[Updated today, 9.12.2016, in light of recent reports about the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Alt-Right folks supporting Trump.]
“Love is understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. When it becomes a great and powerful love, it becomes a demanding love which demands justice. It becomes a love which says in substance, ‘You are your brother’s keeper. You have a moral responsibility to lead him away from his evil ways. I think this is the kind of love ethic, I think this is the kind of attitude, that will help us rise from dark yesterdays to bright and noble tomorrows.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Penn State University, January 21, 1965
Is Donald Trump’s launch into the forefront of American politics the chance for decent people to do what needs to be done? Is this our chance to face our shadow selves, look him and her in the eyes, name it our anger and shame, and then bring it into ourselves to heal the great divisive wounds that are in all of us?
We are an angry people these days. There are roster sheets and analyses out the wazoo showing us how upset and alienated people are, like “The Geography of Trumpism” from The New York Times. Demographic and economic shifts have undermined high school graduate working class white America-identifying former George Wallace supporters for decades. Joe the plumber is being left behind and he has no recourse on his own. At the same time, we’ve deepened institutional racism, structural inequality, and created an entire media empire that shames women, murders blacks, segregates Hispanics, and blames Muslims for all of the world’s ills. The angry whites who are being left behind in a sea of change have been scapegoating minorities for years and now they have a leader speaking their suspicions.
And their suspicions are loaded with conspiracies. From birtherism to the New World Order, from nightmares of a green communist takeover by watermelons to rapist Mexican gangs, these folks are grasping for anyone and anything to keep them afloat.
They need something. They need us. While some of their resentment might be grounded in things worth resenting, their reactions must be fought against and fought hard. We have to stop brushing racism under the rug and stand with one another in real unity. Not the idle liberal do-g00dery of the last few decades, but the fierce love within us that moves our culture from word to action to policy. It is time to rebuild the road to justice.
Is Donald Trump’s ascendancy the opportunity for us to embrace our whole selves and move collectively to a higher level? Rahm Emanuel said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
Is this our lunch counter sit-in moment?
Is this our freedom summer?
Will many of us have to stand or sit together and face hostility for doing what we know is right?
Consider this an APB. If Donald Trump comes to my region (I’m in central Pennsylvania at Penn State University) I will be there in silent non-violent protest with anyone who will join me. I’ve done it before–not with Trump but against Tom Corbett…a story for another time–and I will do it again. But only quietly and peacefully. Would you join me?
Now writing this and responding yes would probably put you and me on a watch list of some kind. Would you join me?
I hope that list gets so big that the logic of resistance to racism, hate speech, and veiled and unveiled threats becomes completely untenable. Would you join me?
That list needs to be every single one of us. Would you join me?
If you believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a nation of free and equal people, then I think you need to get ready to be on that list. If you believe that the project of democracy and freedom are greater than the fear of humiliation and are greater than the the ego of a race-baiting, prurient, barely-controlled narcissist then you need to be ready to be on that list. If you know, deep down, that using the rhetoric of cattle cars and swastikas and cuckservatives is actually the language of fear, retreat, and disgust then you are ready to be on that list. If you know in your heart that Edmund Burke was right when he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Can you do nothing?
Would you join us?