Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned the Poor People’s Campaign in
1968, he envisioned all kinds of people descending on our nation’s
capital, bringing demands to federal agencies. He envisioned people
pushing for affordable housing, for quality education, for better
health care, for minority business development programs, and more.
He envisioned them demanding these things, and occupying government
offices until these things were produced. Unfortunately, Dr. King’s
death and the curse of disorganization prevented the Poor People’s
Campaign from being exactly what Dr. King imagined. But it still
made a difference, and people still refer to its conception as
Poor People’s Campaign was a paradigm shift in our manner of
protest. It wasn’t just marching, and it wasn’t just
protest. It also involved the creative disruption that would come if
thousands of people sat in federal offices and demanded change. Can
this kind of creative disruption be useful in the age of Trump?
After all, Mr. Trump has already told us what he thinks of most of
the American people. His nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
as Attorney General is a flash of the middle finger to men of color,
especially the Black men who have been tossed around as cavalierly as
the term “law and order”. It is a slap in the face to
the immigrants and women who have already seen what Sessions stands
for. And it is not as if other Trump appointments are better.
not a single Trump appointment passes the centrist smell test or
suggests a willingness to reach across the aisle. Indeed, Trump
seems to do little more than create a cabinet of billionaires who are
as far removed from the way ordinary people live that the public
policy they attempt to create will be little more than self-serving.
of them seems to understand the concept of public service. They
don’t think they should have to release their financial
information, and they shrug off the notion of conflict of interest.
Contrast them with Dr. King who only got a big paycheck when he won
the Nobel Peace Prize, and he gave “every penny” of the
$54,000 that he won in 1964 to the civil rights movement.
King was extremely clear about those he identified with. He once
choose to identify with the underprivileged,
choose to give my life for the hungry,
choose to give my life for those
have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity . . .
is the way I’m going.
it means suffering, I’m going that way.
it means dying for them, I’m going that way,
I heard a voice saying
SOMETHING FOR OTHERS.”
President-Elect has also heard a voice, but the voice he heard said
“Do Something for Me, Myself, and I”. Absent a sense of
service or of social/public consciousness, Mr. Trump seems to believe
that his own personal richness makes America great again (hate again,
sick again). His swaggering dismissal of anyone who dares ask a
question that challenges suggests that he thinks he is ascending a
monarchy, not leading a democracy. And the tone-deaf lemmings that
surround him, some (like Kellyanne Conway) called “Trump
whisperers” must be whispering sweet nothings because the
behavior modification so many expected has not yet happened.
we who are progressive play ourselves cheap when we respond to his
smug tweets. We play ourselves cheap when we moan and whine. The
time for whining is over now. This is the time for a paradigm shift
in the way we respond to institutional stupidity. This is the time
for us to consider creative disruption whenever, wherever, and
however. What does that mean? Let’s channel the energy of the
Poor People’s Campaign. Let’s show up in those federal
offices. Let’s carry demands; let’s ball up our fists.
Let’s get it on!
last two times Dr. King’s birthday was celebrated, it was days
before Barack Obama, our first publicly identified Black President
(there were other folks, but it wasn’t so public), took office.
I loved the way that the 44th President took his oath holding Dr.
King’s Bible. I’m not sure which Bible Mr. Trump is
going to hold, but it is probably a bible that is missing the book of
Matthew, and the exhortation (Matthew 25:40) about the least of
these. This is why the President-Elect will need creative disruption
to remind him that his job is to share the American dream, not the