The abiding dignity, upon which Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was found, makes Trump’s brand of racial politics exceedingly painful just to imagine.
By RA Monaco
On a day that honors the moral values and ideals of assassinated activist Dr. Martin Luther King, we are painfully reminded that America has elected to follow the colossal narcissism of a dog-whispering television personality. What the world must think of us, our record?
Vigilantly, we cannot ignore the grief of generations who’ve struggled for social change while following the path shown by Dr. King. As a national holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day embodies the inspirations and principles of what has always made America great—inclusion and diversity—the fabrics of King’s desegregation work.
Notably, ten years before the United States Congress first recognized Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday, the State of Illinois led the nation—at the urging of then state representative Harold Washington, later Mayor of Chicago—as the first state to legislate a holiday commemorating the enduring principles of an activist whose insights into our society have never been more critical.
Tragically, one finds in the rhetoric of Donald Trump and many of his Republican associates expressions of racism, disdain for women’s rights, unabashed support for the financial elite, and a “bomb them until the sand glows” eagerness toward violence, clearly at odds with Dr. King’s approach to social change and his ideals of pacifism and racial and economic equality. It’s become exceedingly painful to imagine Trump’s brand of racial politics attempting to exercise the moral authority to preside over this national holiday–Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Sadly, on a day set in tribute to Dr. King’s desegregation work, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi will continue to celebrate the birth of Robert E. Lee who, throughout the American Civil War and until his surrender, commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
The nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions—a modern day Jesse Helms—as Trump’s pick for Attorney General suggests a rolling back of our Civil Rights and vivid reminder of “Whites only” Woolworth lunch counters and segregation of public accommodations. The mere presence of Sen. Sessions in Trump’s inner circle is “a tragedy for American politics,” says Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Trump’s nomination of Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III, who is named after the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War—P.G.T. Beauregard—seems an intentional message. How else are Americans to interpret the nomination of Sen. Sessions who was already denied a federal judgeship in 1986 by a Senate committee, after hearing testimony from his colleagues that he had joked about the Ku Klux Klan and used the n-word?
Suggestively, Trump’s purpose seems intended to stoke the racial fires of our society while delivering an inaudible message that our struggles toward democracy and civil rights will not win out during his administration. The president-elect himself—as acting president of Trump Management—was, in fact, sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans—a violation of the Fair Housing Act. America, what could be clearer?
This week, US congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon considered by many as the moral conscience of the nation, spoke out against Sen. Sessions and challenged the legitimacy of Trump’s election win.
Since he first became a member of Congress three decades ago, the 76-year-old John Lewis who, in 1965 marched with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama has yet to miss an inauguration. However, the congressman from Georgia announced his decision to boycott the inauguration of Donald Trump telling NBC’s Meet the Press this week, “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”
As a performer, Trump’s prime-time firings and over the top tough-guy talk projected theater more than substance. Trump’s endorsement of torture, his taste for bullying protesters, and his unwillingness to denounce support from David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, made it clear that he was “a magnet for authoritarian desires.” Troubling, is that as Trump’s campaign gained support and it became clear that he would win the Republican nomination, his commentaries became more vulgar.
John Dean who has served as Counsel to the President of the United States predicts that Trump will violate his oath of office as president and somehow stiff the White House press corps. He argues that Donald Trump has four clear traits that distinguish him and others as authoritarian: “They are dominating; they oppose equality; they desire personal power; and they are amoral.”
In a fearful disregard for the abiding dignity upon which Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was found, we are reminded that Trump is the symbol of a frightened society that was seduced to choose the swagger of a vigilante strongman over the processes of collective sovereignty. America, what have you done?