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Anguish or Action

posted on: Dec 2, 2016

BY: Richard Habib/Ambassador Blogger

A few days ago, I walked into my home office and briefly glanced at my wife who was sitting at her computer. Her elbows were on the desk and her chin was resting in both hands. Her face was just a few inches from the computer monitor. Simultaneously, as I asked her what she was watching I heard Arabic language music and noticed that she was sobbing, crying and unable to answer me. It was a sad scene.

After a few seconds, she told me she was watching “Dameer Al Arabi” (الضمير العربي), a lengthy video of singers from various Arab countries wailing songs chronicling cataclysmic events occurring throughout the region. Unfortunately, there is no absence of current examples: Syrian death, destruction and refugees; Iraqi death, destruction and refugees; Palestinian death, destruction and refugees; the Islamic State; Libya; and the list goes on.

For the Arab American community, concern about dreadful events taking place in our ancestral homelands is amplified when combined with domestic political developments, which will certainly have some impact on us here in the U.S., as well as our families abroad. President-elect Trump has repeatedly made incendiary references to Muslims at large. He has shown an inclination to surround himself with advisors and cabinet appointments that have a history of insensitivity – if not outright distain for legitimate aspirations in the Arab and Muslim community – in and outside the U.S.

Both John Bolten and Rudy Giuliani are reportedly being considered as potential nominees for the Trump administration’s Secretary of State. Both men supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bolton proposed a direct attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as an alternative to diplomacy, while Giuliani, ignoring decades old U.S. policy, recently stated that the U.S. should “reject the whole notion of a two-state solution in Israel.”

Frank Gafney, the man who accused New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of “treason” because he appointed a Muslim lawyer to a New Jersey court in 2012, will potentially be a consultant for the Trump team, according to the New York Times.

Other known Trump supporters are delighted for what they believe is an opportunity under a new U.S. administration to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a move that would certainly inflame resentment of the U.S. throughout Arab countries, as well as the Muslim world.

Sadly, the abovementioned individuals are only a few of the bigots being reported as possible participants in a Trump administration. Other Trump associates with a known preference to marginalize legitimate Arab and Muslim aspirations include Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.

Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Reince Priebus. Image Credit: Memphis Sun

I suggested to my wife that, instead of watching videos of grief, it might be more productive to write to our congressperson, or coordinate with others who are also interested in taking action and initiating a change for the better. I felt bad about interrupting her psychic solidarity with those suffering in the scenes pouring out in the Dameer Al Arabi video, but she reluctantly agreed with me.

Creating opportunities for change is easier said than done, but sometimes grief or adversarial circumstance can evolve into motivation that prompts action for productive and positive change.

Over the last sixty years, Arab American concerns about events in the Arab world have evolved from the somewhat singular issue of Palestine, or the displaced and disenfranchisement of Palestinians as a result of the creation of Israel. Concerns today include significantly broader and ominous calamities, particularly in Syria and Iraq, which are spilling throughout the international arena.

Success at educating our fellow Americans to garner support for a constructive, American Middle East foreign policy has been overpowered by explosive developments over the same period of time. There has been some success, but not enough to overcome the influence of various lobbyists, who are coercing U.S. policy and violent confrontation instead of rational diplomacy. The primary beneficiaries of coerced U.S. policy include the war profiteers, who have enjoyed enormous windfall earnings at the expense of the American taxpayer.

And, of course, the lives and property of countless innocent civilians caught in the middle of the madness cannot be adequately quantified.

The wheels of history are still turning; what will happen going forward is pure guesswork. Critical tasks for the Arab American community include the need to organize effectively and convince our fellow countrymen that our concerns are legitimate and in the best interest of the United States.

We in the United States live within a “participatory democracy.” That means those who participate to influence policy decisions prevail over those who do not; and those who do not participate are obliged to defer to policies molded by others. There a number of ways to participate or take action on matters deemed to be important to you. Call or write your elected representative, coordinate your efforts with others who feel the same as you about an issue, make financial contributions to organizations that actively lobby elected representatives on matters of importance to you. Become a part of the machinery for change.

There is a time for anguish and a time for action. Each of us has to decide if, where, and how we will fit into an equation for change.