One nation under God will simply remain rhetoric, if we don’t act and feel a sense of oneness with fellow Americans. At this moment in the history, the American Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBT community and others are struggling to feel one with fellow Americans.
America is our home and we have to feel secure no matter where we live in her lap. To paraphrase Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “A home is like a mother’s lap where the baby feels safe, and despite what goes on around her; the baby knows mother will protect her.” We should have faith in our constitution and the enduring American values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have to invest our hearts, souls and minds in America.
Half of the battle involves shedding the victimhood and the other half through connecting with fellow Americans, particularly those who feel alienated. We have to take actions to change how secure we feel about our homeland. This essay is about taking those steps to change the sense of in-alienation.
To quote Professor William James, “Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling…”
Given the alienation Muslims and others may feel with the current political rhetoric, the Memorial Day facilitates an opportunity to bind with each other, and to be one with all. It is an incredible feeling; it is like being in mother’s lap.
The freedom that you and I cherish did not come to us on a platter, and was not a given thing either; it was earned for us through the sacrifices of men and women who fought for it. It is particularly an important day for all the immigrants who enjoy the freedom and all the opportunities America offers, and owe that gratitude to our veterans.
The tradition of Memorial Day observance began after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and confederate soldiers who died in the civil war. Indeed, it was the civil war that abolished slavery, and was the stepping stone for passing the Civil rights Act of 1964 which allowed all immigrants to be equal citizens.
Bonding with fellow Americans
One of the greatest values about American culture is the amount of reverence given to the final resting place of our veterans. The Veteran cemeteries I have been to are usually in hills and valleys – a place of serenity and heaven on the earth for our veterans. Here is what I have done over the years.
On the Memorial Day in 2010, I drove from Louisville to Dallas, an 840 miles journey and stopped at every cemetery that was visible on the road side. I would recite a short prayer asking the creator to restore the balance on earth though forgiveness to those who have sinned and bring completeness to those who left incomplete transactions in life. I particularly remember stopping at 4 national cemeteries, and there was one near Nashville on I-40 for the veterans, which was off the road, and I drove through a creek to get there and paid my homage to the men and women who died for my country’s freedom. It just feels good to be a part of the whole.
Think about it, our prayers are the most pluralistic prayers recited by Muslims every day. We acknowledge God as the sole creator and lord of the universe, and to him alone we worship and seek guidance, and ask him to help us guide on the right path. In the second supplication we ask God to forgive the ones who are alive, and the ones who are not, their parents, family, friends, believers and strangers. It is not an exclusive prayer for Muslims but for all humanity.
This year I will miss visiting the National Cemetery in Grand Prairie, where my friend and father figure Mr. Everett Blauvelt is resting. He served in the U.S. Navy off the coast of Brazil during World War II. I will also be missing visiting the Islamic Cemetery in Denton, both in Texas to pay homage to my late wife Najma.
Muslims can relate with Memorial Day, as almost all of them visit cemeteries at least twice a year to pray for their relatives and for the known ones and the unknowns on the day of their two important festivals; Ramadan and Eid-al-Adha.
Every cemetery I spot on the Memorial Day, I pull over and silently pray. Praying for the unknown connects you with the unselfish-self in you, giving a sense of oneness that is hard to explain. Try it and see how good you feel about yourselves and how you will develop a sense of bonding with fellow Americans – visit a cemetery, eventually we all have to go there.
Dear God, I thank you for the life and the freedom you have given me and my fellow humans, and I thank all those who have sacrificed their lives for me to have this freedom to stand freely and pray here today. I salute our men and women in the uniforms for protecting and defending our freedom. Amen.
This Friday, I urge our Imams around the nation to include the importance of inclusion to complete our belief that God is God of all, that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s messages was not exclusive to any one, he was a mercy for all mankind. And that each one of us has to act and feel one with all, after all, all of us came from a single couple; Adam and Eve.
Of the many things that brings serene happiness to the soul is the expression of gratitude Thanks to our soldiers who fought in the wars to preserve that freedom for us, and the least we can do is honor them. If you see men and women in the uniform, please let them know that you appreciate them.
God bless America!
Mike Ghouse is the Executive Director of American Muslim Institution in Washington, D.C., and a Director at the Center for Pluralism