When Khzir Khan asked Republican nominee Donald Trump if he had ever walked amongst the grave markers at Arlington National Cemetary and considered the sacrifices made by those who lie there, it was a profoundly moving moment. By pointing out that his son, a decorated Army Captain who was killed in Iraq, deserved Trump’s recognition despite the fact that he was a Muslim, Khan did more than make the Donald look like the racist he is, and more than doom Trump’s bid to become the next President of the United States of America.
When Khzir Khan pulled a copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket and suggested that Donald Trump has never read it, he was only speaking the truth. Because the Constitution does not make distinctions between race, creed, or color when it speaks about the people of the United States of America. That is a lesson that Donald Trump, with his race-baiting and slandering of everyone from Muslims to Mexicans is unwilling to learn. Let us not blame him too much, for he is only following a pattern that countless candidates have used before him to earn votes, namely, sowing hatred and fear and then claiming to be the only one who can save us. And, until Khzir Khan’s brave words, no one really seemed to be willing to stand up in front of the world and call him out on it.
None of that is the reason why I say I am finally proud to be an American. As a people, we have spent the better part of three centuries as racists, as haters, willing to justify everything from a draft that sent young men who didn’t conform to white American ideals to die in Vietnam to an incarceration system that targets inner city black kids to the indiscretions of Catholic priests and coaches. And it’s always just kind of been okay. For every editorial about tolerance, there’s a buddy pulling you to the side to tell you the latest N- joke or homophobic slur. Putting other people down to make ourselves feel better has always seemed to be the American way.
But today, it’s not. There’s a new generation out there, Donald. (And all the rest of you politicians, priests, and people of power.) They’re not going to let you get away with hate. They’re not going to let you get away with intolerance, or with telling women to do with their bodies. That shit doesn’t mean anything to them. They believe in a world where people who’ve died for our freedoms have earned the greatest respect, regardless of their race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. They believe that goodness is defined by taking care of your family, your neighbor, and the fellow you just met. It’s scary, I know. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it, or don’t like it. It’s the way it is now, and it’s the reason I can finally say that I’m proud to be an American.