Sarah Palin’s “Real America” and the One of Barack Obama

On Friday I had worked for 20 hours; only stopping for the essentials such as gas and jumma prayer. My day began around fajir and did not end till the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. After going to sleep for a few hours I got up in order to attend the Barack Obama rally on the grounds of the St. Louis Arch.

Along with me came my wife and her two children, but unfortunately we were not able to make it in time as we had been given some inaccurate information. We were told that Obama would speak at 1 and as we pulled up on Memorial Drive at quarter to 1 we could hear Sen. Obama wrapping up his speech with a “God bless you St. Louis”. For the next 30 minutes we sat in a traffic jam and moved about 100 feet. Democratic spokesmen estimated the crowd to be at around 175,000 people (one of the largest in American history).

I do not know the exact number of people who gathered in this battleground state yesterday, but what I do know is that the crowd looked like America. I saw the young and old, black and white, people of all faiths, and people dressed in many different ways. The diversity of this crowd represented a candidate, and a Party, that has on its agenda expanding the American franchise to all people. And, while the Party and candidate may not be perfect in all positions, it is the Party of inclusion. For me this means that I can show up at the rally as a white Muslim man who drives a cab and wears a big beard with my African-American wife in hijab and two children and not feel out of place  This does not mean that I am in complete unison with all of those in the crowd or that I have become a cultural liberal and an adherent to the San Francisco madhab (  as prominent Muslim leader who was here last weekend has saying with regards to homosexuality, and without one grain of evidence from Khitab and Sunnah,  ” what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms is not our concern…it is between them and Allah”).  What it means for me is that on all levels as a Muslim, as a working-class American, as someone in a multi-racial family, and as someone who grew-up poor and estranged from the mainstream of American society, I can feel at home at a Democratic rally even if I am with people who may not agree with me on a lot of things. The party has a big tent and I am cool with being under that tent with people of all walks of life.

I say all of this because the divisive campaigning of Sarah Palin has been eating away at me for the last several weeks. She is using the most divisive rhetoric of anyone on a national ticket since the days of George Wallace. This has been pointed out already by conservative writers such as Peggy Noonan and David Brooks; but both Noonan and Brooks came short in analyzing all of the connotations of the conservative populism of Palin.

Yesterday, while that diverse crowd of people gathered in St. Louis to hear Obama, Palin was busy saying that the “patriotic parts of America”, would support McCain implying that people in Blue States were somehow not authentically American.  Today Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri followed up on that by saying American values are more apparent in small towns and rural areas as people “get ready for deer hunting season”. Indeed after the VP debate a few weeks ago Palin also had a rally and I sat in my cab for several minutes watching the crowd walk by before I saw one African-American woman and a Desi couple; but I saw many that could have been mistaken for deer hunters.

Real Americans, in the minds of Palin and Blunt, do not live in the Northeast, West Coast, or Upper Midwest. Real Americans also do not live in cities. The only places “real” Americans live, in the world of Palin and Blunt, are small towns, rural areas, and suburbia (and mostly the areas of exurbia that Karl Rove focused heavily on). These areas have become the strongholds of the GOP, and as was said in 2000 of Bush, “he won every county with a cow in it”.

These areas tend to have two things in common in that they are very religious and they are overwhelmingly white (and most of these areas in most states are around 100% white). So the subtext to the “real American” message of Palin is that real Americans only live in areas that are all white. So by default, the vast majorities of African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews and Asians are excluded from the privileges of being seen as real Americans by Palin and many conservatives.

While these areas Palin may find “the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans” it is also a fact that very few non-whites feel comfortable living in these idealized communities, and that most are highly suspicious of outsiders or people who think, look, or pray a little different than them. Because of this demographic reality, the populism of Palin and the conservatives becomes an ideology based on suspicion of the other as not being fully American and race becomes central to the outlook. Not that there aren’t non-whites who are swayed by this populism, of course there are and we even have Muslims swayed by this, but this is called delusion. People who just want to be loved and accepted often do not ask that they be respected first; it is the politics of house servants.

The white conservative populism is also fueled by Christian, mostly Evangelical, populism. This gives this movement not only a regional and racial component but a confessional one.

