'A bridge builder, not a wall builder': MLK's son blasts Pence for comparing Trump to his father
Monday marks Martin Luther King Day, celebrating the struggle and achievements of the legendary Southern minister who helped lead the Civil Rights Movement to achieve groundbreaking legislative and cultural victories. And even though President Donald Trump has no listed plans even to attend any event honoring the occasion, Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday thought it would be appropriate to compare Trump to Dr. King.
One person who is unhappy with the comparison: Dr. King's son.
"The vice president attempted to compare the president to Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a bridge builder, not a wall builder,” said Martin Luther King III, according to The Atlantic staff writer Edward Isaac-Dovere. "Martin Luther King Jr. would say, 'Love, not hate, will make America great,'"
Pence made the comparison in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation,", as an explanation for why Congress should accede to the president's demands for a border wall before he reopens the federal government. "You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union," he said. "That's exactly what President Trump is calling on Congress to do — come to the table in the spirit of good faith."
Dr. King's legacy is broadly misunderstood, and often deliberately contorted to serve a political agenda. He embarked on a campaign of nonviolent resistance, inspired by the tactics Gandhi used to liberate India from British occupiers. He encouraged those who care about civil rights not just to march for legislative progress, like the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but to peacefully reject the unwritten codes of white supremacy that at the time were used to discourage African-Americans from civic participation or even interacting with white people — and his supporters did, even when it led to them being beaten and thrown in jail. He also held a spiritual and economic agenda that would be considered radical even by today's standards, preaching against poverty, against war, and in favor of an egalitarian brand of Christian brotherhood.
In his day, he was broadly hated, because he questioned everything about the status quo of American society — this is evidenced by the number of sitting Republicans who voted against creating a holiday for him in the first place. And while his memory is beloved today, that is often because people project their own beliefs onto him. For instance, Dr. King's plea that African Americans be judged by "the content of their character" is often twisted to argue America should make all law and culture race-blind, even though that is absolutely not what he was saying we should do. Some have even claimed that Dr. King was a Republican, even though he was not a member of either party, thought both parties had flaws, and in particular wrote the GOP "geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism."
Pence's attempt to imply that Trump's attacks on immigrants and his desire to hold federal workers hostage to build a wall has anything to do with Dr. King's legacy might be the most absurd use of his name yet.