Donald Trump and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
Here’s a bittersweet irony: my book Donald Trump in 100 Facts was released in the UK on the US holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Just days ago, Trump was reported to have used one or another similar insult to describe Haiti and African nations.
Donald Trump in 100 Facts He Doesn’t Discuss
My book on Trump, written somewhat tongue-in-cheek in line with the rest of Amberley Books‘ 100 Facts series, was an attempt on my part to identify actual facts about the man. I didn’t research rumors or suppositions that had yet to be proven or disproven. Instead, I looked for verifiable items I hoped would provide more solid insights into the man. I didn’t rely too much on his tweets and pretty much ignored outbursts reported from within the walls of the Oval Office. After all, we were advised throughout 2017 that we shouldn’t take what Trump tweets or says too seriously.
That left out words from Trump’s own mouth although I did look at a few of his books to note where he seemed to go out of his way to mislead. The most egregious, I think, comes from his first book (and I might add, a “yoog” best-seller) The Art of the Deal. Here, he repeated the family fabrication created by his father Fred Trump Sr during the Second World War that the Trumps, who hail from Germany, were Swedes. (Fred worried how his Jewish tenants would react if they were to learn of his own father’s German birth, as I discuss in Fact #19.)
Later, Donald participated in a documentary of his father’s hometown, Kings of Kallstadt (mentioned in Fact #16), where viewers are introduced to a cousin who serves as the family historian. By then, of course, Trump was no longer hiding his ancestry. His daughter had converted to Judaism upon her marriage to billionaire boy Jared Kushner. Speaking to a group of Jewish Republicans in 2015, he attempted to link himself to them: he was “a negotiator, like you folks” (Fact #38).
Racism Comes From Within And Can Be Disarmed
Is Trump a racist? I honestly believe he is and that he’s ok with it.
That said, I also believe that most people harbor some racism inside, whether it’s racial, ethnic, even geographic. I certainly know I struggle with this and I was not raised in an outwardly racist environment. Sure, there was pushback against any discussion to integrate the nearly all-white public schools in my hometown with the majority black schools the next town over. But from my point of view, and I was routinely criticized for being “too sensitive” and “too serious,” the few nonwhite kids at school weren’t singled out because of who they were. They were classified like the rest of us: jocks, AP class material, drama/artsy, etc. But again, that’s my point of view. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else.
I’ve worked my entire adult life to catch myself when I realize I’ve seen, heard, or read something that sets off internal alarms that veer toward racist thoughts. I believe most Americans conscientiously work to correct these near-instincts. I say “near,” because racism is learned: at school, at home, on the job, while looking for a job. Certainly, there are circles of “deplorables” who encourage racism and insist it is an instinct, even a protective one. I reject that notion. If we are indeed the creation of a God, higher power, or cosmic conception, we are, as my friend John Kiriakou says, better than this. We are meant to evolve intellectually as well as physically.
Donald Trump has not done so. He explicitly rejects any attempt at self-improvement, believing he is already as close to perfect as one can get. (He may even believe he is perfect!) There is no off switch on The Donald, or an internal editorial board. He “tells it like it is,” people said early in the Presidential campaign. Which we learned means he ignores whatever self-restraint he may have once had and let loose the demons most Americans were working to overcome or at least contain in public. It’s OK, he told a violent minority, to be racist. He even tried to equate neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia with nonviolent counter-protestors, one of whom was run over and killed by a so-called “alt-right” enthusiast.
I Tried, And Failed, To Find Much Good About Trump
The more I researched and uncovered, the more alarmed I became and I was already pretty high-strung over the concept of President Trump. I made a conscientious attempt to identify a certain number of “positive” facts and fell short of my goal. There just aren’t many such instances to report on the man.
For example, I recalled hearing back in the 1980s that Trump was paying for medical treatment for the young AIDS patient Ryan White. Upon researching this, I found several interviews with White’s mother denying this and a concurring rumor that Trump also offered his private jet to speed White to whatever treatment center he needed to access (Fact #54). I ended up writing about how Trump was sympathetic to AIDS patients at a time when much of the nation was thrown into hysterics—certainly a positive fact—but I wonder how open-hearted he would be today if HIV/AIDS had emerged in, say, 2015.
In 2014, he tweeted:
“The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!”
It’s OK to do the right thing but be prepared to suffer the consequences. How unlike Dr. King, who traveled far and wide to lead marches, speak out, and risk arrest (and he was arrested many times) and of course made the ultimate sacrifice—along with countless others like Medgar Evers, Rev. George Lee, Herbert Lee, Rev. Bruce Klunder, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and far too many more.
Arizona Voters Rejected, Then Approved MLK Day
I’ve known for years that Arizona refused to observe the MLK holiday. What I didn’t know until today is that citizens forced two referenda on the issue.
The holiday itself was established in 1983 as a Federal holiday effective 1986. States, including Arizona, went on to approve it. But in 1987 a new governor, the infamous Evan Mecham, rescinded it saying his predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, did not have the authority to declare a state holiday. The state legislature couldn’t agree on whether to re-establish the holiday.
Citizens stepped in to voice their opinions, as Kaila White reminds us (or in my case, educates us) in her article that appeared in The Arizona Republic on MLK Day 2018. 15,000 Arizonans marched outside the Statehouse on MLK Day in 1988, a few months before Mecham was impeached for campaign finance violations (he was later acquitted of criminal charges).
In 1990, the question to observe MLK Day was put to the voters, who overwhelmingly rejected it. Voters got a second chance in 1992 and approved the holiday by a comfortable 37% margin. Arizona is the only state to approve the holiday via a voter referendum.
I like to think that in the end, goodness wins out, or as Abraham Lincoln put it, the “better angels of our nature” take over.