Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's Going To Be Good

What a difference a hate mail can make!

On the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, November 23, the Evergreen Islamic Center (EIC) in San Jose, CA, received a hate mail that set off a chain of events that not only diminished the haters but in the most moving and celebratory way, reaffirmed our faith in America. I have written about the overwhelming support we received from our fellow-Americans from near and far in an article in the San Jose Mercury News, so I will not repeat the details here.

What I want to focus on is the gathering of over 400 Americans at EIC on Sunday, December 11 – Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, atheists and, of course, Muslims -  to denounce hate and Islamophobia and express solidarity with us.

Speaker after speaker invited the writer(s) of the hate letter to meet Muslims and overcome their prejudice against a minority of Americans (about 3 million in a population of about 330 million Americans). Rabbis, priests, reverends, clergies, young and old took to the stage to invite Americans to celebrate our common humanity. “There is enough love to go around,” declared the president of EIC, and so true it was!

Supervisor Dave Cortese reminded the gathering that San Jose was one of six metropolitan areas of the world lauded and emulated for its religious harmony. Mayor Sam Liccardo reiterated his vow to make San Jose a sanctuary city for undocumented workers and students if Donald Trump’s government attempted to deport them.

Symbol of support from Shira Goldman of Tarzana, CA

Imam Tahir Anwar quoted Martin Luther King, Jr: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

That 400 people of different faiths had given up the leisurely pleasures of a Sunday afternoon to travel to EIC and spread the message of love was a testament to the greatness of ordinary Americans.

Perhaps the most moving remarks came from Reverend Kiley of the Silicon Valley Faith Group who said, “I see the tapestry of this community with deep belief in love.” He then quoted a poem by Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!

The year 2016 will go down as one of the most traumatic in history. The plight of refugees, the deaths of innocents, the accelerating pace of global warming, all capped by the election of an unexpected and unpredictable candidate to the highest office in America has put most of us on edge. 

But despair is the hallmark of the weak. It is in our power – ordinary Americans driven by a sense of duty, responsibility and love – to overcome policies that challenge our bedrock values. Things will not fall apart; the center will hold for it is the best among us who are full of passionate intensity while the worst lack all conviction.

Paraphrasing the Beatles: Take a sad year and make it better.

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