A Message to Nike: Sell the Damn Sneakers

First, Happy 4th of July 2019 the 243rd Birthday of this American Experiment!

More than a symbol

The controversy over the original flag and its symbolic relationship to slavery and racism does nothing to further the discussion on racism in the United States.

While I disagree with his methods, Colin Kaepernick does demonstrate the courage of his convictions. However, he misses the point with such meaningless protests toward Nike and their Betsy Ross sneakers.

Slave labor built much of early America. Of that, there is no dispute. Slaveholders provided much of the labor which drove America’s rise in global trade. When slavery ended, inequitable treatment of minorities offered a slightly more expensive but still bargain price for labor.

It is one of the strangest dichotomies of the rise of the United States from the bonds of British tyranny. The founding fathers joined to fight for their independence from a Royal Government which trampled their rights. This same Royal Government recognized the inhumanity and inherent injustice of holding a fellow human in slavery and banned the practice.

It underscores the point that no government, no society, no people are perfect. They have their brief shining moments, rising to greatness as shown by documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and their failures by killing over seven hundred thousand of their fellow Americans to end slavery in the “land of the free.”

However, symbols are often never single-purpose. While the original flag may well have flown over institutions or government organizations which supported slavery, it also flew over many that did not.

History is not a moment in time. If that were the case, we would be right to argue the genocide of Native Americans, where both pre- and post- Civil War American Soldiers slaughtered tens of thousands and displaced millions, is worse than slavery.

Quantifying such atrocities is an exercise in futility.

Nothing can ever undo the tarnish of the practice of slavery in the US, nor the ever-present racism which permeates much of our culture to this day. However, to isolate one symbol and demand its removal from the public discourse without recognizing the multiple manifestations of its symbolism is disingenuous.

I would argue the effort to remove such a symbol amounts to placing an unfair comparative standard on items with little connection to the reality of the times.

Americans stole slaves from their homeland, brought them to America, and bred and traded them like cattle. The ships bringing slaves to America flew the same American flag.

Americans, by declaration not birth, stole a country from Native Americans and destroyed their entire culture. The soldiers who imposed the policies against these Native Americans followed that same flag into battle.

These are America’s darkest chapters.

There are brighter chapters written by the American people.

That same flag led Americans into battles at Belleau Woods, Marne, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Chosin Reservoir, Hue. Places where Americans died to save others from tyranny.

That same flag flew in planes that airlifted food to Berlin, brought aid around the world, and offered reassurance just by its mere presence throughout the world.

That same flag flies on the surface of the moon and on the Voyager spacecraft which left the solar system and now travels in interstellar space.

One cannot take a symbol from one moment in history and equate it to the practices, beliefs, or actions of an entire nation. We cannot eliminate racism by attacking the past. We can eliminate racism by learning from the mistakes, and the triumphs, of the past to change the future.

Nike, sell the damn sneakers. Americans died to ensure freedom of speech and the flag represents that more so than reflects racial bias or support for slavery.

Trump’s Brilliant tweets

Here are two of Trump’s genius tweets I can agree with.

“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

And

“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”

Both offer a perfect opportunity to apply sound scientific analysis to prove or disprove each of his points. We can scientifically analyze the science of Climate Change (part of which is global warming and part is significant alterations to weather patterns of increasing severity) and put the Bible to the same standard of validation and authentication as say, mathematics or biology. We should study both with equal intensity and rigid standard of review.

Who knows what we might learn about myths and misrepresentation of dangerous phenomenon

An Open Letter to Presidential Candidate Joe Biden

 

Promise Me, Joe

 

 

 

 

Before America puts its fate in your hands, we need some assurances. You, more so than most candidates, including the incumbent, appreciate the enormous burdens and responsibilities facing the President of the United States. While you can tell us what you want to accomplish, anyone with any common sense understands how the realities of the world can change the best of intentions. With that in mind I’d like you to promise me some things.

 

 

Promise me, Joe.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will run a campaign focusing on the issues facing America not wallow in the infantile churlish behavior of name calling twitter wars.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will act in accordance with what is in
the best interest of the American people not what tracks with any political agenda or
platform yet always bearing in mind we are part of the world at large.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will remember we have a government comprising
three equal powers and you will treat them with the same dignity and respect
you expect for the office you seek.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will work to embrace bi-partisan
cooperation with Congress. Do not seek Congressional acquiescence seek their
input into developing policies and laws which lead America out of the morass of
the past few years.  

