Disagree Don't Demonize

Martin Luther King Faculty/Staff In-Service
January 21, 2013

Any White Guy President Ronald Reagan used to talk about the "shining city on a hill." He borrowed that concept from Jesus' parable of Salt and Light in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus told his listeners, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." In his final speech to the nation, delivered on January 11, 1989, President Reagan said, ". . . I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."

During the most recent presidential election-an election filled with vulgar insults and hysterical fear-mongering-the lofty notion of a shining city "teeming with people of all kinds living in peace and harmony" with doors "open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here" seemed, in a word, naive. The politicians ripped into one another's views-that is expected, but their followers, oh my goodness, they did not know where to stop. Governor Romney was portrayed as a milk-white racist, sexist, homophobic robber baron. I don't know Governor Romney but he strikes me as a decent man who deserved better.

President Obama faced even greater venom. I am not exaggerating when I say that we could create an entire museum of anti-President Obama items, crudely indecent and racist objects. At some point during the campaign I became frustrated with the ways that President Obama was being portrayed, so I wrote the following:

Please stop. Stop interrupting speeches with "You Lie." Stop pointing a finger in his face when he exits an airplane. Stop calling him Mister instead of President. Stop claiming he is a Muslim when he says that Jesus is Lord. Stop calling him Hitler. Stop calling him a terrorist. Stop saying he wants to kill grandmothers. Stop blaming him for your neighbor's abortion. Stop calling him a Socialist, a welfare President, the Food Stamp President. Stop portraying him and his wife as apes and monkeys. Stop. Backup. Stop with the "Take Back Our Country" signs. Put those away. Stop saying he will usher the nation into a thousand years of darkness. Stop saying he is lazy. Stop disrespecting his wife and children. Stop saying he hates whites. Stop projecting your hatreds onto him. Stop trivializing threats on his life. Stop saying he hates America. Stop saying he wants to get rid of Christmas. Stop buying guns because you believe he wants to enslave you. Stop threatening to secede from the Union. Stop wallowing in privilege. Stop saying democracy is dead and he killed it. Stop telling your children they have no future. Stop teaching them to see political opponents as enemies. Stop. Turn around. Stop saying he was born in Africa. Stop saying he is a Communist. Stop drawing him as a witchdoctor. Stop lynching chairs. Stop mocking his mother. Stop mocking his father. Stop with the "Will it still be the White House" jokes. Stop calling him the Anti-Christ. Stop saying he will make the world come to an end. Disagree with his ideas; disagree with passion. Critique his policies, critique harshly, but stop demonizing him. Don't slow down, stop. Stop being afraid.

David Pilgrim
Curator, Jim Crow Museum
January 2013

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