EDITOR’S NOTE—Victor Begg has been an interfaith peace activist for many years, a dramatic story he tells in his memoir Our Muslim Neighbors. He is frequently sought after to speak and appear at conferences—and often writes editorial columns for newspapers and magazines. The following column originally appeared online as an Op Edit column. We share it here with Victor’s permission.
By VICTOR BEGG
Author of Our Muslim Neighbors
As the nation braces for what most consider one of the most important elections in recent history, polarizing factors are framing the 2020 elections with increasing intensity.
Promise and threat, fear and hope are some of the most powerful forces in people’s behavior. The campaigns are capitalizing on such sentiments and biases. The bases on both sides are readily buying into the divisionary rhetoric. Setting the facts aside, their minds are made up, giving into the toxic politics of divide and rule.
President Donald Trump’s personal tax information and the first chaotic presidential debate with negative reviews of his conduct was a guidepost.
With the presidential election looming, we’ve come to fork in road. We will either be a united country progressing again as “one people” under Joe Biden or be making America great again “again” if we reelect Donald Trump. That’s one bait in the tackle box of the campaigns.
The independents are like the fish in the water. Can they dodge the misinformation bait? Watching the fuss, independents are wary. This way or that way? If you are one of them or leaning a little to the right or somewhat to the left, you want to figure which way. There’s no political GPS to navigate between truth or falsehood.
This is an important election, that is for certain. If one believes that, then staying on the sideline isn’t a choice either. That’s not so simple for many, obscured by dire consequences of four more years of divisions by one, or the illusion of four more years of success by the other.
Which way to turn at the fork? The great Yogi Berra said: “When you come to a fork in the road—take it.”
The famously comical Berra then added, “I will—if it is a silver one.”
In my 50 years since I came to America, it’s the first time I feel the stakes are higher than bread and butter issues. Never has an invisible force like COVID-19 humbled us. It has taken over 220,000 American lives with no ending in sight. We can only defeat this scourge when we’re united against it and listen to the experts, putting political loyalties aside.
I’m confident all of us, independent voters or not, want to do what’s good for our neighborhoods, our country and the world. As an immigrant, I believe in America’s promise—it has fulfilled my dreams of a good life.
America is founded on ideals and values the world wants to emulate. American resilience is unmatched in the face of disasters, defeats, or calamities. Preserving our values in the end is what most would want. This time, it’s not just about marking a ballot, it’s about who we are. It’s about our rights and what we want America to be.
And, we want America to be compassionate, not rancorous.
In this election cycle, let’s keep the faith in the American voter, and in our collective moral conscience. I stay confident in our political system. I’ll choose hope over fear when I cast my vote. The oldest and the greatest democracy will prevail and flourish, God willing.