The federal holiday we celebrate in commemoration of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth is a good day to discuss America’s original sin―the curse of racism. Ugly and wrong as racism might be, an even more befitting subject for condemnation is racist enablers, and especially when they hold high positions in government.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. Due to growing up in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era, Faulkner was witness to full-blown racial intolerance, and he featured the “ineradicable curse” of racism in his novel Absalom, Absalom! In the novel, Faulkner used the demise of the once glorious plantation known as “Sutpen’s Hundred,” an overgrown wasteland commanded by a burnt out mansion to symbolize and expose the futility of the concept of racial superiority. Inevitably, when reducing the “ineradicable curse” to its natural conclusion, we are informed that only one cure for the racist attitude exists―it is called a grave.
There is no reason to quibble over a settled issue. Donald Trump is a racist. He proved as much in the last century by calling for the death penalty of the wrongly accused and convicted black and Hispanic members of the “Central Park Five.” He gave confirmation to that proof in the current century with his dogged pursuit of the so-called “birther issue.” Consequently, no one should have been surprised when Trump referred to Haitian and African nations as “shit hole” countries, and claimed during a White House conference on immigration that we should instead be only looking at countries like Norway for immigrants.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) reported the President’s comments and a media blitz followed. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) confirmed Durbin’s report and stated that he pushed back and directly confronted Trump for his use of degrading words. Nevertheless, Trump began calling friends on the Thursday following for feedback on his “shit hole” comment to find out how it would resonate with his base of followers. On the next day―a Friday―U.S. senators David Perdue (R-Ga) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark), both of whom attended the conference and sat at the same table, claimed they “didn’t remember” Trump using the language reported by Durbin and confirmed by Graham. During Sunday talk show appearances, Perdue and Cotton changed their story. Both men claimed that Trump never spoke such words, and stated that Durbin was an outright liar, and inferred likewise that Graham’s public statements were false.
The fallout from the latest White House episode is clear. Donald Trump continues to prove that he is unfit to hold any public office. Perdue and Cotton have been outed and exposed as racists. Condemnation of United States immigration policy under the current administration has poured in from nearly every country on the planet. And following Trump’s latest degrading and disintegrating venture into foreign policy, his ambassador to Panama, John Feely, has resigned. Feely stated:
“As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the President and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come.”
Feeley is indeed a man of honor. But Perdue and Cotton have lost all semblance of honor and deserve no respect. As the Grim Reaper marks his recruits―one by one―an inescapable historical narrative is being formed, and fifty years from now, Perdue and Cotton will appear in the record as liars and racists.