Two people I'm admiring this week

June 23, 2011

The most Christlike behavior
I've seen in the news in some time comes from a Muslim victim of a hate
crime:

Just 10 days after the attacks
of Sept. 11, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan was working at a gas station in Dallas when he
was shot in the face by a man named Mark Stroman.

Stroman was on a shooting
spree, targeting people who appeared to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.
Stroman is due to be executed July 20; Bhuiyan, the only survivor of the
attacks, is fighting to save his life.

Among other things, Bhuiyan is
working directly with Stroman's attorney, who is appealing the sentence.
Bhuiyan offers this to the reporter:

In
Islam it says that saving one human life is the same as saving the entire
mankind. Since I forgave him, all those principles encouraged me to go even
further, and stop his execution and save another human life.

This story reminds me that
I've been meaning for some time to acquire and sign a Declaration of Life card to carry in my
wallet, to express my opposition to the death penalty in the event that I'm
ever the victim of a violent crime (outside my home
state
).

While I was still
marveling at Bhuiyan's compassion and moral clarity, Jose Antonio Vargas
knocked me over with his courage. The accomplished young journalist took to the
New York Times magazine this week to out himself as an undocumented immigrant. He
learned of his status as a teenager and has managed to hide it ever since, with
the help of a small network of friends and allies. Now he's admitting the
truth--and accepting the uncertain consequences. Here's a striking passage:

[Coming
out as gay] caused turmoil with my grandparents. Lolo kicked me out of the
house for a few weeks. Though we eventually reconciled, I had disappointed him
on two fronts. First, as a Catholic, he considered homosexuality a sin and was
embarrassed about having "ang apo na
bakla
" ("a grandson who is gay"). Even worse, I was making matters more
difficult for myself, he said. I needed to marry an American woman in order to
gain a green card.

In Vargas's riveting
narrative, the fact that he's gay registers as just a detail. But it points to
marriage inequality's concrete effects on real people's lives. Our broken
immigration system has real-world victims as well, and by telling his story--at
considerable personal risk--Vargas aims to do something about it.

As Sarah Posner points out, Vargas's piece is an excellent
example of the power, articulated recently by Peter Laarman, of
pursuing social change by telling stories, not just having arguments.