Election Day Celebration: Christian, Jew, and Muslim

This is the post that got me to thinking of binary search, the subject of several recent posts.

I went to the polls early today and while there I met a family acquaintance. Her daughter and my youngest daughter Jen are close friends. She was there as a election-day montior, to make sure the election was fair. And as I left I realized I had witnessed an improbable event, one that should make all of us rush to vote every chance we can, so we can enjoy that special privilege enjoyed by too few people in the world, and one for which hundreds and hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have died to maintain our right to exercise that privilege.

Here are some questions.

Q: Do you live in a country that has elections?

A: Yes. I live in the U.S.A.

Reality: most people don’t live in countries that have elections.

Q: Are the elections fair? [1]

A: Yes, they are. At least for the most part. They are fair by world standards, though the fairness of the 2000 Presidential election is still a matter of dispute.

Reality: Even if people live in countries that have elections, few of those elections are fair. Witness Iran.

Q: How do you know they are fair?

A: We have a good record. Moreover, we allow everyday citizens to serve as election monitors, to observe that the election laws are obeyed.

Reality: Few countries have such a good record as ours, 2000 notwithstanding.

Q: Did you know any of the election workers?

A: Yes. One of them is the mother of a good friend of my daughter.

Reality: Most people wouldn’t expect to know one of the election workers, though I live in a relatively small town and I often recognize the people who volunteer to help on election day. For example, when I voted in the primary a couple of months ago, one of the workers was an O’Donnell, brother to the twins whose birthday that occurred today; I mentioned them in one of today’s posts.

Election workers are paid for the work, but the pay is nominal. They are really volunteers, and I thank them for their service.

This ends the twenty-question, binary search part. So let me go on to describe some details that I think apply to only a handful of countries in the world. We have the great good fortune to live in one of them.

Q: When did that mother’s daughter become a friend of my daughter?

A: During high school. They had many similar interests, and a friendship developed.

Q: Are they the same religion?

A: No. My daughter is Jewish. Her friend is Muslim.

Q: What kind of Jew is your daughter?

A: Reform.

Q: What kind of Muslim is your daughter’s friend?

A: I don’t know. I know she is very observant. She even started wearing a white garment that covers most of her body several years ago. I asked her mother the name today, since she was wearing a similar garment. She said it is called an “abaya.”

Q: And they are friends?

A: Very much so. They keep in touch regularly.

Q: What does your daughter want to do?

A: She is a Yale graduate. She majored in Spanish. She is now a graduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia. She wants to be a bilingual Speech Pathologist, in English and Spanish.

Q: What does your daughter’s friend want to do?

A: She wants to be a teacher. She wants to teach English. She went to SUNY Stony Brook. She just finished teaching for a year in Brooklyn. She’s now married, and is with her husband at Penn State, where he is going for his doctorate in Statistics. She’s even written an article about her year teaching. It’s just been published in the “English Journal.” [2]

Q: Let me get this right. Your daughter is a Jew. Your daughter’s friend is Muslim. They have been close friends for several years. Both daughters want to be educators, and one of them wants to get a job as a high-school English teacher, and moreover expects to be able to wear an abaya in the classroom? Are you nuts?

A: No. I’m just very happy I live in the U.S.A. Where else could this happen? That’s also why I take such great pleasure in exercising my right to vote.

Binary search, decimal search. Who cares? What a great and wonderful country we live in.

Just think about it: A young woman who is a devout Muslim has as her heart’s desire to become a high-school teacher of English, to educate our future citizens about the joys of their language. And she has the confidence that she can find a school district that will let her do his while wearing an abaya.

By the way, when I mentioned this post was coming to my daughter Jen, and that the title would be “Muslim and Jew,” she reminded me that one of her roommates also wants to become a teacher, although at the university level, and in history. She is Catholic, hence the three religions that are named in the title of this post.

Three wonderful young women, friends to each other. All want to become educators. Each has a different religion.

Thank God I live in the U.S.A.


1. Re fair elections, in one of his books Tom Friedman relates the following joke, I think it was about the former Syrian dictator Assad (The dead Assad. His son is also the current dictator of Syria, but he is still alive.). It’s about an election:

Sycophant: Beloved dictator. The election results are in. Everyone in the country voted for you except five people! Imagine that.

Dictator: Arrest those five people and shoot them.

2. You can find a link to the paper at National Council of Teachers of English. English Journal, Volume 96, Number 2, November 2006. The paper is titled “Speaking My Mind: Student Teaching at Ground Zero: One Muslim Woman’s Challenge” and was written by my daughter’s good friend, Zareen Niazi Atiyat. I tried to order a copy only to learn it was not available. I’m hoping that’s because many people have ordered a copy. If that’s not the case someone should provide the funding to make copies widely available. It’s a wonderful story.


  1. Jennifer Shields
    Posted November 7, 2006 at 20:57 | Permalink | Reply

    I’m the daughter and I think this is a wonderful piece and a wonderful country!

  2. Posted November 9, 2006 at 08:02 | Permalink | Reply

    Regarding the election – before you hurt your arm patting yourself and the nation on the back- the first Muslim representative in America, Keith Ellison, and the first representative to call themselves a socialist – Bernie Sanders. We can have no representation without representation. it would be nice to think both houses will become more diverse, as your daughter, her friend, and perhaps their kids grow up, so that they can better represent “the will of the people”. Lets hope this election marks a return to some kind of maturity as regards diversity and pluralism.

    Also bear in mind there are many countries in the middle east where it would have been commonplace, at least until recently, to have muslims, christians and jews all aspiring to be educators together. Iraq, sadly, was one of those countries. Today circumstances are rather different.

    America doesn’t have a lock on religious freedom – its a surprisingly widely held approach around the world. But i am very happy about the results of this election. One nation under gods perhaps, but certainly not under God.

  3. Posted April 9, 2008 at 16:16 | Permalink | Reply


    This is the brother of the Muslim friend 🙂 I stumbled across your blog as I searched my sister’s name on google (out of sheer boredom, after I googled my own name(!)). It’s nice to see your thoughts after meeting my mother at the polls, and if you actually do see this comment, it would be interesting to continue the conversation.

    Best wishes,


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