Prior to the November 2008 general election, 31 members of the local American Arab community and I created a document in support of our choice for 19th District judge, Candyce Abbatt. In that document, we stated, without naming names, that the political organization, of which the publisher of this newspaper also serves as president, does not serve as the sole voice of the American Arab community in Dearborn and environs.
Attorney Michael Berry
We made no mention of him in our document supporting Abbatt, yet he chose to blatantly cite me 11 times for doing some sort of underhanded manipulation of votes. Considering our long friendship, during which time I have held him in high esteem, his action boggles my mind.
The final vote was so close that had it been a horse race, the winner — backed by the publisher, his newspaper, and his organization of 13 — barely won by a nose. The candidate, which 31 community members, I, and our campaign document (small compared to an established community newspaper) supported, barely lost by a nose. In fact, our candidate beat the publisher’s candidate in his own backyard by more than 400 votes. To further reflect the closeness of this race, I am advised that Candyce Abbatt has filed for a recount.
This provokes one point: no individual, no newspaper, no organization, no corporation speaks solely for the American Arab community or controls the votes of this ethnic group. American Arabs, like members of any other ethnic group, vote independent of outside influence.
The last I knew, despite erosion of certain liberties during this current presidential administration, we operate under the United States Constitution, which gives me the right — as it does the publisher — to endorse a candidate and to publicly and privately support that candidate. I was merely exercising my right, even in voicing concern that the organization, of which the publisher is president, does not speak for the entire community. The close vote, as I said, proves that.
As a 60-year-plus veteran of politics in the Dearborn area, I have become immune to remarks such as those published by the publisher after the election. I therefore feel it was a travesty for the publisher, who knows my background very well, to charge me with underhanded tactics with regards to sharing my opinion with 31 others in support of a particular candidate. This is what elections are all about, and, yes, sometimes emotions run high and words get twisted or taken out of context.
After publication of the publisher’s article on November 8, 2008, I was overwhelmed by all the phone calls and visitors to my home indicating their total agreement with my actions. While I want no further discussion of these events, I refute much of what the publisher wrote in his article.
Yet, at his behest, this publisher and I met on November 19, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn. At that time, I stated my belief that no single person or group or other entity had the right to claim representation of all Arabs in this community. In fact, not all members of his own organization support that organization’s candidate.
I simply exercised my right to support my candidate of choice. That’s the only point I tried to make; unfortunately, it was misconstrued by the publisher. Still, I forgive him.
Instead of letting anger rule our hearts and minds, let us rule anger by rising above it and moving forward one step at a time, one day at a time. You will be surprised at the effect it would generate toward unity in our community.