The recent exchange between the Democratic National Convention speakers, the Khans, and Donald Trump reveals a lot, not least about Trump’s insensitivity and lack of tact and political judgment.
I believe that the Khans deserve deep admiration and respect. But I also wish that the lengths we apparently need to go to in America to communicate the full inclusion of Muslims and / or immigrants didn’t have to involve the death (sacrifice) of members of those groups.
Hero-language always surrounds this kind of sacrifice. But I have deep reservations about human sacrifice and the haze of honorific, unassailable images and vocabulary that surround it. Put starkly, do Muslims or anyone else need to die in order to demonstrate that they are above reproach and unquestionably American? I ask this, not because I doubt the Khans, but because I question the nature of a society that asks them to be sacrificial heroes that they are.
I understand why this theme isn’t receiving a lot of attention now. These are tense times and there’s clearly a lot at stake. Let me say that I have zero sympathies for Trump and great admiration for the Khans. My admiration, though, is much like the admiration I have for all veterans. As an advocate for nonviolence and a critic of war, I deeply feel for active members of the military and veterans because of the risks that society asks them to bear. Why do we ask them to do these things? What do the rest of us need as a society that we then ask others to sacrifice their lives for? Can we demonstrate our inclusiveness as a nation without asking some to die in order to show it?
Craig Hovey is executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.