Khizr Khan holds his personal copy of the U.S. Constitution while addressing delegates on the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center, July 28, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Khizr Khan’s son, Humayun S.M. Khan was a University of Virginia graduate and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving the United States in the ten years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)


Donald Trump’s gauche and mendacious campaign appeared unstoppable – until Khizr Khan, a grieving Pakistani American father, made a passionate yet dignified critique of The Donald’s anti-Muslim prejudice that was heard across the United States, writes Ashfaque Swapan. – @siliconeer #siliconeer #2016USPresidentialPolls #Trump #Hillary #HillaryClinton #DonaldTrump #TheDonald #KhizrKhan


As many, many Americans have been watching with the horror and disbelief more often associated with witnessing a slow-motion train-wreck, the presidential election in the most powerful nation in the world have been overtaken by the crass – and oftentimes phony – melodrama of reality TV.

It would actually be funny had it not been so scary. Donald J. Trump, the bombastic real estate tycoon who gives new depth to the word “shallow,” has romped his way to the Republican nomination, leaving in his wake the campaigns of his contestants in utter ruins.

It was a simple, unassuming, middle-aged father, still grieving the death of his son, with his wife standing in support beside him, who soon had the entire nation spellbound with his deeply-felt, poignant critique of The Donald.

As America continues to struggle to move towards a more inclusive, diverse and equitable society that offers a fair shake to all its citizens – Khizr Khan’s clash with The Donald is just a single battle in a much broader war.

Commentators, political analysts, pundits all agree. The fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at Philadelphia, July 28, provided quite possibly one of the most powerful, dramatic moments in the current presidential election.

Which is saying something.

After all, one of the big players in the quadrennial U.S. political circus, a.k.a. the U.S. presidential election, is the personification of drama this time around.

Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun S.M. Khan was one of 14 U.S. Muslims who died serving the United States in the ten years after 9/11 speaks during the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, July 28, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun S.M. Khan was one of 14 U.S. Muslims who died serving the United States in the ten years after 9/11 speaks during the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, July 28, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

And I am not saying that in a good way. (As John Lennon sang, “but I am not the only one.”)

I am speaking, of course, of The Donald – described memorably by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter as a “short-fingered vulgarian.”

As many, many Americans have been watching with the horror and disbelief more often associated with witnessing a slow-motion train-wreck, the presidential election in the most powerful nation in the world have been overtaken by the crass – and oftentimes phony – melodrama of reality TV.

Instead of sober reflection on substantive policy matters, the elections have been turned on its head. It has become a gaudy carnival reminiscent of the peremptory bark of “You’re fired!” from The Apprentice, or the over-the-top maudlin antics of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, both events The Donald has graced with his frequent presence.

Donald Trump, a New York-based tycoon, won the primary of the Republican Party. Now things are changing. (Getty Images)

Donald Trump, a New York-based tycoon, won the primary of the Republican Party. Now things are changing. (Getty Images)

Spare a moment of pity for the poor movers and shakers of the Grand Old Party. They are at their wits’ end as they watch one of America’s major parties being taken over by a crass, dissembling, boorish buffoon. CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria, bless his heart, has decided it’s time to call a spade a spade. He calls The Donald a bullshit artist.

It would actually be funny had it not been so scary. Donald J. Trump, the bombastic real estate tycoon who gives new depth to the word “shallow,” has romped his way to the Republican nomination, leaving in his wake the campaigns of his contestants in utter ruins. This includes a shock-and-awe campaign into which untold hundreds of millions disappeared and which sank like a lead balloon (Jeb! Bush), a desperate attempt to please and charm and wheedle by a much-ballyhooed Boy Wonder (Marco Rubio), and a vituperative, shrill wrathful campaign wrapped in oleaginous sanctimony of an allegedly super-brilliant Harvard Law School graduate (Here’s looking at you Ted Cruz. See ya later!)

It appeared that nothing could stop Donald J. Trump.

His campaign remained impervious to consistent and shameless mendacity from day 1. (His campaign launch had people who were paid to be there to inflate the crowd, his egregious remarks about Mexico sending rapists was patently false. Much later at his resort in Florida, he tried to bamboozle reporters by having steaks brought in – with the labels still on! – to fake evidence that his Trump Steaks were more than a figment of his imagination. And the list goes on and on.)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is joined by her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a rally a day after accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for president at Temple University, July 29, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is joined by her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a rally a day after accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president at Temple University, July 29, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

He continued to win despite his appallingly ugly attacks on anybody he didn’t like. He belittled Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s incarceration as a war of prisoner, made an atrociously lurid remark about Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly (“Blood coming from her whatever.”), mocked a disabled reporter from The New York Times.

Senators with decades of experience, two-term governors – all fell by the wayside. An entire issue of the respected conservative periodical National Review, full of blistering critiques by conservative analysts and pundits, came to naught.

