Against Fear and Bigotry
I appreciate the comments and emails I received regarding my blog post a few weeks ago entitled: “The Current U.S. Political Environment: A Total Lack of Values-Based Leadership.” It is clear that we need to get our “act together” as a country.
Unfortunately, the situation seems to be getting worse, not better. I am convinced that values-based leaders should focus on educating and informing the public, not building on people’s fears.
I gave a leadership talk to a Rotary group last week, and the head of the Wilmette Public Library gave me several quotes on the topic of fear. Two of the quotes made me immediately reflect on the need for true values-based leadership in our country.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” –Nelson Mandela
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” –Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays
It seems that many Americans are preoccupied with fear, and our politicians are fueling it. It would be helpful for our presidential candidates to reflect on the meaning of these quotes.
I received one of the most thoughtful reflections on this topic in a blog by Khalid Ali, a Kellogg graduate (2014), and friend. (See below).
I always appreciate your thoughts and comments.
Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season.
This banner is hanging at the National Museum of American Jewish History, about a block away from my office in Old City, Philadelphia. It’s an inspiring reminder of the noble principles our nation was founded upon.
Yet, for far too long now I have been seeing an outpour of racist, bigoted statements (and actions) against blacks, Syrian refugees, and Muslims – the latter especially more so in recent days following the San Bernardino shootings. On my own Facebook feed, from people I consider friends, I have seen anti-Muslim comments and shares/likes for Islamophobic media.
As a brown-skinned, Muslim-American of Pakistani origin, I’m no stranger to racism or bigotry. I lived with it through middle school in a small western Pennsylvania town where a smirking classmate once asked me if I had “stayed out in the sun too long” and someone once wrote nig**r on my locker. As clips from the Oklahoma City bombing looped on all the news channels, my 8th grade History teacher asked me if my “cousins had been involved.” Many years later at Columbia University, a bastion of liberal thought, I once found “terrorist” scrawled on my dorm door. And of course, nearly every time I fly I am reminded of my “otherness”.
But these incidents don’t define America. The bigotry and fear-mongering we are seeing rampant today is not America. We Americans are better than this.
What does define America are the ideals this nation was founded upon, the vow to protect the unalienable human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that our Creator (by whatever name we may refer to Him/Her) granted each of us, no matter our skin color, religion, or sex. What defines America for me is the kindness of my teachers and peers in the Minneapolis Public Schools system who embraced me as one of their own. The generosity of the stranger-turned-mentor who encouraged me to apply to the Ivy League for college and helped me pay the tuition. The aspiration to a higher ideal that I witnessed in the aftermath of 9/11 amongst my non-Muslim classmates at Columbia who rallied in support of their Muslim classmates. This is the America that inspires and compels me to seek a greater good, to help those less fortunate than me, and to leave the world a better place.
It’s far too easy to give into hate and distrust; it takes courage to question the norm and to speak out against injustice. Our nation’s forefathers faced these struggles and chose the nobler path. Now it’s our turn.