John Colson: What would MLK think about today’s news?
Hit & Run
Jan. 21, as we all know (or should know) was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day each year when we recall and celebrate one of the greatest advocates for peace, racial equality and economic justice that this nation ever produced.
After awakening in the dark, as usual, I lay there contemplating the day ahead and I began to wonder what MLK, who was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, might think of what is happening in this country right now.
One thing is certain, he would not have voted for Donald J. Trump to take over the job of leader of the free world, and not only because Trump has chosen racism and divisiveness as central themes of his administration, in direct opposition to the beliefs that King held deeply.
To be sure, King would have been outraged from the moment that Trump announced his candidacy and immediately followed it up with a declaration that Mexicans trying to get into the U.S. are nothing but rapists, thugs and killers.
Not so sure if King’s funny bone would be sufficiently buffed up to write an entire new speech parodying what might have been his most famous line, which would begin with the declaration, “I have a nightmare, and its name is Donald Trump.”
King would have been 90 on Monday, after all, and there is some evidence that our sense of humor tends to get a little bitter and cynical as the years roll by.
Plus, King would undoubtedly have gone apoplectic over Trump’s campaign to rip families apart at the U.S./Mexico line, so he might not have had the bandwidth for humor of any kind involving Trump.
Regarding the wall, I saw an interesting video clip of MLK standing next to the Berlin Wall in 1964, responding to an inquisitive reporter that he had never seen anything quite as horrible as the wall and all that the wall represented. He noted that the Berlin Wall represents a wish to separate people rather than bring them together, adding that people on either side of a wall are still God’s children, and that no wall can change that.
Fast forward to today, a few days after Trump tried to leverage money for his border wall by promising to give the 800,000 or so Dreamers (people brought to the United States illegally as kids and whom Trump has been treating as a political football for about a year) three years of protection from deportation.
After that three-year grace period, of course, it would be anybody’s bet as to what the Dreamers’ fates might be. It might depend most on whether Trump is re-elected in 2020 or is replaced by someone who has an actual heart beating in their chest.
I can imagine that King would have been as understanding, as compassionate and as encouraging as he possibly could toward the man in the Oval Office, at least in his public pronouncements, and might even have advised the world to take what it could get from this serial liar and bigot. Privately, he likely would have had other things to say about our president, perhaps things we couldn’t have printed in a family newspaper, but we’ll never know.
King also might well have gone public with condemnation of the border wall, which is designed to keep people out of the United States, while the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in East Germany.
This train of thought leads to an interesting follow-up — suppose the Trump Wall (it undoubtedly will bear his name in big, golden letters) is not really meant to keep Mexicans and others out, but to keep Americans in after Trump reveals his intention to be named president for life (Trump has already said he was interested in this idea).
Continuing with our “What would Martin think?” premise, I can imagine King would not have been surprised to hear Trump muse about being given a lifetime job in the White House. King is well aware of the efforts by white southern gentlemen to perpetuate the slave economy that propped up the plantation lifestyle.
And while Trump is not from the South originally, he has made Florida his go-to vacation destination, and that might not be just because it’s warm down there. His affinity for racist thinking is now well-known, and why would he not want to be in the same neighborhood where his true peers are?
In any event, I think we can take it as given that MLK would not be happy about the current state of affairs in the good old U.S. of A.
But he also would not have backed away from trying to make things better, just as he did not when he was a black preacher in the white South back in the 1950s.
That’s the place that I generally go to on MLK Day, by the way. I think about how King lived and died, and I take it as gospel that he would have been on the front lines against Trumpism, Republicanism, corporate capitalism and all the other “isms” that are leading the world in a bad direction right now.
And I like to think I would be there with him.
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