By Aqeel Mohialdeen
While everyone was busy watching the 2016 presidential debates and thinking who deserved to lead the country, or rather who will lead the world, I was busy preparing myself for the United States citizenship test that would give me the right to vote. The election of 2016 meant a lot to me; first, I had become a United States citizen, and second, I would have a role to play in the real democracy and become a part of it, and a voice that can sway the election result, albeit a small part. But I didn’t know that this election would put me in a critical situation within myself, where I realized that hatred is the most dangerous illness in human history.
In September 2015, I passed the citizenship exam, and the result of the security investigations came back proving that there was no lawsuit against me; I was not wanted for injustice, I never had violation tickets, and I did not pose a threat to the national security. Then I became a citizen of the United States of America. I was pleased because I’m not an immigrant anymore, and glad to be able to vote in the presidential election of 2016.
Hereabouts, the critical moments began when the names of candidates began to vanish one by one until it settled on only two names: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. My enthusiasm began to decline, and my follow-up to debates and analysis of specialists in political affairs began to confuse me, and I found myself no longer interested. A few months only separated me from the event that I had long waited for, but I could not find myself as a part of it. It was a challenging and complex equation to decide between the one who I didn’t like and the other one who didn’t like me.
Even though I remained convinced of many of Mr. Trump’s goals and his plans for reform in improving the economy, foreign policy, and protecting our borders from illegal immigrants and smuggling drugs into the country, I couldn’t accept the idea of giving my voice to the one who didn’t accept me, and most of his speeches toward refugees and immigrants were harsh and humiliating; all that made me stand on my dignity by not voting for him.
Mrs. Clinton is the one who I didn’t like. I found her lacking my trust to lead the country. She was one of those who voted for the war in Iraq in 2003, the war that destroyed that country and killed many people from both sides. Many children lost their fathers and their mothers as a result of this war. Even those who were not killed by this war have paid a high price. Many of the soldiers who participated are still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. How can I vote for her and be an ally in potential crime that this woman could commit toward humanity if she holds the highest position in power?
Days were passing very fast, and the political events were accelerating. The image of the election box returned to show up in my head; I imagined myself in the voting center practicing the best democracy in the world. Although I tried to find an alternative solution to renew my convictions and reconsider my decision, I found myself entered into the same whirlpool that cost me intellectual and psychological energy, so again, I decided to affirm my position.
Just one week before the election, I went out late at night, which is what I usually do when I have to make a fateful decision. I walked until the daylight came and I was still thinking of a way out of this crisis. I asked myself, “What makes the crisis and why is it called “crisis?” I wondered why. Is it because it’s impossible to solve? The questions have led me to use the principle of pragmatism in dealing with the situation, so I divided the issue into parts so I could focus and then find the mechanism that fits. I knew I would not retract my decision about Mr. Trump.
The situation with Mrs. Clinton was entirely different because I’m the one who made it look like a crisis, so if I had no negative attitude toward her, there would be no problem. I asked myself, “What if I just forgive her?” How can I forgive? Who am I to grant amnesty to a crime that took lives of hundreds of thousands? My footsteps followed me until I found myself by a museum of Jews in Portland. I remembered the Holocaust, the tragedy that all people know, the killing of 6 million Jews. I wondered how the Jews have overcome this ordeal and how they managed to forgive after all that happened. Maybe I am wrong; maybe they never did forgive. That might be the answer. I decided to find someone who would help me to solve my crisis.
I found a man in his fifties wearing a yarmulke over his head, and I started my conversation saying that I was very sorry for what had happened to the Jews during the Nazi atrocity. I shared with him how painful it was when I saw the injustice and destruction during my visit to Berlin in 2012. Then I told him that I needed his help in getting rid of a conflict within myself. I asked him, “How did you manage to overcome the consequences of this ordeal and how did you arrive and achieve forgiveness?” He answered slowly, “Who told you that we had overcome the trial? We will never forget, and we will continue to remind ourselves and recommend that our children remember what happened and encourage them to keep inheriting the stories of the Holocaust for the next generation.”
I left the place thinking about what this person had said, wondering how someone can inherit the suffering of someone else, and live in a situation that he never faced? Perhaps my conversation with this person did not give me any solution, but he guided me. I decided not to allow myself to spend the rest of my life carrying hatred, so to get rid of that, I must forgive. I must prove to myself that I could forgive; from that moment, I decided I could vote for Clinton. Forgiveness was my answer.
Forgiveness allowed me to move forward, to vote and to celebrate democracy. Never allow hatred to take place in your heart, it will control your brain and drive it to nowhere, and then it will lead you to a dark path where nothing makes sense but illusion and weakness as that hatred is the most dangerous illness in human history. Forgiveness is the only way to get rid of grudges to makes us see things clearly, and so then we can make rational decisions.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”