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will restore the dignity and respect
for the Office of the President so callously and foolishly twittered away over
the past few years.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will form policies that protect America
without losing our willingness to embrace those in need.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will never put children in cages no
matter what resources it may take to accomplish this. Of all the disasters of policy,
this is the most troubling.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will not waste time attacking the media
or your critics but focus on addressing legitimate problems the freedom of the
press uncovers and valid criticisms raised.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will not waste time talking about
making America great again but foster the things that have always made us
great.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will restore America’s standing in the
eyes of the world not threaten and challenge to promote jingoistic and
nationalist propaganda.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will foster a global approach to policy
recognizing the inherent right of all people, regardless of their race,
religion, sexual orientation, or national origin, to live in a peaceful world
with a fair opportunity to thrive.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will renew the promise of the
enlightenment where intelligent discourse arrives at solutions based on rational
in-depth analysis.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will select Supreme Court candidates not
for their willingness to promote your policies but for their fealty to the Constitution
of the United States.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will work diligently to ensure the
rights of women to control their own bodies is not usurped by selfish religious
fervor disguised as concern for others.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will wield the enormous military power
of this country to defend us, our allies, and those who cannot defend
themselves. Never to intimidate, cajole, or terrorize others.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will recapture the spirit of those
great men who have gone before you into the Office of the President and “Let
every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any
price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in
order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

 

 

Promise me, Joe, we will no longer be the nation once described by a former ally who said, “It is hard to be America’s enemy, but it is harder to be her friend.”

 

 

Promise me, Joe, it will never once again be difficult to be
America’s friend and you will lead the nation with a firm but fair hand, with a
bent toward compassion, and with willingness to ensure the continuity of the greatness
of America.

 

 

Promise me, Joe, you will remember the greatness of America comes not from our power as a nation but from the American people themselves.

 

 

Promise me, Joe. There has never been a greater time in history
when the world needs to know America is that bright, shining city on the hill.

 

 

Promise me, Joe.

 

Moral Imperative?

In the ongoing debate over abortion, some states have proposed codifying the protections of Roe V. Wade. Rhode Island being one.

The latest proposed measure, The Reproductive Health Care Act, failed in committee in the Senate. The bill mirrors the measure passed by the house (http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText19/HouseText19/H5127.pdf)

There were two arguments made against the bill that troubled me. One was from a Senator who opposed the bill because of the “Moral Imperative in the sanctity of life endowed by our Creator.” He said he understood he held a secular office, but this “Moral Imperative” guides his decisions. While he didn’t specify the Christian basis for his opposition, the implication was clear.

I would argue this, if one will invoke a “higher authority” imposing a moral imperative on operating government, is it too much to ask that we see actual evidence of the higher authority? Something other than quotes from ancient texts? Something other than faith, no matter how sincere?

If a legislature wishes to pass laws that meet the standard of moral imperative, shouldn’t we be able to test the validity of such a statute without having to resort to our imagination? Without having to imagine what such higher authority is. Without pushing incredulity to new heights.

I don’t think it too much to ask we keep crafting secular laws, operating a secular government, and secular enforcement of such laws, secular.

The second argument is even more ludicrous and disingenuous. Some Senators who opposed the current format of the legislation expressed concern the language of the legislation would mitigate other laws protecting unborn fetuses injured by criminal actions.

Under Rhode Island law, killing a pregnant woman can result in two counts of murder. Thus, one may argue, Rhode Island law already defines a fetus as a human. It does not, but that is not what strikes me as incongruous.

It is this trend to creating special classes of victims because being just a “plain ole” victim doesn’t seem enough to warrant protection under the law.

It reminds me of the TV show Law & Order Special Victims Unit.

The term “special victims” always struck me as odd, Now I understand the inherent abhorrence about sexual assaults and crimes against children, but the term “special” victims implies there are “not so special” victims.

Or “sort of” victims. Or “we’ll get to you when we have time” victims. Or “you deserved what you got” victims. I understand the perception we often ignored these “special” victims, but that doesn’t mean we solve it by ignoring others.

