“Dangerous unselfishness”

Dear President Trump,

I just checked to see if you’ve said anything about today being the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jrs’ assassination and so far all I see are essays on how he would lament your presidency if he were alive and admonishments to you to please ignore the day and go golfing so we don’t have to deal so directly with your hypocrisy. It’s still early hours so you may yet blather some meaningless tropes about what a great man he was and what a worthy goal equality is. We’ll see. You all are devoted to projecting certain things meant for certain people and I could see it being important to give those who still support you something they can point to when they claim you really aren’t racist, there really are good people on all sides.

Ok, I started the letter this morning and at that point there was nothing from you, but I just watched the 58-second anniversary video you all aired today. You look miserable squinting at the teleprompter all red-faced as you woodenly read a tepid speech nominally about Dr. King. It was perfect for you and Team Trump and I don’t know whether to feel proud or ill that I so accurately nailed how you would handle the effort to project a “look, see, I’m a magnanimous guy who can say nice-ish things about a black leader while managing not to say anything about race, prejudice, oppression, or black people specifically” message to your peeps.

Since your speechwriters were focused on keeping it light for the right I am betting they, and consequently you, missed one of the best, most radical ideas King articulated that is being raised up again. In his speech to sanitation workers in Memphis the night before he was murdered he told them it is important to “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness” because infighting weakens the resistance to tyranny and we are far more powerful when we are stepping up and taking care of one another. It’s very hard advice to follow, and, if we can do it even imperfectly, you better not toss those moving boxes because you are going to need them soon enough.

May we refuse to be baited into harmful selfishness.
May we unselfishly pitch in to build a joyful common good.
May we accept that our health is inextricably linked.
May we honor the citizens of Sacramento’s commitment to King’s legacy of peaceful protest.

Tracy Simpson

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