On June 8th, 2004, an orange colored taxi drove up through an American Army compound gate located in Baquabah, Iraq. Captain Humayun Khan was inspecting soldiers on guard duty when he noticed the vehicle approaching. Khan instructed his troops to “hit the dirt,” as he motioned for the car to stop, took ten steps forward, and was killed by an improvised explosive device lodged inside of the taxi that killed two Iraqi civilians, the two suicide bombers, and the Captain himself.
The highly anticipated grand finale of the Democratic National Convention wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s nomination speech, but came from a Pakistani-American couple, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, in remembrance of their fallen son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed at the age of 27.
Khizr Khan delivered an emotionally stirring address, calling for Americans to think about the stark choice given to voters regarding who they will elect come November. The highlight of the speech was when Khan addressed Trump directly, “Let me ask you,” he began. “Have you ever read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” He said this as he pulled out a pocket sized copy of the Constitution and held it up in a dramatic moment that broke the room into shouts of cheers and a standing ovation, many holding tears back, and many expressing their emotions openly.
This landmark moment marked and epitomized what the Democrats have capitalized on this convention season, a return to American ideals, shouting demands of revolution, chastising the idea of electing a ruler, and talking about the founding of our country in the very city in which all the attendees stood—Philadelphia, arguably making for one of the most historic conventions the country has seen. Talking again about the billionaire, Khan said Trump sacrificed nothing and no one, to which Trump hastily responded, “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.” Unsurprisingly, this comment was not received well, with the hashtag #TrumpSacrifices popping up almost overnight.
What Donald Trump fails to realize is the context of what he’s saying. When a child offers their last snack to a friend, that is a sacrifice. When a person puts their life in harm’s way to protect others, that is a sacrifice. But comparatively, these sacrifices differ in a sort of magnitude that makes their comparison not only baffling, but downright insulting. When a real estate mogul who had been handed a $1-million check from his father, was prepped through private schools his entire life, and was groomed and prepared for this role, and even then managed to go bankrupt multiple times tries to define his struggle in comparison to those of others, it is outright disturbing. When the same man who claimed to have bone spurs dodged the draft not once, not twice, not thrice, not four, but five times. Of course, it is understandable that he doesn’t comprehend the scope of war, as he has said that sleeping around was his own “personal Vietnam.” So when the draft dodging spoiled reality TV star talks about his “sacrifices,” they pale in comparison to families who’ve lost loved ones in war.
But his comment on his sacrifices wasn’t the end of it. Next to Khizr Khan stood his wife, Ghazala Khan, who was promptly attacked by Trump. Speaking of Ghazala Khan, Trump said, “She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me, but plenty of people have written that.” And in doing this, Trump does two things. First, he disgustingly conflates all Muslim families with those women who are silenced. And secondly, he falls back on his fallacy of authority, appealing to things he’s read or heard, but rarely disclosing exactly where he is getting this information, while simultaneously dismissing information that speaks to the contrary of anything he does or stands for. By conflating the image of Ghazala Khan with the millions of women who actually are silenced, Trump is both dismissing modern and moderate Muslims who make up a vast majority of Islam in the United States, and also delegitimizes actual instances of female oppression in certain parts of the world.
Since the eventful night at the Democratic National Convention, Ghazala Khan has responded to Trump by penning a piece for The Washington Post, explaining that she was silent not because of her faith or husband, but because of the immense pain of a Gold Star family member—someone whose relative has died in service to the nation. Senator Lindsey Graham has criticized Trump for “going to a place we’ve never gone before” by attacking the family of fallen soldiers. Arizona Senator John McCain also denounced the GOP nominee, trying his best to distance Trump’s comments from the Republican Party.
Donald Trump also claimed that Khizr Khan had “no right” to criticize Trump, which is nothing short of ironic coming from the man alleged to never having read the Constitution and thereby failing to realize that Mr. Khan actually has ever right—under the First Amendment—to criticize Mr. Trump, and if anything, Trump’s comments only further substantiated Mr. Khan’s accusation. When trying to clarify Trump’s comments on CNN, a Trump surrogate repeatedly talked of “radical Islamic terrorism” each time the anchor tried to talk of Khan’s family and Trump’s subsequent comments, eventually being blatantly called out for the faulty association being draw over the matter.
But the most damning criticism came not from the veteran and senator from Arizona who Trump refuses to call a hero because he had been captured and tortured, but came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the largest and oldest veteran organizations in the United States. Commander-in-Chief of VFW Brian Duffy said, “Election years or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression. There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed. Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard.”
This statement followed a collective statement released by 23 Gold Star family members demanding Trump to apologize for his egregious statement. They wrote in part, “Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice. You are not just attacking us, you are cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost…This goes beyond politics. It is about a sense of decency. That kind of decency you mock as ‘political correctness.’ “
The letter in its entirety can be read here.
The final night of the DNC wasn’t just about the threat of disunity between Clinton crusaders or Bernie backers. It was something far larger than either candidate, or either party. It was about deciding the sort of country we are to become, one that blatantly rejects the Constitution and mocks anything different from himself, or one that tries to uphold one of the most progressive platforms our nation has seen. There are very real deficiencies in both major parties, but after a certain point, when one has to start compromising values and be complacent with overt instances of racism, misogyny, classism, xenophobia, in support of an individual who promotes the use of torture “much worse” than we’ve seen, and wants to set up an authoritarian state, it is time to say, enough is enough, and to admit that people like Humayun Khan are as American as they get.
This article was written by Amar Ojha, founder and writer at dusk magazine.