The most powerful moment during the political conventions was not something that was said.
It as an incredibly and deeply moving few seconds where something was done.
I have been moved beyond words to the moment that Khizr Khan spoke those now infamous words, “have you even read the U.S. Constitution? You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
But even more so, the strongest moment was not what Khizr Khan said on stage. It was what he did.
After the touching video tribute to his son, Khan stands there with his hand on his heart, proud.
It is clear that he spoke from his heart, and is has been reported without a teleprompter. And one can see the visual pain that he and his wife were experiencing having to stand in stage to talk about their fallen soldier. The pain still appears so raw for them, even twelve years after his death.
But the moment that stands out the most, is what Khizr Khan did. During the few minutes of applause and standing ovation from the audience, Khizr sees his wife look up at him, crying, while he too appears to choke back tears. Without hesitation, he takes his arm and embraces her.
I have volunteered as a social worker on the side, often counseling many people as they work through grief, depression and hardship. When you are in the field and interacting with many people, body language is by far the biggest clue in to the actual state of a person. Once you can master seeing the subtleties, greater depth in to that individual, and their challenges, is found. This one moment, the few seconds, is powerful beyond measure because it shows not only the pain of these two parents, the pain of a mother in having to stand in tribute for her lost son, but shows the simple, pure idea of standing for family values.
In moments such as these, when our country needs to humanize one another, this moment is very telling. In an election cycle that has dehumanized Muslims, created them into single monolith entities, this moment is the moment to break all those patterns. Immigrants, minorities, people of color, marginalized voices, members of the LGBTQ communities, and on and on, everyone has a story. And everyone, with the exception of those on the margins who can’t and don’t value human life, wishes for a better world.
Some Muslims remarked that we shouldn’t have needed the family of a fallen solider to show our patriotism. We dont, although Khizr Khan’s words are important and critical right now in this election and I wouldn’t have traded his presence and his words for a second. At the same time, I also know how important symbols are and there is probably no greater symbol of patriotism than sacrificing your life for your country. I am proud he did what he did and why he did it. But more so, this moment alone captures the need to see Muslims as people too, and recognizing American Muslims as also individuals who suffer through pain. Humayun Khan had a mother and a father who loved him deeply. And he lost his life in service of America. Khizr Khan’s silent embrace of his wife should be viewed as an embrace to all Americans, especially the many American Muslims who stand in service of this nation, and go home to loving, patriotic families. This moment, that came so naturally, and with ease, speaks volumes and humanizes us American Muslims in a political climate that chooses not to.