Happy MLK Day: Brotherly Love, Iowa, And The Prince Of Lies
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
"Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love...violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”
Those are a few of the lines Martin Luther King uttered while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
King was born in Atlanta on another Monday, January 15, 1929. Had he not been assassinated in his prime in Memphis is 1967, he might even still be with us today, an old man. King is one of America’s greatest and most inspiring heroes. Why? Because he spoke eloquently and often about love and against hatee, even though he grew up Black in the south and had good reason to hate, as a Black man abused in a violently racist society.
We close schools and banks on his birthday to remember him precisely because of his ability to remind people living in this cruel, unjust, brutal world, that the only possible solution is not violence and hate but love.
King’s birthday this year happens to coincide with the day Republicans of Iowa are expected to become the first state to nominate Donald Trump to the their party’s presidential candidate. He will win Iowa in large part because of the influence of white Evangelical Christians, encouraged by men who, like King, root their rhetoric in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus.
The megachurch stages of Iowa are populated by men who have twisted the teachings of Christ beyond all recognition. “You can’t be a Christian and vote for a Democrat,” MAGA megachurch pastor Jentezen Franklin - a man with a million Twitter followers - said last week. Trump plays on the paranoid tendencies these pastors have encouraged in their flocks, promising to establish a commission if re-elected, to investigate the phantasm of “anti-Christian bias.”.
Trump’s sheeplike, hypnotized Iowa Christian followers are beyond satire. Their leader has been playing a video before taking the stage at Iowa rallies, called “God Made Trump” that could have been made in North Korea. It portrays the New York con man as the vessel of a higher power sent to save the nation. “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker,’ so God gave us Trump,” the video opens, in what the New York Times reported appears to be an AI simulacrum of the voice of right wing radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. Trump, the voice says, “is a shepherd to mankind who won’t ever leave nor forsake them.” Trump’;s also posted the video online, where it’s received millions of views.
It is mind-boggling to think that after seven years of Trump’s divisive lies and stochastic vitriol, his fascist tendencies (“Lock Her Up!” “I’d like to punch him in the face!”) Iowa’s white Christians, supposedly followers of the teachings of the same man Martin Luther King staked his life and rhetoric on, are driving the Trump bus back into the center of American power.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that threats to public officials have reached “unprecedented” levels.. “On a weekly basis — sometimes more often — I am getting reports about threats to public officials, threats to our prosecutors, threats to law enforcement agents who work in the Justice Department, threats to judges,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during on ABC’s “This Week” recently.
Anyone paying the least amount of attention to current events knows the source of this trend. As the historian of fascism Ruth Ben Giat points out, since 2015, Trump has been trying “to shift the idea of violence into something positive.” The real world effects of that psychological shift are evident in the political violence all around us.
Most of Trump’s vocal opponents, from the lowest state elections workers to law clerks and federal and state judges sitting on cases against him, to political journalists, are not at all surprised by that. Many live with death threats and the higher profile figures require round the clock protection. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is overseeing the case that charged Trump with conspiring to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia, said back in October that she had logged 150 personal threats since indicting Trump.
In the New Testament, Satan is known as “the Father of Lies.” The term comes from a passage in the Testament of John, in which Jesus is quoted as saying: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
How grotesque it is in America toda, that white-bread midwestern Christians turn away from the idea that MLK urged, of infusing secular politics with love, and toward the hate-filled rhetoric of a man who by 2021, had logged more than 30,000 lies in just four years in office -- not counting The Big Lie about the 2020 election that shredded the trust between citizens that is the basis of any democracy.
The “Christians” of Iowa might be beyond saving. But the rest of us can take a few moments today to remember that love, not hate is what will save us, and try to follow his lead. As King urged in his most famous speech in Washington in August 1963: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline.”
Amen. And Happy Birthday Martin.
Reprinted with permission from American Political Freakshow
Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, and documentary producer. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.