A Positive Election Plan from the Khan Family

Have you endured enough anxiety in an effort to stay informed during the conventions and now the election season? Me, too! I find relief and inspiration in the Khizr Khan family’s actions and draw from them a positive path to walk daily all the way through the first week in November. Yes, we can remain positive and hopeful, reach higher and participate actively during election days—in our own lives, within the circumstances that every day brings. Should you have missed Khizr Khan’s brief remarks at the Democratic convention, take a look and listen here.  Mr. Khan speaks on behalf of his son, US Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died saving the lives of his troops in Iraq in 2004. It’s to Khizr, his wife Ghazala, and their son Humayun that we can turn for direction. Diane Rehm's interview with Khizr and Ghazala Khan on Monday, August 15, sounds much like Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," the tone and content creating gorgeous music for tired ears and spirits. Such intelligence, civility, grace, empathy, patriotism, beauty in one all-too-short hour. Would that it could be piped into the minds and hearts of all who live in the US and broadcast from a global loudspeaker to people everywhere. Their conversation serves as a wake-up call for all of us to respond to love and affection with more of the same, to blow past the boorish poison of Donald Trump's "rhetoric," and to walk together toward unity and better and happier days.


Practically, here are but a few gifts from the Khans to help us navigate the election season with energy and enthusiasm:

1) Perspective: The family’s love for the promise of this country should uplift us all. The US remains a youthful, sometimes frustrated experiment in democracy, but through the eyes of those who struggled to win citizenship and arrived here with great expectations, we can take a fresh look at Khizr’s cherished topic: Liberty. Let the Constitution take on new meaning as we read it as if for the first time (and maybe it is?). Perhaps we have taken our citizenship for granted. His love for the US coupled with his son’s sacrifice motivates his challenge to the humanity of Donald Trump. In recent remarks before Charlottesville, VA's City Council, Khizr talked about all the goodness his family has experienced from neighbors in each of their various communities. Ghazala elaborates on the ongoing human warmth and inclusion that surrounds her family. Perspective. Focus on the positive. Tell some of an infinite number of good stories. Each of us can choose to look for what’s best in the people with whom we ride the bus, share the sidewalk, and stand in the checkout line. Our mindset belongs to us, and it is our responsibility.

2) Participation: Mrs. Khan’s op-ed piece in the Washington Post, her written response to being mocked by Trump, should be required reading. Her words are clear, tender, strong, and straight to and from the heart. Her grief at the loss of her son, palpable on stage at the Convention, in her writing, and on the Diane Rehm Show, evokes immediate compassion. She takes the high road, not biting at Trump’s unconscionable baiting, modeling constructive participation. Hers is a call for our personal involvement in this election. And there are so many elective offices on the 2016 ballots, the presidency but one. Local and statewide races deserve our attention. Learn about the issues. Work for those left behind, mired in poverty and despair. And the political realm is but one area in which participation makes a difference. Imagination! Initiative!

3) Speak up, out: Both of Humayun's quiet, reserved parents stepped far out of their comfort zones. “This is the time to speak!” Khizr implores. A time to speak out against racism, misogyny, violence, hate, misdirected anger—against the darker side of human nature that we can all share if not vigilant. Each of us can speak softly, ask questions, and make many sincere efforts at communication with those with whom we disagree. Talk with people. Listen without interruption. Engage. Khizr's mission is to work for "civilized discourse." Let's join him. He disagreed with US involvement in the war in Iraq, but respected and admired his son's decision to serve. Think about their conversations.

4) Call Out the Bully: Humayun stood by the side of those bullied in middle and high school, befriending and encouraging them, changing their lives forever. He championed those at a disadvantage throughout his short life. His father stood tall against an appalling bully, speaking from his heart and exposing Trump’s dangerous schemes and debasing language. Every day each of us can speak and act on behalf of anyone who is bullied, whether in the home, at school, at work, on sports teams or at community meetings.

5) Summon Kindness and Gratitude: Mr. Khan invites each us us to “reach out to the decency of America.” We can dig deep and whip out the best of our own human nature in our daily interactions. Everything we do touches other lives. While fear and anxiety prove contagious, the churning ripples of kindness and gratitude create more powerful and lasting consequences. We can throw a different punch than the one Trump has called for, a knockout batch of good will for all who pass our way. And we can go out of our way—to hold a door, to lend a hand, to comfort. Mindful of all the reasons we have to give thanks, every day, we can extend ourselves in our daily lives. Make the call. Stop and visit. Show up without being asked. Deliver groceries. It all matters.

6) Peace: Steeped in humility and willingness to compromise, the Khan family strives for peace. Khizr respectfully requests that Sen. John McCain withdraw his support of Trump, mystified by McCain’s allegiance, telling him that Humayun greatly admired his service to his country. He doesn't waste time responding to attempts to discredit him. No reaction to Trump, no reason to dignify his posturing, no time to waste in negativity. Further, Khizr insists he respects members of both political parties, explaining that he speaks out “so that we can get away from violence—doesn’t matter what kind of violence.” Doesn’t matter what kind of violence? Yes! A slammed door, road-raged honking, intimidating tone of voice, dismissal of those perceived as different in any way, belittling statements…every day in our own lives, it doesn’t matter what kind of potential violence, we can opt instead for peace.

Thank you to the Khan Family. You’ve shown the world a compelling generosity of spirit and redefined the meaning of patriotism. You’ve made the US look good and inspired many of its citizens toward active caring. And the two of you in conversation with Diane Rehm challenge Beethoven's masterpiece, no kidding!