Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Sun, Jul 31st, 2016

Mr. Khan vs. the Con Man

As the American election parade now gears up for the final and frenzied laps after the two national conventions, I feel more and more as though I am living in a spiraling surreality show in which “truthiness” has replaced moral sanity. The comedian Stephen Colbert has defined this messy version of “truth” as simply feeling (shall we say wanting) something to be true with no evidence or logic to back it up.

Mr. Khizr Khan, a Muslim American, speaking at the DNC in Philadelphia

Mr. Khizr Khan, a Muslim American, speaking at the DNC in Philadelphia

The phenomenon of Donald Trump’s rise to lead the Republican ticket has led to a level of “truthiness” that is off the charts in modern American politics. The only reality that Trump sees is when he looks in a mirror; everything else is there to shape and distort at will. At this point in a campaign circus that has dragged on for far too many months, the litany of Trumpeted prejudicial statements and outright lies is already over the top, even if scraping the bottom of the rhetorical barrow. If you have not been following the Trumpocalypse, you have missed claims that criminal and rapist Mexicans are pouring over the border, Muslims should be banned from entering the United States, torturing prisoners is no problem, women are “dogs” and “pigs” with blood coming out of their (fill in the blank), crime has taken over the streets, and the list goes on and on. His billionaired teflon coating is a mirage over a candidate that Politifact routinely rates as a serial “pants-on-fire” liar. 

For those who had the stomach to follow the GOP convention, it was a Gothic blitz of doom and gloom with fear as the dominant theme. It was less about Trump, who was praised to the hilt by his family and avoided by most establishment Republicans, than a vicious attack on Hillary Clinton. The “America first” crowd was lock stop in chanting “lock her up”, setting up a political lynching rather than outlining a strategy for running the country. Trump got a bump out of this, enough to send shudders into just about anyone with a college degree or a semblance of moral courage. Then came the DNC convention in which “love trumps hate” became the mantra and the waves of American flags formed the backdrop. This year Ronald Reagan would have enjoyed the Democratic convention and Mussolini would have been pleased with the Republican one.

The Purple Heart medal, awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving in the military.

The Purple Heart medal, awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving in the military.

Then Mr. Khizr Khan, a Muslim American, came to the stage in Philadelphia to speak about his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was awarded the distinguished Purple Heart for saving the lives of the U.S. soldiers in his command by sacrificing his own. In 2004 the young Captain Khan approached a car in Iraq, warning his men to stand back, and was killed when the suicide bomb went off. Humayan Khan is one of a number of Muslims soldiers who have died in the line of combat, contrasting Trump’s Islamophobic claim that all Muslims are suspected of being terrorists. The highlight of Mr. Khan’s short speech was holding up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, asking Trump if he had ever read it and offering to lend him a copy. And then asking “What sacrifice have you made?”

Trump responded in an media interview by claiming that the Clinton campaign had written the speech, which was delivered without a teleprompter and came directly from Mr. Khan with the help of his wife. Trump then suggested that perhaps his wife, who stood by his side, was not allowed to speak. He was unable to recognize the obvious, that the loss of her son was too painful. When asked what sacrifices he has made, Trump talked about all the buildings he has bankrolled. His response goes beyond being tone deaf to one incapable of recognizing the humanity in anyone else. As in his callous dismissal of John McCain as not being a war hero because he was captured, Trump again shows how little understanding he has about the horror of war. Yet, despite this steady stream of slander and hate mongering, the American electorate has yet to stand up and say “You’re fired!” Come November, let us all hope for this to be the closing line.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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