Over the last week I have been really frustrated and disgusted with Trump and his ilk both in the US and globally who are constantly seeking to divide us based on religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and even economics. Concerned that Trump and his supporters, apologists and less than fierce and unabashed critics, including media anchors, are essentially giving credence to the wide belief outside the parochial US that, except for its wealth and military power, America has lost its moral authority to lead the world.
I wanted to do something to show and record my feelings. I racked my brains to come up with a unifying image or theme which could, if adopted by a critical mass of individuals, clearly demonstrate that this abominable person did not speak for the overwhelming majority of us.
Not being on social media I asked some who are to see whether changing their Facebook profile picture to one wearing a Hijab or other Muslim symbol to show that they #StandwithMuslims or say #JeSuisMuslim would be an appropriate response . I even took a selfie of myself in a Taqiyah/Topi(cap) to post on my sparse Instagram page. Some commented rightly that it may seem insincere to claim to be a Muslim or that #JeSuisMuslim could be confused with Jesus is Muslim. Not being particularly religious (I had always accepted from childhood that God, Allah, Ishwar, Jehovah are all the same) I thought that at this particular time Jesus would have proudly worn a JSM tshirt. I thought about asking for a boycott- a la Cesar Chavez – of all Trump products and noticed on CNN that a Dubai Retailer has done just that. I saw that a petition in the UK now necessitates a Parliamentary discussion on Mr. Trump’s eligibility to enter the UK. I am also now thinking of asking my lawyer friends in India whether Trump’s statement is akin to incitement of religious intolerance, an unlawful act in India, and that they should file suit to stop the building or at least the branding of the prestige Trump property being constructed in Mumbai.
While all of the above would be legitimate non-violent protests expressing our abhorrence of Mr. Trump and his supporters, I found myself reflecting on more positive ways that I could represent my own values. The underlying sentiment behind Mr.Trump’s increasingly divisive rhetoric cannot be mitigated with only temporary gestures to feed the breaking news culture most of us are now reconciled to as the sum total of our condemnation. The answer lies in the totality of our personal actions on a daily basis dismissing intolerance and bigotry.
In the last few months I have, in emails and other communication, referred to Gandhi, King and Mandela in multiple contexts and why the world needed to invoke their example in addressing some of the challenges we faced today. Yesterday, as I was walking on Juhu Beach in Mumbai, India, I had an “Aha” moment.
Half an hour into my walk it hit me. I always had an organizing theme for any action on this issue. It was #MKGforLife – Mandela, King and Gandhi for Life. Part of the “Aha” moment was that for the first time I realized that MKG also denotes Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the full name of the apostle of non-violent protest. The “Aha” moment did not end there. As I was walking on the same beach I noticed that someone or some group had placed multiple story boards embracing a particulate theme. The placement of those story boards had nothing to do with the vile views of Mr. Trump but they addressed the same issue from a different perspective- Love. Further and curiously when I counted the number of Boards on the beach there were 17, the exact number of letters in MandelaKingGandhi. Was it coincidence or Karma?
I now share some of those story boards and request you to notice the top center of those images showing the symbols of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism and the underlying message to the followers of those faiths. Like King, this message was telling me “I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”
So here is a suggestion. Please find your own image of tolerance and share it with others or post it in social media.
Let’s all tell Mr. Trump- you do not speak for us.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
Martin Luther King