Friday, September 12, 2014

An open letter to City Council candidate Abdul Al-Sahli

Mr. Abdul, as a candidate for League City Council Position 7, I am curious as to why your business chose not to lower its flags to half staff yesterday to commemorate the 13th anniversary of 9/11.
September 11, 2014, approximately 4:00 p.m.

Your exact role at this business is reported variably depending on the source, but it's clear that you have substantial authority there.  The DE website does not mention any owner or controlling entity by name and neither does the corresponding Secretary of State franchise page (officers and directors information is missing), but your own LinkedIn profile describes you as DE Flooring's "President".  I've heard people verbally refer to your relationship to this business in ownership terms (partial vs. full ownership not specified), and when I signed a small services contract with DE Flooring about a year ago, you were explicitly described to me as "the man in charge".  As such, it would appear that you are the authority who would be in the position to make administrative decisions such as flag-lowering.  
Yesterday was a day of national mourning in which American flags were ordered to half staff.
Screengrabbed from this site.  
Of course, not every private business in our area complied with this directive.  For instance, a day care center not far from DE Flooring also had flags at full staff.  The crucial difference is that the day care owner has not claimed a role for himself or herself as a political figure.  He or she is not currently running for an American public office and seeking the public's trust.
All public offices and most local businesses did lower their flags, however.  About three minutes after I took the above photo of DE Flooring, I took this one of ACU of Texas' League City branch, which has established an unfailing local reputation for its tasteful displays of patriotism.  
Even the initial act of declaring political candidacy is a demonstration of leadership, and the very first task of leadership is to identify with the people and confirm a strong connection to the people.  I intentionally looked at your place of business yesterday on my way home from work because I assumed you would be showing this kind of solidarity on a day when such observances are absolutely vital to the American soul.
While DE Flooring's flags were at full staff late yesterday afternoon, this is what was going on a short distance away.

Image courtesy of the City of League City.  
In your case, of course, the participatory issue goes beyond generic political candidacy due to your ethnicity.  I mention this because I personally think it's fair game to discuss that aspect of what you potentially bring to League City's political table (which is currently characterized by a woeful lack of diversity), and because obviously you think this is fair game, too - your campaign website specifically references that element:
Screengrabbed from this campaign page.  
As a Council candidate, it cannot possibly have escaped your attention that League City has spent the last two months embroiled in conflict over a City Council resolution that contained the phrase "radical Islamist terror groups".  While most reasonable people question the motivation behind the injection of this reference (and the resolution itself, for that matter), the unavoidable fact is that the resulting social conversation is well underway, and some of the questions being raised by local residents are arguably valid and deserving of responses (e.g., see the most recent discussion threads on Galveston County Daily News here and here).  Many of those questions boil down to a very simple inquiry:  which is more important to any given individual - their ethnicity and the religious and cultural factors that go with it, or their allegiance to America?  People genuinely want to explore that issue, and I believe that it is healthy for them to do so.

It saddens me that your business did not lower its flags yesterday.  I may be the first to publish this question, but I cannot possibly be the only League City resident who noticed those flags.  By not participating in the national observance of Patriot Day, you will give additional ammunition to those of the more extreme voices in the conversation who are quick to seize upon any perceived negative development to support their fears and distrust of other cultures, especially those that they believe are associated with Islam.  They're going to say things like (paraphrasing), "WTF??  This guy named Abdul Al-Sahli is running for office and he had the nerve not to observe 9/11?  See??  I've been telling you all along that these people are not really with us!"  Even if accidental, this type of outcome hardly seems consistent with your own stated campaign intentions.

I hope you will address this question, not to me, not to this blog post, but to those who deserve your response - the good people of League City, Texas.
On top of everything else we've got going on locally, yesterday was not an "ordinary" 9/11 anniversary - it had a larger sadness component than those in recent memory.  All of America is increasingly anxious because, every single day, there is a new news story documenting the burgeoning power of the group known as Islamic State.  We don't know what will happen, but we know that thousands of people have already died, and thousands more will surely die, with or without the planned American airstrikes.  

I could not get done with work in time for League City's memorial service yesterday, but I did pause to face these half-staff flags in front of another City Hall about 50 miles from here.  I stopped to pay my respects and to say a small prayer for international peace.  I also pray that we can reach a better state on our local level, a state in which we can all understand each other more deeply than we obviously do today.   

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