Some of you may have seen the footage from a rally in Lakeville, Minnesota this weekend. In the clip, a Shakopee native, a 75 year old mother of five and grandmother of seven, asks a question of John McCain in one of his town hall-style forums.
"I can't trust Obama," she tells McCain. "I've read about him and he's not... he's not..." she stammers before lowering her voice conspiratorially. "He's an arab."
McCain's efforts to allay the woman's fears were in the right spirit, even if he was a little misguided when he suggested that the opposite of an Arab is a "decent family man." In an interview after the forum, CNN asked the woman where she heard that Obama was an Arab. Apparently she read it in a letter. If we saw said letter, she insisted, we'd be as scared as she was. After further questioning from CNN, it was clear that the woman had conflated "Muslim" and "Arab" and was worried that Obama would turn the United States into an Arab/ Muslim country. Even when the CNN reporter told her that Obama is not a Muslim and is, in fact, a Christian, she insisted that because his father is a Muslim, it's in his blood.
Let me assure you that not all of Minnesota is so ignorant and not all of us would be so bothered by having an Arab or even a (gasp!) Muslim in office. In fact, Minnesota's fifth congressional district elected the first member of congress, Keith Ellison, in 2006. He was sworn in on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. In spite of this, the fifth has not dropped off the map, we are not burning in hell, God did not smite us. We're doing pretty well, actually.
So please come and visit Minnesota. Please don't write us off as another bunch of ignorants worthy of nothing more than a fly over. Just because one of us is ignorant doesn't mean it's in our blood.