The forthrightness to which Palin brings this argument is new for mainstream politics. But all one has had to do for the last several years is listen to conservative talk-radio, watch FOX News, go to sites like Freerepublic and LGF, listen to country music, and it would be obvious that this populism is rampant.

Real Americans are white, real Americans pray to Jesus, real Americans drive trucks and SUV’s, real Americans support the war, and everyone else is a foreign enemy on this soil; so goes there thinking. People like my grandfather, who served as a marine in World War II and is a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, have not got this message that they are not real Americans; because he is a Democrat, union member, product of the inner-city, and an Obama Supporter who cannot fathom how anyone would not see him as an American.

Unfortunately for people like me and my family, those who share the view of Palin are more than a few and we are going to need every vote to count come November 4th in order to defeat the white Christian populism of Palin and the GOP.

I will leave you with the words of General Colin Powell from today on Meet the Press who illustrates everything I have been trying to say in these brief words,

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

“I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at 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 head stone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It has a crescent and 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 fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life.”

Next Article: Leave ACORN Alone: A message from a Disgruntled Ex ACORN Community Organizer


4 thoughts on “Sarah Palin’s “Real America” and the One of Barack Obama

  1. Assalaamu Alaikum Brother,

    It’s been a long time waiting for you to post. I hope everything is well with you and your family, Inshallah.

    I don’t know what to say about the Democratic party. I’d say they are somewhat less evil than the Republicans. I disagree with most of their ideology (Democrats that is) but you are right in that they are more of a Big Tent party and I would fit in more there than with the GOP.

    But if you were to ask me a bunch of cultural questions, many of my answers would probably be more in line with so-called Conservative values. I don’t believe in too many higher taxes as I think that is oppressive in many regards. Yet at the same time, as a Muslim, I know the poor have a right upon the wealthy. I really do believe, this economy would flourish and blossom if the richest people in this country paid zakaat according to the Sunnah.

    However, the truth is, the Republicans hate us. They hate Muslims, and they only mildly tolerate black people. Even if Obama’s name was Jack Smith, they’d find some reason to mistrust him. The fact that he has a Muslim name only makes him even worse in their eyes.

    These so-called Christian conservatives are more dangerous than a thousand Hurricane Ikes. These guys really believe they have a duty to spread Christianity by the word first and the sword second. They really want to dislodge the people of Palestine from their homes so European Jews can move in, just so the “Messiah” can come down and take them all up in one big rapture.

    Those guys are wackos. They are misinformed. They are xenophobic. They are dangerous. Combine them with the Zionist neo-cons like Guiliani and Daniel Pipes, and you have potentially combustible situation.

    So in the end, while I, like you Bro. Umar, disagree with much of the Democratic talking points, I know they are the lesser of two evils in this country.

    Hopefully, sometime in the near future, Inshallah, we can say this: “Things ain’t what they oughtta be. Things ain’t what they gonna be, but thank God, things ain’t what they was.”

  2. “cultural liberal and an adherent to the San Francisco madhab ( as prominent Muslim leader who was here last weekend has saying with regards to homosexuality, and without one grain of evidence from Khitab and Sunnah, ” what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms is not our concern…it is between them and Allah”)”

    As salaamu ‘alaykum Umar, I’m not sure either what the speaker meant by his comment nor what you meant by yours (what it means for something to be our ‘concern’ is very vague) but it is actually extremely clear in the Shari’ah that Islam as a way of life and Islamic Law as a governing system show a high amount of respect for privacy. The Prophet (saw) forbade us from entering any house without permission or from accusing anyone of committing an indecency unless we have four witnesses to the actual act. In fact, to do so would be a major sin and could be liable to hadd punishment. The Prophet (saw) also said one would not be sinful if they poked out the eye of someone who attempted to violate their privacy by looking inside their home. I’m sure you are familiar with all these evidences so I’m not going to cite all of them but I could find some more if you are unaware of them.

    So, I guess my question is, what is your problem with the statement you reported? Is it that you think he should be clear that any type of zina is haraam and you think saying something is not “our concern” makes it seem like we are not sure if it is haraam or not. But apparently he or she did say it was “between them and Allaah.” Well, isn’t it?

    These are not rhetorical points, I’m sincerely asking.

    May Allaah reward you, akhee.

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