16 January 2017

Who's Going To Make What Great Again?

Today I took two short rides: before and after having lunch with my mother and a friend of hers, of whom I am fond.

My rides took me through alongside creeks, swamps and woods, as well as through small-town streets lined with shabby houses and suburban subdivisions full of houses that are imitations or parodies, depending on your point of view, of structures built by Spanish, French and English settlers to this area.

Once again, the weather was delightful.  At one point, I even saw two frolicking fawns just yards away from me, and white herons that ambled even closer.  People seemed relaxed, even if they were doing home repairs or yardwork.  The kids were happy, of course:  They had the day off from school.

The reason is that today is the holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., who would have turned 88 yesterday.  He didn't live to see his 40th birthday, and many of the people for whom he fought had even shorter lives that ended as tragically as his.  A few years ago, a student of mine who is about a decade older than I am, and grew up in Jacksonville--about 105 kilometers (65 miles) from where I am now--told me about one of those victims: a relative whose flaming body dangled from a tree in Mississippi.  As a little girl, she saw that.

It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that from 1882 until 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state in the Union.  I don't think it would cause much consternation to say that the next states on the list were Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

Florida is right behind them.  The "Sunshine State", however, had the highest per-capita rate of lynchings among the states from 1880 through 1940.  In fact, Florida's lynch rate, in proportion to the population, was more than double that of Alabama and nearly four times that of Texas!

Today, as I rode through the subdivisions, and the ramshackle houses, I saw many "Trump:  Make America Great Again" campaign signs.  In fact, I even saw a couple in a trailer park.  I don't recall seeing so many campaign signs for any candidate still standing on lawns, or tied to signposts or windows, so long after an election as I saw today.  

Now, I am sure that some of those who voted for Trump--and, perhaps, a few who didn't--are resentful that King gets "his own" holiday: something no other individual  in the US has.  Or, to be precise, no other white individual has.

I can understand, even if I don't condone, what they feel:  that they are losing "their" place in society to "privileged" minorities (which, of course, can include LGBT people as well as any number of racial and ethnic identities--as well as "the 51 percent minority"). One thing my own experience has taught me is that privilege is something you don't know you have until you lose it, and the process of losing it is painful and can cause intense anger and resentment.

What are students learning these days?

What I can't understand, though, is something I saw on a news program this morning: People who claim that if King were alive today, he would have supported Donald Trump's election to the Presidency.  I tried to understand their arguments, but those of the Flat Earth Society  actually make more sense to me.

Of course, cycling and writing have made more sense to me than all of those things ever could.  So did those fawns and herons I saw.


  1. Amen to that, Justine. Especially, your last paragraph. We too have taken refuge in our bikes and in our woods hikes as the world seems to swirl with increasing madness around us...

  2. I hate that phrase: Make America Great Again. No country or form of government has ever been great. Greatness can only be proclaimed when all human beings are recognized and treated equal. We need more radical leaders such as Dr. King.

  3. Looking at the link, Louisiana had more lynchings than Texas, despite a much lower population - and Georgia edged out Mississippi for the crown of shame.

    More to the point, however, I suspect that King would not have supported either Trump or Clinton. As for me, I like to upset my kids by telling them "I'm going to make our recycling bin great again!"

  4. Jim--Cycling and woods hikes certainly are refuges--which are very different from escapes!

    Chris--"No country or form of government has ever been great." I wholeheartedly agree. When I say I love America, it has nothing to do with the politics or government. For me, it is about the people (at least some of them), the beauty of its natural settings and cities, and an openness that people (again, some) have.

    Steve--"I'm going to make our recycling bin great again!" Can I put that on a T-shirt or something?

    I agree that King wouldn't have supported either candidate. I'm not even sure that he would have supported Bernie Sanders, who was not the "peace candidate" many believed him to be. After all, Sanders voted for regime change in Iraq in 1998, for bombing the Balkans in 1999 and for every military appropriations bill that came up while he was a Senator. Moreover, he voted in favor of a resolution expressing support for his leadership in the Iraq invasion of 2003 and said that if he were elected President, he would continue Obama's drone program. (For that matter, I have my doubts that King would have supported Obama.)

    1. Last I checked, Bernie still IS a Senator. He's still got a chance to vote against a military appropriations bill. While that might hurt the value of my Northrop Grumman stock, I tend to align more closely with Eisenhower's warning against the Military Industrial Complex.

  5. Despite what both of us have said in this post's comments, it does not lessen King's accomplishments. I think we agree on THAT. Digressing, having accomplished me goal of "making our recycling bin great again," I'm moving on to "making our trailer full again" in preparation for our next migration from Texas to Washington State. I'm not sure what we'll find in Gray's Harbor County, which went GOP in 2016 for the first time since 1928. It just goes to show that if you go away for a couple of months, the whole place goes to pieces!

  6. Steve--We never know what people will do when we turn our backs. :-(

    Bernie is indeed still a Senator. Thanks for the correction.