his second tour of duty in Iraq, made a point of buying an Army T-shirt to wear in his photograph. Of his sacrifice, he said, “It’s just part of the job. You know what you signed up for.” Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, a military reporter who has become a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, says that he and others like him “take our activism as a continuation of our oath of service.” Like many who enlist, Johannsen and Chiroux come from military families. Sergeant John McKay, a marine whose uncle and grandfather were marines, and whose three-year-old son posed in uniform at the wedding of a cousin, also a marine, said, “He’s just waiting till he’s eighteen.” He went on, “I’m scared for him, but if he wants to do it I’ll support him.”

General Powell:

On “Meet the Press” this morning, former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President. (Watch it; read the transcript.) In his endorsement, Powell said he was troubled that some Republicans have been spreading rumors that Obama is a Muslim.

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards—Purple Heart, Bronze Star—showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan.

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