Trump country confounds Big Media
Quran's message to leader in troubled times — pursue justice
In the last few months this country has faced multiple natural disasters, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, protests and charges of sexual misconduct against those in power. While we are still in a daze from an onslaught of events over a very short period time, our response will determine if our already fractured nation will become even further divided, or pave a path of recovery and unity. This is my plea, as a Muslim, to our leadership to move us toward healing by heeding a principle emphasized in Islam as foundational for those in power: that of absolute justice. Indeed, a primary cause, perhaps the root cause behind these chasms might be that we have steered far from this basic principle.
The Quran summarizes this concept in the following verse, “…Be steadfast in the cause of God bearing witness in equity; and let not a people's enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God. Surely God is aware of what you do.” (Chapter 5, Verse 9)
You may wonder how this applies to the terrible traumas that we are suffering through. Examining these events and looking for root causes leads to the conclusion that this principle of unwavering and absolute justice needs to be heeded now more than ever. The example of terrorism and mass shootings brings home this conclusion.
In just the past few weeks we have had two of the worst mass shootings in our history and a horrific terrorist attack. When it comes to the mass shootings, the most common denominator is obvious: access to high-powered weapons. Rather than encouraging productive solutions such as nuanced and intelligent legislation to address this, we gravitate toward labeling the other side as mortal enemies of the nation and our dear Constitution.
A similar approach is adopted when dealing with terrorism. We are again quick to place labels. In this case on a religion followed by about 1.8 billion people of the world and about 3.5 million Americans. We insist on instituting broad and discrimina-
tory immigration bans that will do little to stem actual acts of terrorism and a lot to fuel the terrorist narrative.
What are the intentions behind this virulent rhetoric that steers us so far from any progress in stopping the menace of mass violence, whether through a gun or any other means? No doubt scoring political points and stoking unfounded fears and division.
This stands in sharp contrast to the Quranic injunction that states, “…be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for the sake of God, even though it be against yourselves…follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that God is well aware of what you do.” (Chapter 4, Verse 136)
Justice would require that we recognize that it is incredibly easy to access high-powered guns for even those with a history of domestic abuse. It would then require us to enact legislation that limits this access.
Justice would require that we recognize that terrorists who act in the name of Islam constitute only a miniscule percentage of Muslims. It would then require us to support the narrative of true Islam, which opposes all violence against innocents in the name of religion.
Justice would require that we recognize the geopolitical reality that we, as a nation, too often support oppressive regimes that suit our needs, which breeds deep grievances against us. It would then require that we take away this support and act to do what is right.
I implore the leaders of our great nation to adopt this same principle of justice and equity when dealing with the dire problems that face our nation. It might seem idealistic but the times call for a drastic shift in our thinking, one that is far removed from politics as usual. Only through this lens can we take the first step toward understanding the problems of gun violence and terrorism, and begin the process of healing and improvement.
HILLSBORO, Ohio — A year ago, the Times-Gazette was one of just a handful of newspapers around the nation to endorse Donald Trump for president. Seldom has a 58-word statement in a small rural publication garnered such attention, shining a national and even international spotlight on a newspaper and a community.
Over the past 12 months, news organizations nationally and from around the world have discovered Hillsboro, Highland County and southern Ohio in general, exploring the people and interests here in an effort to determine why places such as ours so enthusiastically supported Trump (he won 76 percent of the vote in this county) and why, for the most part, those people continue to support him.
In just the past few days, a writer from the Nikkei, one of Japan's largest newspapers, traveled here for an interview, and the BBC's “Outside Source” news program set up shop in our newsroom for a live two-hour broadcast. Host Nuala McGovern interviewed our staff, along with local party and government officials, about everything from Trump to guns to the opioid crisis.
I don't know whether most of the journalists who come here have predetermined ideas about what they will find. Perhaps, if they have read some of the analysis from the left on what defines a Trump supporter — racist, misogynist, uneducated — they expect a wall of Confederate flags, a KKK parade down Main Street and a collection of hillbillies making moonshine on the back porch.
Instead, they discover a landscape that is breathtaking in its physical beauty, and residents who are welcoming, industrious, smart, interesting and, yes, opinionated. People here are well informed and ready to defend their politics, while simultaneously respecting the opinions of visitors with different viewpoints.
The live BBC broadcast from our office happened to take place the day after the tragic massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that claimed 26 lives and left at least 20 others injured. Naturally, McGovern asked about the incident, particularly in regard to gun-control legislation. Not surprisingly, no one who was interviewed
here thought more gun laws were the answer, and they were well prepared to defend that position. The schism that exists between the left and right on the solution to gun violence is deep and wide.
It was also not surprising that local Republicans defended the president, blaming most policy holdups or campaign promises not yet kept on fierce media and establishment resistance.
One lighthearted moment among many came when the sometimes controversial mayor of Hillsboro, Drew Hastings, was casually asked whether he would seek a third term when his second one expired in 2019. “No,” he replied, which was big news locally. I sarcastically thanked the BBC for coming all the way from London to scoop us on a big local news story.
The best thing about the year-long “Trump Country” scrutiny on our southwestern Ohio hamlet, population 6,600, and the surrounding region is that members of the national and world media who would never otherwise venture here have been obligated to visit personally, rather than just conduct phone interviews or draw conclusions based on census data or government statistics.
It's very difficult to spend time with people in an up-close-and-personal way, breaking bread, conversing about local issues and family events, or seeing their homes, and continue to hold negative perceptions of them.
Visitors might well return home without changing their minds about what they consider the misguided political views they encountered. But they will almost certainly find themselves unable to cling to whatever animosity they might have held.
The same holds true whether it is a case of liberals caught in a conservative environment or, as I know from firsthand experience, a conservative thrust for a lengthy period into a liberal universe. When you are made to feel welcome and respected, it is hard to hate.
Familiarity breeds contempt, the saying goes, but I think it is truer that familiarity leads to understanding and even friendship, if not agreement. Please, Big Media, continue to explore Hillsboro and other such communities around the nation — communities that seldom were on anyone's radar, until they decided a presidential election.