Perhaps the problem is not losing the option to charge someone with two counts of murder when the case involves a pregnant woman. Maybe the problem is the way we’ve created a special class of victims.  Wouldn’t it be enough if we considered all victims of crimes equal under the law?  Wouldn’t treating every victim the same accomplish the purpose?

If someone commits murder, why should it matter the condition of the victim? Why would we need to waste time and effort arguing that killing a pregnant woman somehow requires more severe punishment than an elderly woman, or a woman who is not pregnant, or a man? Why does the status of the victim determine the severity of the crime?

I do not see the difference between killing a woman and killing a pregnant woman. If killing the pregnant women is “worse” than the implication is killing a non-pregnant woman is not as bad. Now that is ludicrous.

Shouldn’t taking a human life—a living person—be enough to warrant the same penalty no matter who they are or what they are in life?

I can only hope rationality reasserts itself in this debate but, under the specter of the moral imperative and with disingenuousness raised to an art form, I have my doubts.

Pick My Best Friend Growing Up?

Running through a recent setup for a site required answers to security questions.

Mother’s maiden name? No problem, although the “maiden” part brought a chuckle, I doubt my mother ever considered herself a maiden.

First Car? Again, easy.

Cumberland High School

Then came the tough one. Who was your best friend growing up?

Dead stop.

How the hell do I choose that? Perhaps I am more fortunate than most but for me this question does not have one answer. It has four. Each with their own justification for being the right one. Growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island was a most fortunate thing for me.

For introducing me, at the tender age of 16, to the song Brooklyn Roads by Neil Diamond and a lifetime appreciation of music, I have a lifelong friend named Tony Afonso to thank.

For becoming my Latin Buddy in the eighth grade, driving my grade down as we struggled to pull his out of the negative numbers, I have a lifelong friend Ralph Ezovski. A mere ten years later, we were working plainclothes anti-crime assignments for the East Providence Police department and, much to our surprise, never needed Latin. Not once.

For pushing me to limits greater than I ever would have done on my own in school, I have a lifelong friend Cam Nixon.

And for his permanent smile and infectious sense of humor, I have a lifelong friend Clyde Haworth.

Each of these friends have molded my life in different ways. From the days of the Hurricane Brothers Bowling team (a fictional group we invented that never entered an actual bowling alley) to our maintaining a connection all these decades since eighth grade. Each has made an impact, and I consider them all best friends growing up.

The question troubled me. How do I choose?

I would choose another question. But before I did that, I wondered if I might face an even more troubling choice.

What if they asked Who is your favorite child? I mean how do I answer that? I only have one but still it might be at a moment when I’ve questioned that decision. (Just kidding Kelsey, you are my favorite. It wouldn’t be that hard a question.)

What if they asked what is your favorite color? How do you pick one color out of a rainbow when each is necessary for there to BE a rainbow?

What if they asked who is your favorite teacher? How do I pick one out of so many who taught me? Some I may not have appreciated then. Some I still have doubts. But I know each played a part. Although if forced to name names, Dan Walsh is right up in the top 30 or 40%. (I had to say that because he sometimes reads these rambling pieces.)

What if they asked what is your favorite time of the day, or time of the night, or favorite star in the sky, or season, or flavor of ice cream, or a favorite song, or favorite memory? How do I pick one thing out of a lifetime of experiences, places, people, or moments?

So, I decided my best friend’s name growing up is TonyRalphCamClyde and hit enter. The response brought a smile to my face.

Invalid answer, too many letters.

And right then I knew I’ve had a life worth living.

Probation is an Opportunity: A Limited One

A recent article in the Providence Journal by Katie Mulvaney titled, “RI man, never tried in Rape, remains imprisoned for it.” (https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20190503/ri-man-never-tried-in-rape-remains-imprisoned-for-it) is disingenuous.

The inmate, 52-year-old Robert Raso, violated the conditions of his parole and probation based on allegations he committed sexual assault. After prosecutors decided not to go forward with the criminal matter, Raso appealed his violation and return to prison for the balance of his original sentence.

Judge William Carnes upheld the violation and denied his petition for release. The court based the decision on the testimony of the original prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Carr Guglielmo. Guglielmo told the court the decision not to prosecute was not because of any doubt in his mind that probable cause existed to continue the case and the victim’s allegations and statements were credible.

