01.08.2012 _____________________

I’m afraid. Very afraid.

I’m having trouble recognizing America. Were the circumstances different, I could blame this disorientation on early-onset dementia, but I can’t. My mind is clear. The signs are everywhere.

Vote Santorum. Vote Romney. Vote Paul. Vote Gingrich.

Generously interpreted, I read, “Believe in our pandering and selfishness. Vote against all the values that have made this country great. Let us insult your ignorance and interests. Then vote for us.”

Rick Santorum is my latest fear factor, especially when he claims, “The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. That is what the perception is by the American left, who hates Christendom.”

My perception of the Crusades is slightly different. Catholic Crusaders killed every Jew, Gypsy and Eastern-rite Christian they could find along their road to Jerusalem. They pillaged, raped and killed their way to the Holy Land, culminating with the slaughter of 30,000 Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem — Jews who had been invited back into Al-Quds by the Muslims after their exclusion by the previous, Byzantine, rulers.

Santorum’s zygote moments, his hateful anti-gay, anti-knowledge, anti-evolution, anti-climate change positions scare me, as does his belief that gay marriage is related to bestiality, incest and polygamy.

This week, Santorum denied he said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money,” claiming he was tongue-tied. The tape is clear.

This rhetoric panders to the worst of American instincts.

Of the American left, which includes me, Santorum claims, “They hate Western civilization at the core. That’s the problem.”

We’re not the problem. We progressives, liberals, moderates, Jews, Muslims and Christians who don’t embrace the exceptionalist, exclusivist views of these candidates are being turned into “the Other.” We embrace Western civilization. Our resistance to pandering, to appeals to the lowest common denominator, is an act of love and devotion for our country, for the values we hold to be self-evident, and which we believe are under attack.

Welcome to my guest house. As one who lives as “the Other” in this land called America, the Land of the Free, I welcome all of you whom these politicians are attempting to marginalize and demonize. Let us work together to defend this land of great beauty and power, of freedom and opportunity that our forebears and families have fought to build and defend. We will grow by looking to the future with optimism, not with fear. Welcome to the place where I live.

Be attentive. These politicians are not the fringe or the extreme. They are in Congress and state legislatures. They are living in our midst. Ignore them at your — our — risk. Do not say, as a loved one dismissively said, “No one is going to take someone like Santorum seriously.” When there are states where nearly 50 percent of the population does not believe in evolution, when banks are protected and unions are busted, you better take them seriously.

Reject the pandering.

To paraphrase Martin Niemoller, it would not surprise me if, one day, someone might write:

First, they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim
Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out because I was not an immigrant.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the scholars and scientists,and I did not speak out because I was neither scholar nor scientist
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

All these panderers claim to embrace “core American values.” To them, core American values do not include immigrants, the 99 percent, Muslims and Islam, pluralism and diversity, health care, sharing the burdens of war with those who actually have fought in them, or reflecting the values of the prophets Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad and others.

These are aspirants to the world’s most powerful political office? Our best and brightest? The one voice I would listen to, even though I don’t always agree with him, is Huntsman. Imagine the intelligence of debates between Huntsman and Obama.

Why am I afraid of them all?

Mitt Romney, who never met a position that he couldn’t reverse, believes “corporations are people.” The United States is not Bain Capital, the government is not a business to be run from a spreadsheet, and Hispanics and immigrants are not to be treated as inconvenient discards littering Romney’s road to the nomination.

Of Newt Gingrich there is much to say and not enough space. An angry historian, he recently showcased his willingness to display his ignorance in public when he asserted, against all evidence, that the Palestinians are an invented people. At a troubled time in the Middle East, when Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, the Arab Awakening, etc., are all in play, he pandered in the most dangerous and obsequious way for crass political advantage.

Ron Paul, whose simplistic nostrums bear no relationship to the complex world in which we live, has yet to take responsibility for the racist language published in his newsletters. He deserves no other comment.

These pretenders are trying to pander to our basest instincts, trying to replace reason with fear, light with darkness, hope with despair.

Reject the pandering.

In Islam, we believe every person is born with fitra, an innate goodness that encompasses intelligence and compassion that comes from our Creator. It is in our soul. Fitra cannot be destroyed. It can be covered up, resisted, ignored, but it cannot be destroyed. While it is parents who determine whether a child grows up to become Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., fitra is the attribute, the gift from God, the fundamental goodness, that we all share as humans.

Reject the pandering.

Reach into your soul. Get in touch with your fitra. Reach for beauty and light. Within those truths you will find guidance. Then vote.