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  • Karl Thunemann

Karl's Keyboard #18

Virtual or Not, Let’s Make this MLK Day Count

The confluence of three events could make this year’s celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. unusually memorable.

First, we have the departure of Donald Trump from the White House. He will leave, whether under his own power or with federal officials frog-marching him out the door as he howls once more that he was robbed.

Second, we will see the inauguration of President Joe Biden, promising to restore the values embodied in Dr. King that were so befouled by the Trump administration. And this event is shadowed for grave rumors of attacks on the Inauguration itself and demonstrations—or worse—at every state capitol.

Third, the new Senate will take up a second impeachment charged passed by the House of Representatives in the waning of the Trump quadrennium. The Senate could bar Trump from ever again holding elected office.

Of course some parts of this are more certain than others. Trump could still resign. The Cabinet could invoke the 25th Amendment. Or maybe he could flee the country, seeking asylum from a friendly fellow autocrat who will allow him to conduct his government-in-exile from a small, remote island.

We should be thinking more of Dr. King’s legacy than the one to be left by Trump, King’s life was cut short just as he broadened his vision beyond civil rights to challenge whether the nation’s conduct was at odds with the ideals of its founding. Let’s listen carefully, then for we can still take lessons from Dr. King.

Is it time yet to talk about Trump’s legacy? Consider his ludicrous claim to have done more for Black people than any president since Lincoln. In one respect, he did nothing. His obvious sympathy for white privilege was transparent from the outset, and his cultivation of racism, sexism and cruelty toward minority ethnic groups was an outrageous flouting of the putative national motto, e pluribus unum.

But can we make a case that in his own grotesque way Trump did do something that will lead ultimately to bringing greater social Justice? Once the direction of his presidency was established, the national media were forced to turn to experts who could explain the stakes. They could tell us how bigotry works, and why it now reared its head in full effrontery. Suddenly, there was a parapet for them: On op-ed pages, the evening news and the cable news and commentary outlets with their insatiable need for fresh material. It has been so gratifying, in the face of Trump’s white-power juggernaut, to see the ranks of incredibly well-informed speakers who called him out. He had no answer beyond snide innuendos.

Now it’s not as if Trump’s election in 2016 created this formidable opposing force. Its members have been out there for at least 50 or 60 years, publishing, speaking, filling positions in academia, think tanks, social-change organizations. Their appearance on the national stage made it possible, even mandatory, for Joe Biden to promise us a Cabinet that “looks like America.” Finally.

This shift has even shown up in small ways, such as in commercials. Have you noticed how many ads in the national media feature people of color, showing us how to live? In ads, inter-racial couples seem almost commonplace. I say, let’s inject this tenor into everyday life. And perhaps I think this because way back in the Sixties when my wife and I married, our union was regarded as mixed. Think about it: A Brooklyn-born girl, child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and a white suburban boy who was raised a Methodist. Ah, to think we might be regarded as forerunners!

I find this bit of writing compelling. I too write for myself, but not as purely as Mary does. And –though I think of myself as having a sizable vocabulary, when I read Mary’s work I have to keep a screen open to a dictionary as I am sure to encounter a few unfamiliar words. I have added a couple of footnotes about topics that were new to me.

Two from John Scarborough:

The Big Huzzah

Here is a poem about silence that makes you wonder where it has gone. Or can it be regained?

Til next time …

Try sending loving-kindness to all who have been affected by the life of Martin Luther King Jr.


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