On the same day celebrating one of the greatest Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King, who said that we have a sacred obligation to refugees and immigrants, we are confronted with the words of a racist. Except this time, the racist is the President. I’m sure that in the next few days we will hear about how outrageous the comments were, or how the comments were “fake news”, or how the president didn’t really mean it that way. More of the chaos, rancor, anger and outrage we have come to expect from this Administration.
We all know what King stood for, what he said to eloquently with prophetic inspiration. We all understand that his vision of a democracy based on Christian principles of tolerance, love, and the obligation to the oppressed with poverty or injustice. We all know what Trump has said and what he stands for… The difference that strikes me this MLK Holiday is not the words or principles. The difference is in the effect of each man on those around him. As our Christian Evangelicals Conservatives are wont to say: “you will know him by his fruits”.
King inspired people with his actions that spoke of compassion, honesty, integrity and courage. He actually put his life on the line and when he did, he united people not in hatred of their opponents but in the goal of compassion for the victims. Although regularly threatened with death, or the loss of his freedom, he never defended himself as much as the goal. Although regularly confronted with opposition to his tactics such as non-violence by other leaders of the civil rights movement, he never attacked or exploited divisions. Instead always worked for unity. He remained humble and was never the first to speak or to volunteer to lead, even after he won the Nobel Prize.
King demonstrated the attributes of a true leader – words and actions that inspire others to be inspired and united, and they stand today in stark contrast to Trump. George Wallace once said that there was too much dignity in Washington and not enough anger. That was the quintessential belief of a populist, a racist populist at that.