Four years and eight days ago, I read in the newspaper an astonishing story. A man in Texas, a white supremacist named Mark Stroman, had been executed the night before. (So far, so Texas.) But in the white supremacist’s final days, one of his victims, a Muslim immigrant named Raisuddin Bhuiyan, had been fighting to save the life of this man who shot him in the face in the feverish aftermath of 9/11.
I was intrigued and before long, totally hooked. I went on a journey of reporting this story and writing a book about it, “The True American,” that at its heart was about how my country was slowly dividing into two parallel societies — a republic of dreams, and a republic of fears.
After Raisuddin was shot, his life was in tatters. But he remained in America, fought hard and became whole again. And once he had managed to secure the American Dream for which he had come, he reached the conclusion that he had accessed that dream in a way that many native-born Americans could not. And he came to see that the man who shot him was on the other side of that line of fortune, born to a mother who told him she wished she’d aborted him, having cycled through the dismal schools and prisons that ruin so many young American men. And so Raisuddin, in the name of his faith and of his newfound American citizenship, forgave his erstwhile attacker — and then, remarkably, took the State of Texas and its governor to court, to try to prevent them from putting Stroman to death.