Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

What is happening to America: Example from Minnesota

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Stephanie McCrummen reports in the Washington Post:

The doctor was getting ready. Must look respectable, he told himself. Must be calm. He changed into a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and came down the wooden staircase of the stately Victorian house at Seventh and Pine that had always been occupied by the town’s most prominent citizens.

That was him: prominent citizen, town doctor, 42-year-old father of three, and as far as anyone knew, the first Muslim to ever live in Dawson, a farming town of 1,400 people in the rural western part of the state.

“Does this look okay?” Ayaz Virji asked his wife, Musarrat, 36.

In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Muhammad are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the antichrist.

Now a librarian had asked him to speak in Granite Falls, a town half an hour away, and he wasn’t sure at all what might happen. So many of the comforting certainties of his life had fallen away since the presidential election, when the people who had welcomed his family to Dawson had voted for Donald Trump, who had proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, toyed with the idea of a Muslim registry and said among other things, “Islam hates us.”

Trump had won Lac qui Parle County, where Dawson was the second-largest town, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He had won neighboring Yellow Medicine County, where Granite Falls was the county seat, with 64 percent. Nearly all of Minnesota outside the Twin Cities had voted for Trump, a surprising turn in a state known for producing some of the Democratic Party’s most progressive leaders, including the nation’s first Muslim congressman.

Now Trump was in the White House, and Dawson’s first Muslim resident was sitting in his living room, strumming his fingers on the arm of a chair. The pastor had called to say two police officers would be there tonight, just in case. The late afternoon sun came in through the windows, beyond which was a lovely town of sprawling cottonwoods, green lawns and so many people the doctor felt he no longer knew or maybe even could trust. The doorbell rang.

“Hey there,” Ayaz said, snapping out of his thoughts to greet his neighbor.

“Hiya,” said the neighbor, who worked in security.

He had heard from his wife about the talk in Granite Falls and, wanting to be helpful, had offered to lend Ayaz his bulletproof vest for the evening, and here it was, in the duffle bag he was slinging through the ornate front door. He set it down on a chair in the doctor’s study and pulled out the vest. Ayaz looked at it. He began taking off his suit jacket and tie to try it on.

This was Dawson six months after the election, which was how Ayaz most often thought of things these days — before and after.

He remembered his first visit three years before, driving with Musarrat on a narrow highway west into the prairie and passing one little farm town after another — Cosmos, Prinsburg, Bunde, and finally seeing the wooden sign, “Welcome to Dawson.”

They arrived on a breezy fall day, and he remembered how it all seemed almost corny, from the park with little gnome figurines, to the wide streets named Oak and Maple, to the formidable Grace Lutheran church at the town center. The whole visit felt like one big welcoming parade.

Welcome to our hospital and clinic, where the two other doctors, the nurses and other staff members were lined up to greet them. Welcome to the school, where the principal showed them around. Welcome to the two-block downtown, where there was a butcher, and a bowling alley, and a diner named Wanda’s, and as they walked along, Musarrat noticed something rare. She didn’t feel people staring at her headscarf. They were saying hello and smiling.

Ayaz remembered that it “just felt right.” Wholesome. He had been wanting to get away from his job working for a huge health-care chain in Harrisburg, Pa., and find a way to practice what he called “dignified medicine.” The town seemed to want him, too, a doctor with a medical degree from Georgetown University and an interest in rural health. No one seemed to care that he was Muslim, of Indian descent, born in Kenya and raised in Florida. They just needed a good doctor. So the Virjis decided to move to Dawson.

By the winter of 2014, they were settling into the Victorian house on Pine and the life Ayaz imagined for his family. The children — Maya, Imran and Faisal, the oldest, who was 12 then — enrolled in the public school around the corner. Musarrat set up a spa business down the street. Ayaz often walked to work, where his smiling photo hung on the clinic and hospital walls along with his titles: chief of staff and medical director. He was one of only three doctors practicing in Dawson, and one of a few in the county, and was soon busy with patients and helping to plan a $7 million expansion of the facilities.

He and Musarrat made friends — Jason, Betty, Duane, Stacey and other Dawsonites who would drop by for kebabs or chicken parmesan. When John and Jill Storlien, the local butchers, found out that Ayaz was driving all the way to Minneapolis to get his halal meat, they offered that perhaps they could manage. Their cows came in facing Mecca anyway, it turned out. Ayaz texted them the prayer to say as they butchered, and so one day in a tiny Midwestern town, two Lutherans spoke their first Islamic verses over the carcass of a cow. In summer, neighbors spread blankets and chairs on the Virjis’ front lawn and watched the annual parade float by.

And that was how it was going in Dawson, even through an election season that Ayaz found increasingly disturbing, as Trump kept whipping up crowds by saying that maybe Syrian refugees were part of a secret army, and maybe he’d have to shut down mosques, and maybe Muslims were the one immigrant group that could not become fully American.

All of that was in the air, but in a county that Barack Obama had won twice, Ayaz saw only two “Trump-Pence” yard signs during the whole campaign. He never thought Trump would win, much less in Dawson.

The morning after the election, he was shocked and angry, and when he looked up the local results before he went to work, the feelings only intensified. Not only had Trump won the county, he had won Dawson itself by six percentage points.

By the time he got to the hospital, he was pacing up and down the hallways, saying he hoped people realized that they just voted to put his family on a Muslim registry, and how would he be treated around here if he didn’t have “M.D.” after his name? People tried to reason with him. A colleague told him it’s not that people agreed with everything Trump said, and Ayaz said no, you’re giving them a pass. He told the hospital’s chief executive that he was thinking of resigning, and she told him to take some days to cool off.

He and Musarrat talked about what to do. He began investigating . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 July 2017 at 4:22 pm

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