Khamis: Can we elevate our campaigns?
Former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis is pictured in this file photo.

Now that the dust has settled on the primary election, I would like to implore all interested parties to elevate our campaigns and practice tolerance for immigrants in their campaign mailers.

Frankly, I am still unsettled by labor hit mailers the Mercury News called shameful and unwarranted. While many think I need thicker skin and this is politics as usual, as an immigrant I found these pieces—that blackened the whites of my eyes, discolored my outfits, insinuated that I spread COVID and that I did not “share our values”—to be xenophobic and hateful.

When my family and I immigrated to the United States to flee a civil war in Lebanon, I was often teased by others. Kids on the playground often accused me of being dirty and germ-filled much like the labor mailer which surrounded my face with a multitude of coronavirus orbs and claimed that I “make you sick.” When the U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon was bombed in 1982, I was beaten twice because children my age thought I did not believe in the same things they believed in, much like the mailer that claimed “he doesn’t share our values and is against everything we’re for.”

In fact, my family is terrified the divisiveness and lack of respect for the beliefs and opinions of others will lead us down the same path that took Lebanon into a civil war.

Frankly, I am also disturbed that people and organizations who denounced and successfully removed the leadership of the Silicon Valley Organization—now the San Jose Chamber of Commerce—for darkening the faces of other political leaders they opposed, have not stepped up to attack these clearly dishonest, misleading and xenophobic mailers.

As the head of the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission, I worked hard to increase understanding of various cultures and religious beliefs so that our community can build respect and tolerance for one another.

I and many other elected officials have chosen public service to improve our communities. It is true that I often have different solutions for problems we face. Why can’t we disagree without personal attacks? Send mailers on the votes we have taken, not fabricate lies to incite fear.

My fear is if we don’t elevate our campaigns, more people will be driven to hate. In the last few years the home of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was vandalized on two occasions, and in June the family of Councilmember Dev Davis was evacuated from their home to remove an explosive device at her door.

Let’s elevate, not denigrate. Let’s debate our different positions and not position each other as outsiders. Let’s elevate our campaigns.

Johnny Khamis is a former San Jose councilmember representing District 10. He now works as a public relations consultant for the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors and is running for District 1 county supervisor.

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