Monday, January 15, 2018

Honor Dr. King by Raising Your Voice

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, thousands of people will honor Dr. King by doing service in their community. My hometown of Philadelphia boasts of having the largest MLK Day of Service event in the country. This is a wonderful thing. I am pleased that so many will honor the great man's legacy in this way. 

There are other ways to honor Dr. King, of course. We can honor his legacy everyday by fighting to make the United States live up to its advertising: With Liberty and Justice for All. We can honor his legacy by the way we conduct our own lives, working daily to attain the ideal of an open and welcoming attitude toward all people, no matter our differences. And we also can honor his legacy by speaking up when we see injustice, hate, racism, and intolerance in our society. As the quote above says, we must not be silent about things that matter.

And so today, to honor Dr. King, I must decry in the strongest possible terms the vile, divisive, completely unacceptable rhetoric coming out of the mouth of the President of the United States. This cannot stand and failure to raise our voices against it will mean, as Dr. King suggests, "the life of our nation will begin to end."

Donald Trump is not our first racist president. We have a long history of racism in that office, from Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Jackson to Theodore Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson to Richard Nixon, but Trump has ridden his racism into office and doubled down on it in office as few others have and after the country has begun to recognize the damage it has done with 400 years of racism and has tried, haltingly for sure, to do something about it. Trump is cynically appealing to the most base instincts of his core supporters for his own aggrandizement and at great cost to the country.  True leaders appeal to people's better angels, asking us to be better, kinder, more open to others. That is the legacy of Dr. King, and, oh by the way, our previous president.

It is no surprise that Trump is racist. Fifty-years ago, he conspired with his father and other real estate moguls to exclude blacks from their housing developments. He rode to prominence politically by leading the birther movement against Barack Obama. He set his campaign crowds to cheering by calling Mexicans rapists and once in office, he praised white supremacists as "some good people."

So, we should not be surprised by his comments this week about "shithole countries" or his negative characterization of the people of Haiti, or his seeming preference for people from lily-white Norway. We should not be surprised, but we should also not be silent. So here is what I plan to do to raise my voice in protest today.
  • Publish this post
  • Call my Republican Senator Pat Toomey and my Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick to insist that they denounce Trump's racist comments,
  • Create five pro-unity, pro-humanity, anti-racism tweets to send out throughout the day and send them to @realDonaldTrump.
Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of Trump's racist statements has been the failure of Republicans to speak out and condemn them. Apparently, Senator Lindsay Graham confronted Trump on this at the meeting. Good for him. Where are the other voices of Republican leadership? In their absence, we must fill the void with our own voices. Qui tacet consentire videtur: He who is silent consents.