What a difference four days make – MLK's holiday, followed by the Trumpocalypse
-by Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund
Election loser by nearly three million votes Donald J. Trump, his Team Oligarchy Cabinet (17 of his appointees have more wealth than 1/3 of the US population) and the forces he has unleashed pose a grave danger to women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, working-class and low-income people, our youth, the environment, our country, and the world.
Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to stop our country from descending into all-out tyranny and fascism. This is no Mission Impossible – like the heroes of the television show and movies of that name, we will succeed. We shall not be moved. We shall overcome, joyfully, and together build what The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Beloved Community.
The contrast of the celebration of a great American’s birthday and the Inauguration of a narcissistic egomaniacal sociopath – just listen to him, he is a very sick man – could not be more stark, and more opportune.
While we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a mere four days before Trump’s Inauguration, it is fitting to look ahead to the fiftieth anniversary of one of MLK’s greatest speeches, called Beyond Vietnam, delivered April 4, 1967, one year to the day before his murder, at the Riverside Church in New York City. While it is justly remembered for his stirring rebuke of the Vietnam War, he also decried our spiral into a “thing-oriented society” (how timely with the thing-obsessed Trump now occupying the White House), and enumerated the Triple Evils or Evil Triplets of racism, militarism and extreme materialism bedeviling the United States.
Unfortunately we have made insufficient progress in overcoming those triple evils in fifty years, but King’s brilliant and concise framework can guide us toward peace and social justice if we link our struggles to end racism, militarism and economic exploitation.
Of the three Evil Triplets, militarism may be the one the US public is most in denial about. While we are nowhere near where we need to be in overcoming the other two, US militarism goes nearly unquestioned. It is seemingly the sea we swim in, the very air we breathe.
The United States has been at war for all but about 20 years of our country’s existence, dating to 1776. As even President Obama has observed, we spend as much on the military as the next seven countries combined, and almost 1/3 of the world’s expenditure for war and preparations for war. 57% of annual federal discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon, yet it always cries for more, even as our veterans get more lip service than actual medical and psychological care. The US has an estimated 900 foreign military bases around the world, the most fearsome arsenal of nuclear weapons (and the Obama Administration initiated a 30-year, one trillion dollar complete overhaul of our entire nuclear weapons complex), the ability to kill anyone in the world at any time with unarmed drones or cruise missiles.
When one looks at the total social cost of our wars, factoring in not only war expenditures and direct veterans’ benefits but also the resulting homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, spousal and child abuse and other socially externallzed costs, we only recently crested (and are continuing to pay declining costs) the peak cost of the Korean War. Again, the Korean War.
The Pentagon gives away excess military equipment to police forces around the country, which then have an incentive to use them or lose them, exacerbating and escalating police tactics in cities that need jobs, schools and racial healing, not military grade weapons menacing their streets.
To be fair, Trump should be supported in his criticisms of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter, the most expensive weapons program ever, so far anyway, and Boeing’ s exorbitant replacement for Air Force One, and if he is really serious about improving relations with Russia and possibly North Korea, that would be great. However, his other pronouncements on nuclear weapons (“let it be an arms race”) and jacking up Pentagon spending are alarming.
Moreover, US and Western post-Cold War triumphalism and our dominant economic, military, political and geo-strategic position compared to Russia make a new detente with Moscow very unlikely. The US war machine has too much invested, with eastward expansion of NATO, missile “defenses” (they are really part of an offensive, first strike nuclear posture) aimed at Russia, encirclement and isolation of Russia and China and other aspects of military dominance, in keeping Russia in a submissive stance to back off just because Trump hearts Putin, for whatever reasons. (And none of the above is meant as apologia for Russia’s militarism and authoritarianism.)
This grim picture must not lead us to despair, but rather to help us understand the dangers we must navigate in our joyful mission to stop fascism, racism, Islamophobia, misogyny and endless war.
Trump and company will not be omnipotent, far from it. Incompetence, incoherence, scandal, conflict of interest and just plain stupidity will be rampant. They will give us dozens of opportunities for ridicule (Rick Perry for Energy Secretary? The department he couldn’t remember he wanted to eliminate? That controls our nuclear weapons arsenal? Is Trump pulling our leg here?) and resistance and moreover, to go on the offensive.
