The juxtaposition is too much to bear. In January, The United States of America started the week celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. day, a national holiday and ended the week with the inauguration of the 45th President of the country, leaving many (including yours truly) in horror and anticipation.
Usually, it's altogether appropriate to step back and give the new kid on the block a chance to prove himself. Normally, we would all do that. The problem with this particular kid is he keeps building his reputation as a narcissistic bully, as he moves toward his new home.
Consider the concerns that King carried to his grave; the evils that led him to martyrdom for the rights of all. King believed this country was faced with a trinity of evils: capitalism, militarism and racism. When he was assassinated, the Poor People's March on Washington was in the initial planning stages. It threatened to bring together those at the bottom of the economic ladder of capitalism, the peace movement organised to stop the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement. The government faced the probability of an organised and united citizenry, ready to turn the country and it's trinity of evils, upside down. King had to go!
Today we are seeing the natural maturation and conclusion of what King had hoped to change. Now we have a government unapologetically in the hands of a corporate capitalist, a frightening militarist and a favourite of white supremacists.
Capitalism, like any economic system, has its attributes. There is a natural drive in the human person to want to do better, to "get ahead." But capitalism is a serious problem when the 62 wealthiest people in the world own as much as the poorest half of the world, roughly 3.6 billion people. And since 2010, the poorest have lost a trillion dollars while the wealth of the 62 richest has risen by 44%. This is corporate capitalism, sometimes called vampire capitalism!
The new administration promises to host the cream of the crop when it comes to corporate capitalists. The cabinet of our new administration will be the wealthiest in modern history. The $9.5 billion held by cabinet nominees is greater than that of 43 million U.S. households combined.
Take Rex Tillerson, our future Secretary of State. He left Exxon-Mobil after 42 years, the most profitable corporation in human history. At one point in his tenure, it was estimated he was paid $109,000 an hour. As he left, the corporation gave him a parting gift of $180 million.
Unfortunately, Exxon Mobil, not the U.S. citizen, certainly not the poor, will likely reap the rewards of this new Secretary of State. Tillerson and the new President will surely repeal the sanctions against Russia, making the $500 billion deal with Rosneft and Exxon Mobil possible again; approve the Keystone Pipeline, opening the Canadian tar sands and enriching Exxon-Mobil by another $250 billion; shield the company from lawsuits around their misinformation campaign against climate change, worth many more billions of dollars. The corporate capture of government, meant to be "of, by and for the people" is complete.
Militarism is not a partisan problem. All the political parties are in assent. Although there is a ray of hope the businessman in the new President will seriously raise issues like the flagrant rip-off of the F-35, military budgets will continue to rise. And the quid pro quo attitude of the new occupant of the White House promises rich defence department contracts for those companies that play by the new rules.
At the same time, a tweeting commander in chief, often awake and disturbed at 3 A.M., bearing ultimate responsibility for the nuclear trigger, is not a pretty picture. Especially when the commander in chief is prone to threat and bluster and a bruised ego. Here we have, once again, the maturation of a country unable to relinquish the trap of militarism.
King would beg us to change, to recognise that violence begets violence. Intimidation and fear result in resistance, ultimately revolution; sometimes in terrorism.
And then there is the evil of racism. There was a surge of hate crimes after the election. The day after the election 202 hate crimes were recorded. The numbers have continued into the New Year, too frequently to be ignored. There is a visceral sense of unease among large segments of the population.
We seem at the pinnacle, at the precipice, where we can continue to destroy ourselves in racial, religious and ethnic warfare or finally turn the corner toward a truly diverse and united country. Since the new President played to the worst fears, hatreds and divisiveness abroad in his campaign, the American society can only work to make sure racism is not a hallmark of the next four years.
I doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been a good President. But he was certainly a faithful preacher of the Gospel and a moral bulwark against the evils he identified. People of faith need to continue his legacy and hold our government and leaders accountable for the way we treat the poor, the way we engage our adversaries and the way we treat each other.
(Carl Kline is a founder and on the planning committee of theBrookings SD Interfaith Council that has carried on interfaith communitydialogue since 2011. He is a co-founder of Nonviolent Alternatives, a smallnot-for-profit that, for 15 years, provided intercultural experiences withLakota/Dakota people in the Northern Plains and brought conflict resolution andpeer mediation programs to schools around the region.He has been to India thirteen times, usually taking groupsfrom the West to live and travel with followers of Mahatma Gandhi.)