Today, as the nation and the world pause to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., something sinister is happening across the globe and in America – symbolized in the person of President Donald J. Trump – that would make even the most ardent King enthusiasts (including this writer) shudder: anti-immigration populism is threatening global democracy in a manner reminiscent of Nazism in the twentieth-century.
We must return to the ethic of peace and justice for all people, as exemplified by the work of Dr. King.
Hard nationalist and xenophobic politicians across Europe are gaining popularity as sections of their society become afraid and angry over immigration. The Economist calls it the march of Europe’s ‘little Trumps’.
Donald J. Trump, though, is a new kid on the block when it comes to the brand of immigration populism we are witnessing across the globe.
Despite his racial pronouncements against Mexicans, Muslims and, most recently against “shit-hole” countries such as Haiti, El Salvador and the continent of Africa, Trump has only recently tapped into the same sinister thinking in America that has given rise to movements worldwide.
As far back as 2007, long before Trump became a candidate for president of the United States, poll results unearthed simmering, anti-immigration sentiment. For example, in 2007, Italians overwhelmingly said that immigration was a big problem in their country and those immigrants – both from the Middle East and North Africa and from Eastern European countries – were having a bad impact on Italy.
Today, it’s a good time to embrace King’s vision of the beloved community, a society based on justice, equal opportunity and the love of one’s fellow human beings. It was, for Dr. King, a society in which all are embraced and none discriminated against – including immigrants.
We know that Dr. King categorically invoked the truth that all humans ought to be treated with a sense of dignity and that he stood for a just cause, although those who support anti-immigration policies have also drafted his positions to support their ideologically-based activism.
In his sermon, The Good Samaritan, which he preached in 1966, Dr. King says, I choose to give my life for those who have been left out…This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way…If it means dying for them, I’m going that way.
The epicenter of xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance is, regrettably, the White House. Now peoples from all over the globe may take their cues from Donald J. Trump, leader of the so-called free world.
It’s important that we do two things as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. One, we move past his I Have a Dream speech and rediscover his more radical philosophies on the interconnectedness of humanity. This will force us to re-evaluate our position in relation to the rage festering in large pockets of the global population.
Two, we must use King’s platform to mount a counter-surgency to the vitriol and virulent anger that is spreading across the world – including the racially-antagonistic rhetoric directly threatening American ideals of democratic governance.
It’s a good time to be King.