I never expected to share a ride with former vice president Dick Cheney, of all people.
But here we are, on the same strange carousel of condemnation.
After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California that claimed 14 lives last week, I felt the familiar revulsion, anger and heartache that the rest of the nation endures after such an attack. When the attack was linked to a self-identified Muslim married couple, I felt worse that these killers had allegedly twisted religious beliefs to commit barbaric acts of violence.
Islamic clerics have issued fatwas against terrorism for years. Local Muslim communities and national Islamic organizations relentlessly speak publicly and condemn crimes committed by anyone claiming to be Muslim -- terrorists who would just as easily kill me or any other American Muslim family in an indiscriminate attack.
I've been part of this chorus of condemnation, although I'm not sure who I'm trying to sway. Potential ISIS recruits? They could care less what any sane person thinks of them. Bigots who hate all Muslims? They wouldn't believe me anyway.
It's strange to think civil servants, religious leaders, scholars and ordinary citizens would need to say something as obvious as "murder is wrong, and terrorists don't share our beliefs." But maybe in these times, when significant segments of the population deny facts, and aspiring political leaders lie without compunction, it's necessary to state the obvious.
"To remain silent -- I don't think that's a viable alternative, especially when the New York Post front page screams 'Muslim Killers,'" as it did after the San Bernardino shootings, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in an interview with the AP.
Perhaps Cheney also felt a little ridiculous having to point out that Donald Trump's recent proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the country is wrong and doesn't reflect American beliefs. "I think this whole notion that somehow we need to say 'no more Muslims' and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history," Cheney said.
And this is coming from a guy who has a penchant for going to war on sketchy intelligence.
There are, of course, steps beyond condemnation that Cheney and I can take against a lunatic fringe group that doesn't represent our values or beliefs.
I donated some money toward the crowd-funded initiative "Muslims United for San Bernardino," a month-long effort to help victims' families that has raised more than $80,000 in the first five days. Maybe Cheney can throw in a few bucks toward Republican efforts to denounce Trump's anti-American proposals.
If I hear anyone questioning whether these two shooters were actually tied to radical jihadists, I speak up about all the various agencies saying it's a likely scenario. I argue for evidence and logic, and against conspiracy theories. Perhaps Cheney can also speak up in private circles where he hears fascism-creep, and not just against the most extreme and dangerous things Trump says.
I make an effort to involve my children in service projects led by Christian churches and attend Jewish celebrations hosted by our friends. We invite people of all faiths, and those who are agnostic or atheist, into our home regularly. I'd welcome Cheney to visit the volunteer-run clinic staffed by Muslim American doctors in St. Louis providing free health care to whomever walks in the door.
I don't want another person to be recruited by the sick, delusional and depraved cult of ISIS. I'm positive Cheney doesn't want any American radicalized by hate speech to kill people at a Planned Parenthood clinic or in an African-American church. I'm sure we both want our country to do a better job keeping guns and stockpiles of weapons away from mentally unstable and dangerous people. At the same time, the government must also do a better job gathering and sharing intelligence about such people.
When we join together against the threats facing us, our united responses reveal our strength to our enemies.
Our actions speak far louder than our condemnations.