Nonviolence, as King, Mohandes Gandhi, Boddsha Khan, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, Desmond Tutu, John Lewis and others preached and practiced (and people around the world still do today, as nonviolence is more effective than violence at winning peoples’ struggles), requires welcoming Trump supporters back into the fold of the responsible citizenry if and when they are ready, but it’s not necessary to win, and we don’t have time to waste waiting for them to see the light. Too many people, and our planet, are under siege. As Senator Bernie Sanders, whose people- and planet-oriented campaign empowered and energized so many people in this country, noted, only about 55% of eligible voters voted, and only about 1% were politically active on the progressive side. If we can get more of our neighbors to be more active (Sanders said 5 or 6% but it may not even take that) on behalf of human progress (that’s what “progressives,” and really most people, want), we can have a real, just, peaceful revolution.
Viewed through an even broader lens, when one looks to the country as a whole, we who want progress, not those espousing the phony, regressive “Make America Great Again” claptrap, are the majority. Trump is a very small man, and he actually has weak, thin support, only a 32% approval rating according to yesterday’s CBS News poll.
So we need to get to work, or rather continue the already impressive fightback against Trumpism. We can oppose, expose, stonewall, block, and organize. A good primer is “Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda” written by former Congressional staffers. As the title suggests, we cannot allow Trump and his cronies to divide us along racial, gender, religious, class or other lines. Solidarity in our struggles and stalwart, adamant resistance to Trump’s agenda is crucial.
As noted in “Indivisible,” actually passing progressive legislation with a Trump White House and Republican-controlled Congress is an almost total non-starter for now, so blocking the bad stuff is the priority, not proposing ideal alternatives that will get no political traction in Washington. But Members of Congress don’t get a pass. We need to tell them clearly, they are with the Trump, or with the people. If the former, they need to be hounded ceaselessly and nonviolently, at their offices, town hall meetings, their homes, the grocery store, wherever they are. If the latter, they need to be emboldened to speak out, obstruct, join us on the picket lines, commit joyful nonviolent civil resistance with us, and denounce Trump’s tyranny in any and all venues they have at their disposal as elected officials.
However, putting forward a positive agenda, at the local level, is not only necessary, but an excellent corrective to the dysfunctional morass that is Washington, DC. While Republicans control the majority of state houses and governorships, Democrats run 22 of the country’s 25 largest cities and can make their own social, environmental and even foreign policies. Take the Republicans at their word on federalism and the worthlessness of Washington — enact good, just, people-centered and peaceful policies at the local level. Build Beloved Communities emphasizing inclusion, understanding, solidarity, harmony, justice, nonviolence and peace.
Also, let us vote with our wallets. Boycott companies that have anything to do with supporting the Trump administration — his hotels and other properties and businesses, daughter Ivanka’s underwear or whatever else she is hawking, Yuengling Beer (painful for this Pennsylvania boy to ditch America’s oldest brewery but they supported Trump, so you won’t find it in my fridge anymore), Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. (the restaurants of Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, who doesn’t believe in having a minimum wage, and makes lousy food) and Exxon-Mobil (Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson’s evil, planet destroying, climate change denying, renewable energy ignoring company), to name just a few that are vulnerable to consumer boycotts.
In the wake of the Trumpocalypse, many progressives are understandably despairing at the state of our society. Despair is understandable, but only serves the interests of the fascists, the warmongers, the racists, the purveyors of fear, the oppressors of the people. As we grope to gain traction in a world seemingly gone mad, the Cherokee parable of the two wolves seems particularly useful at this time.
A grandfather told his grandson about a battle that rages inside everyone.
“The battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority. The other is Good – it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson, recognizing the same internal conflict within himself, asked “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather replied, “the one you feed.”*
Right now, I’m concerned too many progressives are too despondent at the election, allowing the dire wolf to dominate, which again is understandable. Yet, if we are to be effective in turning the tide against injustice, to create a peaceful and just beloved community, we must feed the good wolf. A lot. Many meals each day. What that means for each of us is different. Music, art, friendship, dancing, laughing, solidarity, fresh air, humbly feeling awe at the beauty of our planet, reflection and listening to the wisdom of others are all key for me. So is action, perhaps the most potent antidote to despair. This is especially important for us, and a real opportunity, because most people are not organizers. They need us to point the direction to meaningful, effective, difference-making action.
However, and I suppose this is a bit Yin and Yang, sorrow and anger at war, injustice and destruction of the planet are righteous and necessary. The dark wolf needs space to roam, to be understood, to be heard.
So, let us mostly feed the good wolf, but also use the dire wolf’s strength to just purpose. Dedicating ourselves to this essential struggle is the least we can do to honor Dr. King’s memory and example.