Sometimes, even when the police identify a perpetrator and evidence is available, the best course of justice is no trial. Here, the victim suffered twice. Once at the hands of the man who assaulted her and then by family members who chose not to believe her, and tried to force her to recant. She did not, and this is the key aspect.

Roger Williams University Law Professor Andrew Horwitz, said, “the case — and the sentence — is ‘exactly’ what is wrong with the state’s probation system.” Professor Horwitz argued that “very serious allegations were resolved through a probation violation hearing instead of a trial in which the defendant would have enjoyed a full panoply of constitutional protections.”

The title of the piece skews the core element. Mr. Raso “enjoyed” his full constitutional benefit at the violation hearing. He had competent counsel, a neutral court, and the opportunity to question the evidence used to support the violation.

Raso is serving time for violating probation on the original criminal charges he faced, not for an unresolved Rape case.

Also from the article;

“In March 2011, Judge Savage sentenced Raso to serve 25 years for violating the terms of his probation from a slew of offenses committed more than a decade earlier, including kidnapping, attempted murder, armed robberies, and arson. Raso served 12 years for the previous offenses. A 28-year suspended sentence with probation remained hanging over him upon his release.”

To be clear, Raso is serving the balance of his sentence because a court found he violated the conditions of his probation. Despite the lack of a criminal trial in the case triggering the violation, a Judge heard competent and convincing evidence that Mr. Raso violated the conditions of probation. Before he could secure his release, Mr. Raso had to accept and agree to the conditions of probation.

He violated those conditions, and Judge Savage rightfully returned him to prison. If there is anything to question about the Rhode Island Probation system it’s why did a man sentenced to forty years serve barely one-third of his sentence?

The onus fell on Mr. Raso to make sure he avoided even the whisper of violating conditions. Probation is an opportunity, yet a limited one. While I often argue the inequities of prison sentences and see them as a poor solution to the problem of crime, in this matter, it is appropriate.

We True Americans

Again? When did we stop?

I recently posted several blog pieces during our trip to Morocco.  While the reaction of most was positive, many took exception to my positive portrayal of Muslims and the Islamic Faith.

One struck me as shockingly ill-informed; bordering on dangerous.

The comment included a reference to a false meme about a one-time ban on Muslims coming to the US (never happened) often circulated among the jingoistic-inclined nationalists who see Islam solely through the filter of terrorism. The line that frightened me, not because I feared the truth of the statement but because others might see it as truth, was this;

We True Americans must be on guard against Islam.

The comment gave me pause. Someone, and I am certain they are not alone, believes there is such a thing as a “true American” which is both identifiable and necessary for this nation to survive. It made me wonder.

What is the definition of a true American?

So, I went looking.

Is Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a Muslim by birth, who died in Iraq serving in the US Army and posthumously received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service a true American?

Is Humayun Khan, a Muslim by birth, a US Army officer killed in Iraq serving in the US Army and posthumously received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service a true American?

Is Dr. Ayub Ommaya a Pakistani American who invented the Ommaya Reservoir (used to provide chemo-therapy directly to the tumor site) a true American?

Is Khaled Hosseni, an American Physician and novelist born in Afghanistan best known for his novel “The Kite Runner” a true American?

Is Dr. Mehmet Oz, vice chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University a true American?

Or

Is Charles Manson, infamous convicted murderer and lunatic, a true American?

Is Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber and self-proclaimed Christian, a true American?

It’s easy to pick and choose when one has an agenda. In particular, an agenda based on fear, ignorance, and misplaced nationalistic fervor. Islam represents the third largest religion in the US and the overwhelming majority of its adherents are as appalled by terrorism in Islam’s name as all those self-proclaimed “True Americans.”

Likely, more so.

I would dare say that the remaining members of the Native America tribes we Christians herded and hunted almost to extinction would argue about what a true American is.

That some people lay claim to be the only True Americans is about as far from the very nature of America as one can get.

And it bears remembering when they demand we follow their lead in denying others the same American dream we all enjoy based on their religion or place of origin .

I am fairly certain a true American is better than that.

