The new normal is neither

Today’s “New Normal” isn’t new and it isn’t normal.

Sixteen-year-old baccalaureate student Nimah Nayel is a victim of the old racism and hate, long existent and awful in its scope.

This vile hatred, the antithesis of the American Spirit stayed dormant and seemingly was swept away into the dustbin of history where it belongs until the minions of Donald Trump took his racist and hate-filled rhetoric primetime and brought back the hatred with a vengeance. Nayel, who ran for the student spot on the Montgomery County Board of Education, got a host of nasty emails which included threats to shoot up the schools, encouraged her to “choke on your hijab” and accused her of being a whore, a terrorist and encouraged her to leave the country.

The confirmed incident has been met with somewhat muted silence. Rockville mayor Bridget Newton said she did not even know about it until contacted by The Sentinel.

The Rockville police are investigating, but there has been little reaction until The Sentinel began pursuing the story – other than a tweet from MCPS saying “We are deeply sorry that you received these hateful messages.”

Nayel, who initially became upset when she read the emails had to read a host of extremely nasty insults aimed at her religion and her gender. One email sender listed the name as “MAGA,” as in “Make America Great Again.”

The allusion to President Trump is worth noting for a couple of reasons. There is no way Trump had anything directly to do with the incident and members of his press staff have been quick to denounce any such racist activity in the past linked to his slogan “Make America Great Again.”

But that’s hardly the point. Trump’s courting of the extreme right has led us here – to two Americas. One is inclusive and one far more divisive than most have experienced since the Vietnam War.

Those who wrap themselves in the flag while denouncing immigrants as “animals” and believe all Muslims are terrorists, or that African Americans deserve to be treated with less respect than whites are the problem – not the solution.

There is nothing normal about this. There is nothing acceptable about it.

Nayel said she tried to look at the hate-spewing messages as if they were intended to be humorous.

She is a far better person than I, for when I read the emails I wanted to find the writer and deliver something other than laughter to him or her.

I remember well the riots of the ‘60s, the battle for Civil Rights and the hatred that included lynchings and different water fountains. I remember Martin Luther King Jr. saying we could reach the mountain top while Robert Kennedy preached hope, only to see that hope die when assassins took King and Kennedy.

We sit today on a precipice. On one side are the hopes of a people and a world where we can all learn to live together and help one another. On the other side: civil war.

I’m not singing Kumbaya. I’m talking about difficult struggles to accept one another for who we are, to celebrate our differences and work hard together whether we agree with or even like one another.

My first football coach told me I didn’t have to like the guy next to me, but I damn sure had to work with him for the benefit of the team.

That’s what we face now. We are staring right into the abyss. Do we choose to survive and thrive, or die in a divisive war of attrition, hating, baiting and shaming each other until violence overtakes us and the basest behaviors are pandered to with ruinous results?

This isn’t politics. This is humanity. The comedian Bill Hicks once said, “This is where we are at right now, as a whole. No one is left out of the loop. We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.”

Instead of Hicks’ dream, we have a bunch of hate-spewing emails aimed at a 16-year-old Muslim student at Richard Montgomery High School. We should do better.

We are living in a world where if you aren’t white-bred, Jesus-loving, gun-toting Americans then you are somehow less than human – you’re an animal.

My prayers go out to Nayel. My empathy goes out to her and her family. She is of the family of Man. We are all brothers and sisters.

I was taught, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers – that you do unto me.”

That was what I learned from Jesus. From Martin Luther King, Jr. I learned compassion.

From Robert Kennedy I learned hope. From John Lennon I learned to give peace a chance.

All of those men were assassinated. But hope springs eternal.


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