You have probably heard that Colin Powell, on Meet the Press this morning, delivered an eloquent endorsement in the presidential race: a thoughtful, very personal, and and carefully reasoned explanation of why his vote will be cast for Senator Barack Obama on Tuesday, November 4, 2008:
The rare thing about Colin Powell, to me, is that he is a politician who can be believed. He spoke up with a human voice about this demonization that has been allowed to run rampant in this Country’s culture, blending “Muslim,” “Arab,” and “Terrorist.” He spoke of the human cost of this type of thinking. He spoke of having seen a photograph that touched his heart, of a mother grieving her son, head leaning against his cold tombstone. He had quite probably seen many such photographs, but this one was different.
On this headstone, he said, he saw no cross, nor star of David. Here he saw an Islamic crescent and star. Though he did not know their names, he was speaking of Ms. Elsheba Khan, grieving her New Jersey-born and reared son, Kareem. Kareem was 14 at the time he saw the towers collapse on September 11, and waited until he had come of age to enlist and to serve his country. If actions speak louder than words, he could not have loved his country more, nor committed his all to a more noble impulse. And he was Muslim. He gave his life, his blood was shed, for this country. Here is the picture that had touched General Powell so:
I wanted to share another photograph as well, I believe taken by the distinguished Chuck Fadely, a photo journalist with the Miami Herald. I sort of hate the photograph; it is too true. Yet when I opened up the Miami Herald that morning as I sat down to breakfast and saw this beautiful heart-broken soul, so vulnerable and so lost in her grief, I cried. I cut the photograph out of the paper, because here was something too important to be tossed out with Tuesday’s recycling. I have looked at it, and looked at it.
“Oh, my God, oh, my God,” I thought. “She cannot even begin to contain her despair. Here is one who has truly lost all. Here is the real face of this war.” I placed the photo for many months on a small shrine I keep upstairs, in my library, for those in my prayers. Her name is Sheila Cobb, and she lives in South Florida. I have tried to find her, to write her a letter, but have not been able to.
So say a prayer, people, if you will, for Sheila and for Elsheba, and for the tens of thousands of other parents and family and friends left equally bereft, in utter desolation. For the love of God, for the love of Allah, what DIFFERENCE does it make that these two womens’ traditions led them to refer to the Greatest of Mysteries by different names?
Thank you, General Powell, for your contribution to America today. Let’s prove ourselves worthy of his call to awakening. What I’d love to see: zero tolerance for fear-mongering at anybody’s expense. There is no shame in any approach to the sacred, and part of us knows that. Christ was put to the cross, in large part, because he dared to be different. Those who profess to follow him should know that. We should know better.
May this be the hour for true change. A sea change of the heart, to openness. A return closer to center, a country in which decisions are based not on fear used cynically as a strategy, but rather on trust and honor. Trust: what a sweet word, how nearly forgotten. Oh Beloved Christ, Dear God, Allah Great and Good, may this be Your will.
May we have a future. All of us, together.