Home » international news » American Dreaming: Why USA needs a Martin Luther King Jr & not a Donald Trump

American Dreaming: Why USA needs a Martin Luther King Jr & not a Donald Trump

Ramin Jahanbegloo | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:43 IST

It is difficult to live through the American presidential campaign without stumbling on the concept of "The American Century" formulated in a 1941 Life magazine article of that title by Henry Luce.

In his famous article Luce describes America as "the dynamic centre of ever-widening spheres of enterprise, the training centre of the skilful servants of mankind, the Good Samaritan, really believing again that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and the powerhouse of the ideals of Freedom and Justice."

Henry Luce's appeal was seen by many as a call for the United States military domination of the world. But what is more significant is that it represented the American dream of the new world order as the typical expression of the American century.

The prospect that Luce glimpsed in 1941 has, over seven decades later, become an unavoidable reality: the dream of "Making America Great Again" is the centerpiece of a national intention, which holds the country's citizens tightly together.

The Trump matter

It comes as no surprise to us that "Make America Great Again" is a slogan used in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. To some, this slogan represents a chauvinistic cliché, to others a symbol of good life and achievement.

Some, meanwhile, believe that the 'dream' has proven to be the most effective tool ever invented for the subversion and destruction of other traditions and cultures.

One way or another, the Trumpian dream of making America great again is not only the dream of the Americans but also the nightmare of those who are excluded from the New American Century.

Karl Marx once wrote that the seeds of the Great American Civil War were planted at the founding of the United States. He meant that slavery was not mentioned in the US Constitution and the none whites were not part of "we the people" in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

Similar debates occurred during the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the South and later the civil rights campaigns of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and 1960s in the US.

Blacks finally won the vote with the adoption of the 1964-65 Civil and Voting Rights Acts and 44 years later, Americans chose the first Black president of the United States.

And before that Obama

Barack Obama was definitely not the best American president ever, but he was certainly one of the most influential in giving a more "open minded" image of America after the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, unsurprisingly, during Barack Obama's campaign for president in 2008 and in the years of his presidency, many conspiracy views were circulated, falsely asserting that he was not a natural-born citizen of the United States and consequently that he was not eligible to be president.

In other words, Barack Obama was not part of the "we people" underlined and institutionalised by the founding fathers of modern America.

More recently, Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican nominee for president of the United States, finally admitted that "President Barack Obama was born in the United States", reversing himself on the controversy which lasted nearly five years and gave him a stand in American national politics.

There's more to allegations

But the birtherism controversy, as fanned by Trump, is more than a nonsensical argument put forward by the Republican candidate. It is an ideological view that heats up conspiracy-focused and right-wing precincts around America.

As such, Donald Trump is the elected candidate of those who consider themselves as the "we people" of America against all the others who are non-whites and immigrants.

Regardless of how one labels it, exclusion is a big part of the Trump nation, that wants to see America 'great again' by practising a high level of racial and nationalistic resentment.

This is a crucial moment in contemporary American history, a time when the challenge of the New American Century would be to redefine the dream of "we people" as a common value of living together with fear and revenge.

There's nothing in revenge...or anger

However, revenge is a deadly passion with no future for any human society. The new America of Donald Trump is thinking of being great again through coercion and hatred, but this is not the dream of those immigrants who wanted to become American.

For them, as for millions around the world, for over a century America has represented the land of freedom and a society built on new foundations, held together not by fanaticism and prejudice, but by the ideas of generosity and hospitality. A land open to any new experience.

Martin Luther King Jr. stressed that Americans cannot themselves be free unless people are free in the poorer nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is not a surprise that King's struggle against segregation in American society went hand in hand with an emphasis on love and overcoming fear.

Unlike the Trump dream of a New American Century which is breaking America in two, politics of friends and enemies, King understood well that in order to restore a broken community Americans needed to replace the love of power by the power of love. He often described his mission as the pursuit of the Beloved Community-based mainly on mutual recognition, reconciliation and a sense of inclusiveness.

Undoubtedly, King's dream of inclusiveness and interdependent awareness continues to be a paradigm for defining and reshaping a different American century.

Maybe if King had met Trump, he would have repeated to him what he wrote in his book Trumpet of Conscience: "I've seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear...We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory."

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also read: How Donald Trump's shock politics are stalling his ambitions in world golf

Also read: Donald Trump + Boris Johnson = climate catastrophe

Also read: Orangeface goes legit: Meryl Streep plays Donald Trump better than Trump plays himself

First published: 22 September 2016, 2:26 IST