What’s in a name? Apparently, everything. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Civil Rights movement nominated its leader Martin Luther King, Jr. to head up a movement which would bring civil rights to the disenfranchised African American. A cultural zeitgeist was birthed in Alabama and ended on the steps of the Capital of the Confederacy in Montgomery in 1965. The fruits of the Civil Rights movement were hard fought and won over the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2016, fifty years after the last crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the Selma marches, a new King has risen demanding change in America, but for equal and opposite reasons. Donald “Trump” the new trickster figure in our national myth has risen to power for one reason, and one reason only-- to flip a faulty government system which has gotten stuck in a one-sided rut defined by political fundamentalism. The danger of the trickster figure is that it is difficult to tell on which side of a problem the trickster will work his magic. King was the trickster who brought democracy to a land defined by racism. King, the hero figure of the Civil Rights narrative, brought his nonviolent ethos to the American South which broke apart the hearts of a nation and delivered at its doorstep a new democracy. He was a redeemer of sorts, who in many ways, is as much alive in our collective consciousness today as he was when he died in 1968. But Trump, the trickster figure in the Anti-Civil Rights Movement is provoking chaos and leaving violence in his wake, giving rise to the very fundamentalism that is crippling our government. Fundamentalism is deadly for it creates polarity which paralyzes democracy.
Making his way across America, Trump is gathering strength through his campaign “marches” of impassioned, bankrupt promises, and his destructiveness is taking shape in the violent outbreaks of his rallies. “The Donald,” whom a majority of politicians and pundits never thought stood a chance of winning the Presidency, has now paved a path to the white house by high jacking a ride on the wings of the sleeping conscience of America, by trumping a broken American political system.
Just as King’s Civil Rights Movement cultivated a nonviolent activism to procure the right to vote for all citizens of America, Trump’s Anti-Civil Rights Movement aims to re-build the very wall that King worked so hard to destroy; the right to matter in America no matter what gender, color or religious persuasion, and the demand that our government officials reflect these very values. Some would say that the rise of the Anti-Civil Rights Movement is uncanny and ironic. In truth, it is neither and should be given more than casual consideration as a very real thermostat for the psychological, moral condition of America, for what finds life in culture is but a mere reflection of the inner landscape of our individual American souls. Perhaps it is time for Americans to take seriously the condition of our collective psychological world, for it is not a fluke that Trump has risen to power.
There is indeed another way of looking at the roles of Trump and King in our collective narrative, and that is that they are both figures who are emblematic of the fragility of personal power, what we do with it interpersonally, and what we do with power when we perceive it to be held in the hands of another. Trump’s rise is a call to arms for every American to assess their moral character, for Trump has risen to power through the doorway of our collective shadow, that aspect of our American character which we do not want to know, and that which is what King called “the other America.” It is that part of the American psyche which sees darkness living within another but not in oneself. Trump’s rise is a warning not to be taken lightly, for as every war has demonstrated the tipping point to the dark side begins with the journey of one, and spreads quickly to the many.