The Story Behind the Story

On May 10th, a new and remarkable book is set for release. UnMade: Honor Loyalty Redemption by Robert Walason and Joe Broadmeadow is not your typical Mob crime story. It is unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Available now for pre-order in Kindle and in print on release date from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local bookstores.
https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

A story unlike anything you’ve ever read

On May 18th, DePasquale Square, Providence, RI 5-9pm meet the authors, Robert Walason and Joe Broadmeadow and grab a signed copy of this compelling story.

This is a small glimpse into the book and the troubling tale it tells…

Imagine you are 6 years old, trembling beneath your bed, desperately looking for the one reassuring presence who can save you from your rampaging father. Your aunts and uncles will rescue you again. They will come, standing between you and the raging man who seeks to destroy your innocence.

And you will know them not by their faces, or their voices…but by their ankles. The saviors arrive and the reassuring sight of their ankles bring you hope…

Imagine you are 12 years old on Christmas Eve. Inside, all around you, families wait in quiet anticipation for the celebrations of Christmas. Trees adorned with decorations stand watch over wrapped presents waiting silently for the laughs and giggles of children, young and old.

But for you, there are no presents, no decorations, no Christmas feast. On this Christmas Eve you are alone, cold, and abandoned. Tossed from your home by your father with no one to turn to. Wandering the streets of Providence, wearing pajamas, sneakers, and a thin jacket, looking for a way to survive.

You will spend a silent night in a dark, dank basement in the Providence projects sleeping in an abandoned cardboard box.

Imagine you are 16 years old, sentenced to adult prison. Your reputation for brutal violence draws attention from Organized Crime who lure you in and groom you to be one of them, becoming the “family” you so desperately seek. Years of working as an enforcer for the mob follow, more prison time, and narrow escapes from serious convictions.

Imagine you are being targeted, pursued, and shot by a would-be assassin. Running until you can run no more, you collapse against a car. No longer able to move, or escape. Your blood pours out as the pain bores in.

Imagine the gunman places the barrel of the gun against your forehead, smiles, and pulls the trigger. Click, the gun does not fire. Click, again. And you realize it is not your time to die. Summoning the strength you thought had abandoned you, you lunge at the gunman, chasing him away.

Imagine you survive the horrific damage to your body by that 9mm bullet. You know what you must do and how you will do it, in your own way. All the while knowing no one leaves a mob crew except by disappearing into prison, the Witness Protection program, or giving up breathing.

Imagine confronting the man who now heads Organized Crime in New England, a man unaccustomed to being told anything he did not want to hear, and telling him that letting you leave the life was best for all concerned.

And he agrees.

For Robert “Bobby” Walason, this was not imagination, this was his life, and this is his story. A story of abandonment, desperation, rebirth, and redemption.

UnMade: Honor Loyalty Redemption

By Robert Walason and Joe Broadmeadow

Available in eBook and print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere.

An Apostate in the Land of the Caliphate: Thoughts on Morocco, Islam, and the Folly of Ignoring Truths

We’ve just returned from a remarkable trip to Morocco, and the experience was beyond anything I had imagined. During the journey, as I often do, I wrote a blog piece about my travels. This piece reflected a positive experience in an Islamic country immersed in the Islamic Religion and steeped in unfamiliar traditions. As someone raised in a predominantly Christian country and having lived in the era of terror activities mischaracterized as inspired by Islam, I wondered what my impression of Islam and a majority Islamic culture would be.

It was enlightening, enjoyable, and reinforced my long-held belief that the majority of Muslims, like the majority of most people, seek nothing more than to live in peace and enjoy their lives. Islam, like all religions, has often been twisted by those who seek to dominate others through abuse of power and by exploiting the uneducated.

Religion has, throughout history, often been a tool used to control those unsophisticated enough to see the true meaning behind the carefully selected words taken from the Bible or the Quran. Words chosen to incite rage, rejection of others, and recourse to violent suppression or invasion.

In the United States, where our embracing education, understanding, and tolerance are often clouded by nationalistic tendencies and simple, unrefined analysis, many people cannot separate themselves from their religion and see the similarities with other faiths, only the differences.  Geography has more to do with one’s faith than any exclusive validity of the doctrine. By the accident of birth, we are raised in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism, or the other thousands of religions or sects.

To borrow the title of an Arthur C. Clark book, there are Nine Billion Names of God, and each is as valid as the next.  It is never the religion to blame for things done in its name. The fault lies with those who purport to speak to their God, who twist the words of their sacred texts, who turns them to the often evil purposes of man.

