By David Myles Robinson
It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as I write this and wonder how much has changed since that day, shortly before my graduation from high school in 1968, when MLK was assassinated. I’m not particularly naïve, I know racism and cultural prejudice continued to exist and even thrive. Hell, my third novel, Tropical Judgments, dealt with the dirty little secret of racism in Hawaii, where we like to believe we are one happy melting-pot family – the Aloha State.
But the overt racists, the Klan and other white supremacists, had been more or less relegated to the shadows. When Obama was elected President of the United States, I, like so many others cried with joy. I felt an overwhelming sense of optimism and hope for the future of our country. I was sure the pre-election racists with their birther conspiracies, the internet memes likening Obama to a monkey, and other idiocies, would once again retreat to the dark corners of our society—hateful cockroaches scurrying away in defeat.
That didn’t happen. Social media and propagandist television and radio programs not only kept the ugliness alive, they propagated even uglier, more crazy, more racist conspiracy theories and lies. Still, there was hope. The Obama presidency was dignified and thoughtful. It slowly and effectively pulled us out of a great recession. It calmed the terror of a nuclear Iran. It reasoned there was no way to effectively eliminate North Korea’s nukes without withstanding unacceptable human loss. It faced up to the planetary and national security threat of climate change. And, yes, the administration made mistakes as well—how do you not make mistakes in the boiling cauldron of the Middle East?
So what happened? How did a black president with high approval ratings give way to a president who was an admitted adulterer; a man who’d been sued and fined for racial discrimination; a man who defrauded investors in his business dealings to the point where no United States banks would even deal with him; a deal maker who made so many bad deals he left behind squadrons of betrayed investors; a man who thought nothing of creating a fraudulent university built on lies and flim flam; a man who called black people “lazy” and Mexicans “rapists” and said Haitians have AIDS and labelled entire blocks of countries as “shitholes.” This list of cruelties, both petty and huge, is seemingly endless. The scope of pandering to white supremacists, to the point of being endorsed by the KKK, is bewildering and frightful.
Yet the base is still there. The man who can barely articulate a comprehensible sentence when he is not doing his best to read what was written for him wields a strange power over many people who had always stood for the kind of morals Donald Trump flaunts and denigrates. One argument is that these people see an opportunity to use Trump to get their long-sought ideological goals accomplished. Deregulate employment standards. Deregulate checks against pollution. Deregulate the banks (again). Etcetera. We can put up with Trump and his disgusting sense of morality if we can get finally get what we want.
Maybe that’s it. But I think there’s a much more insidious motive behind these people’s ignominious decisions to park their morals in a long-term storage locker. After all, any far right conservative president with a conservative majority in Congress should be able to accomplish all of the above and more. I think that the real underlying fear among the Trump base is the browning of America. That age-old fear of being in the minority with the possible accompanying loss of power.
Human history is replete with examples of people gaining power based on fear. Fear of race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, and religion. White people, black people, and Asian people have committed, and are committing, genocide based on little more than fomented hatred as a means toward power.
America may be one of the greatest melting pots in the history of the world, yet until Obama’s election, and even, arguably, despite his election, it has been ruled by the predominant racial class: whites. Things will change. Climate change will become the greatest driving force behind emigration and immigration in the near future. It will probably cause wars and certainly political upheaval. America will brown—it is an inevitability we can either embrace or fear. To embrace it, we would need to learn about and learn to respect those who may become our new neighbors. Nothing promotes fear like ignorance. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
Let’s not fear the changing demographics. Let’s embrace it. Let’s reject the politics of fear and hate based on racial and cultural prejudice. Let’s show the world why we have a national holiday celebrating the words and works of Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Ghandi said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”
David Myles Robinson
As will become readily apparent, my blogs will not just be about my books or even writing in general. They will be about whatever suits my fancy--and yes, I'm sorry, but that may include politics from time to time. We live in an interestingly tempestuous time and as a writer I find it impossible to ignore the worldwide psycho-drama (and, at times, psycho-comedy) being played out before us on a virtual daily basis.