Supporters cheer in front of an oversize playing card with an image of Hillary Clinton during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the South Point Hotel & Casino on Feb. 22, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Supporters cheer in front of an oversize playing card with an image of Hillary Clinton during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the South Point Hotel & Casino on Feb. 22, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Just when you thought nothing could stop the dissembling tycoon, someone took him on. And made The Donald blink.

Well, not literally, of course. Donald Trump is impervious to the finer humane attributes – he is incapable of shame, remorse, modesty. He remained true to character and did what he is good at – He hit back when attacked.

But somehow, for a few memorable minutes, the eyes of Americans were removed from the campaign-as-daytime-soap of The Donald and fixed on the David who would make a telling attack on the Goliath of today’s U.S. media – Donald J. Trump.

And here’s the beauty of it – it was not some big talking big shot.

It was a simple, unassuming, middle-aged father, still grieving the death of his son, with his wife standing in support beside him, who soon had the entire nation spellbound with his deeply-felt, poignant critique of The Donald.

You have to hand it to Khizr Khan, a Pakistani American attorney and the father of Capt. Humayun Khan, who lies buried in Arlington Cemetery after he died in Iraq. Humayun was killed because he went to check out for explosive devices to ensure the safety of troops under his command.

Khizr is what’s called a Gold Star parent in this country. Regardless of political persuasion, Americans hold parents of people who died for the country in particularly high esteem. For good reason.

If laying down one’s life for the nation can be one of the greatest sacrifices for the country, imagine what it must be like for parents who have to live through it.

Khizr Khan was eloquent about it on that day as the nation stood transfixed.

And you couldn’t imagine a greater contrast with the orange-haired tycoon who breathes fire as he speaks about how he is going the make this country great again.

Khizr was every bit as passionate, but he also showed you can be passionate and patriotic, and at the same time be dignified. As he challenged Trump by dramatically bringing out of his pocket a copy of the U.S. constitution, somehow his words carried a great deal of weight, suffused as it was with the inestimable sadness of having given up a son for what was passionately his country. too.

It resonated with most Americans. How can one even begin to imagine the pain of parents who have lost a son in his prime? Where there were dreams of a son going on to build a successful career, perhaps settling down, with grandkids brightening up the sunset years, now all that was left was a grave in Arlington, Virginia.

I will be frank, I teared up when I heard Khizr making these simple remarks:

“We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams…

“Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America.’”

And then, Khizr added a poignant, powerful remark reiterating the rich diversity while handing Trump a devastating rhetorical blow.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Moore/Getty Images)

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khizr asked Trump. “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.

“You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

“We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together.”

When Khizr lashes out, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” it carries enormous authority, as it comes from a grieving father who will have to live for the rest of his life with the terrible knowledge of the loss of a son at the prime of life.

The YouTube video of Khizr’s short speech went viral, and there is virtual unanimity in the U.S. media that this was easily the most powerful moment in this year’s presidential campaign.

That is not to say that The Donald wilted. Perish the thought. With his customary callousness – both regarding etiquette and truth – he made slurs about Ghazala, speculating Humayun’s mother was under some sort of Muslim sanction. (Bad move. Ghazala went on TV and proved that The Donald was not only a liar, but also a jerk.)

All of this has been a bit of a publicity bonanza for the Democrats and their nominee Hillary Clinton, and they are making the most of it.

But then, they have every right to it. The Democratic Party may not be perfect, but it paid an enormous electoral price – it lost the South – but it stayed true to its conscience and has remained a far more welcoming home for all kinds of minorities – African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, LGBTQ folks.

Now to be sure, it would be grossly unfair to tar the entire Republican Party with the race-baiting of Trump. Nonetheless, the disquieting fact remains that the GOP made a Faustian bargain during the Civil Rights battle of the 1960s.

This has turned to be a Pyrrhic victory, because the party has become more and more white, and now a substantial part of its constituency is hanging around it like a millstone. Immediately after the loss in the 2012 presidential elections, the GOP did an “autopsy” where party elders strongly suggested policies and measures to move the party more in tune with the growing Hispanic community and millennials.

Well, good luck with that.

The other point that needs to be borne in mind is that the demographic cohort that forms the key support of Trump – non-college educated whites – are a group in real economic pain. Their world has fallen apart as well-paying non-skilled jobs have disappeared, and the powerbrokers of both the Democratic and Republican parties have been largely apathetic to their misery as they continue to be beholden to “the billionaires and millionaires,” as the raging socialist from Vermont, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has put it.

As America continues to struggle to move towards a more inclusive, diverse and equitable society that offers a fair shake to all its citizens – Khizr Khan’s clash with The Donald is just a single battle in a much broader war.

Victory in that battle was sweet, to be sure. But the war continues – and the challenges remain formidable.

America, as President Obama likes to say, is a work in progress.