The reaction to my blog expressing a positive image of Muslims caused an avalanche of mostly supportive comments intermixed with delusional and predominantly uninformed negative remarks about Islam.

These comments were mostly illustrative of willful ignorance wrapped in disingenuous Christian misanthropy of other faiths. When combined with the sophistry of the President and others demonizing an entire culture based on the acts of a few, it creates a dangerous atmosphere of behavior contrary to the foundation principles upon which this country was built.

In Casablanca, we toured the grounds of the fifth largest Mosque in the world, Hassan II Mosque.  The Hassan II Mosque or Grande Mosquée Hassan II is the largest mosque in Africa. Its minaret is the world’s tallest minaret at 210 meters high.

Hassan II Mosque Morocco

The most exciting part of the Mosque is the motivation behind it.  While the structure is awe-inspiring Hassan II, the King who conceived building the Mosque, established it as a symbol of religious tolerance. Nearby are two Catholic Churches, all within a short distance of the Mosque.

But here is the genuinely exciting part. The Mosque was built mostly with donations. Donations from many people all over the world. Including Saudi Arabia, Spain, Yemen, Egypt and, wait for it, the United States and Israel. People of all faiths saw the Mosque as a symbol not just of the Islamic faith but as a symbol of the many faiths of the world.

We can benefit more from understanding that which we do not than from embracing ignorance inspired by blind adherence to religious tenets. By demonizing Islam here, we lose an opportunity to foster common understanding and reduce the chances for those who would twist religion to their own purpose.

Morocco was the first nation in the world to recognize the United States as a sovereign nation.  Morocco can also serve as a wonderful place to showcase the infinitely more essential similarities between our cultures rather than differences misused by those who choose not to understand.

Nothing could be less American than to deny the words written at the very founding of this nation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

Under African Skies…Understanding

Marrakech, Morocco

15-April-2019

We’ve been in the country of Morocco since April 9th and not for one single moment have I felt the slightest bit concerned. Contrary to the fundamentally flawed jingoist ignorance of many Americans, Muslims are not jihadist crazed zealots seeking the destruction of America.

As with most things, ignorance ignores truth.There is no such thing as one Islam. There are Sunni and Shia with major doctrinal differences always left aside when right wing zealots, led by an equally uninformed President, call for barring Muslims from the US or requiring them to be registered.

(From a BBC special on the historical split between the two sects)

Members of the two sects have co-existed for centuries and share many fundamental beliefs and practices. But they differ in doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organization.

Their leaders also often seem to be in competition. From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Pakistan, many recent conflicts have emphasized the sectarian divide, tearing communities apart.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-16047709)

Most Muslims, like most people, seek nothing more than to enjoy life, raise their families, and live in a free and open world. I think we have more to fear from nationalist fervor than anything rising from the few terrorists who twist Islam for their own selish purpose, or any other misguided religion driven groups.

What is also true is the West bears some responsibility for creating an environment where radicalism rises. (A stage set by our British friends with their random drawing of borders with little regard for the history of the Middle East and Africa.) Our long history of overt support for totalitarian regimes (particularly in the fervor of post WWII anti-communism) and covert action when the government showed the slightest resistance to our policies contributed significantly to anti-American attitude which the terrorist turned to their advantage.

The best way to learn the truth is to seek it. And traveling to a country like Morocco can be a great opportunity. The best part, it works in two directions. We offer a kinder, gentler face of America, countering the rabid ignorance of the Tweeting President.

Our experience here has been nothing but incredible.

These are the faces of Morocco.

The last face is a Moroccan man who walked over to speak with me when we stopped for a break before heading into the desert. Like many Moroccans, he spoke Arabic and French with just a few words of English.

I, on the other hand, had a piece of paper with some English/Arabic and some vague memory of Bonjour and little else.

But by the simple gesture of a smile and a nod, we got our point across. Two men, raised under entirely different cultural backgrounds, could stand under an African sky and convey, without the benefit of words, Hello. How are you? Glad we could meet.

And that is what I see when I’ve encountered a Muslim.

Let’s hope the future is one embracing understanding rather than driving us back to the folly of the Crusades.

Inshalah. Salam