After MLK, Unlearning Hate

Based upon events over the last couple of weeks, it is clear we need a “federal re-education program” of “anti-hate”, especially for those many arrested after the Capitol riot.

Why should the country be held hostage to white supremacy? Moreover, the behavior of President Donald J. Trump after the 2020 presidential election has been appalling and has played into the narrative of white hegemony.

Every year around this time, the third Monday in January, many try to reflect upon the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and what he meant to the nation. This year is different though. In a presidential election year, and a year when one party is taking power from another, in this case, Democrats from Republicans, the transition has not been peaceful, and far from it.

We all watched Trumpites and Trump-apparatchiks overrun the Capitol in their moronic mob stupidity—breaking windows, damaging property, and taking selfie-photos in the Hall of Statues, placing MAGA hats on statues of dead statesmen, and generally showing every disregard possible. Later, we learned a police officer was beaten to death. Later, we learned some Capitol policemen were also taking selfie-photos with the rioters. Later, we learned the mob chanted: “Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence!”—about the Vice President. Later, we learned the mob wanted to kidnap the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Later, we learned the mob wanted to assassinate and hurt members of Congress. All of this violent nonsense was at the urging of President Donald J. Trump, who only a short time before gave a volatile speech to this riotous mob.

In his own words, President Trump bellowed the following at a crowd of his devoted cultists at his “Save America Rally” near the Whitehouse—to the very same lunatics who would try to destroy the Capitol and attempt to murder Congressmen.

President Trump’s words are important because he was pushing a false narrative with unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 presidential election being rigged. His words whipped up his supporters into an angry frenzy and likewise emboldened them to take over the Capitol when the electoral votes were to be certified on January 6th by a joint session of the U.S. Congress. As President Trump averred: “…They rigged an election. They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before… All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media…We will never give up. We will never concede…You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough…”

Here Trump iterated why he thought an insurrection was necessary to overturn the election results in calling on the Senate President, Vice-President, Mike Pence to send the election results back to the states: “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election…I hope Mike [Pence, Vice-President] is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election…All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president…We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s Capitol for one very, very basic and simple reason, to save our democracy… But this year using the pretext of the China virus [COVID-19] and the scam of mail-in ballots, Democrats attempted the most brazen and outrageous election theft. There’s never been anything like this…After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you…We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” It is obvious from these words, President Trump absolutely called for an insurrection and a coup d’état.

President Trump continued his unlawful rhetoric, which was treasonous for inciting the mob to act: “We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard…We will not be intimidated into accepting the hoaxes and the lies that we’ve been forced to believe over the past several weeks. We’ve amassed overwhelming evidence about a fake election. This is the presidential election… In every single swing state, local officials, state officials, almost all Democrats made illegal and unconstitutional changes to election procedures without the mandated approvals by the state legislatures, that these changes paved the way for fraud on a scale never seen before… And we fight. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore…We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

Because of these words, a Capitol policeman lost his life. Because of these words, four other rioters lost their lives, and other Capitol policemen were left badly injured. What is more, following these events ,Mr. Trump has now earned the distinction of the only U.S. President to be impeached twice, the second time for “incitement of insurrection”.

Hence, those arrested should go through a federal re-education program as part of their sentencing. After all, if hate can be learned it also can be unlearned as well. It is particularly alarming to everyone following what happened during the riot that individuals who overran the Capitol wore such awful hate messages. One man, allegedly identified as Robert Keith Packer, wore an anti-Semitic hate t-shirt reading: “Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom”, referring to the Nazi Concentration Camp of Auschwitz, where millions were put to their deaths, and who was recently arrested by the FBI.

Packer, like others at the insurrection and riot, are domestic terrorists and like all terrorists they need to be re-educated not to hate or use violence. There are experimental programs for re-educating terrorists from the study of violent extremism as such leading centers like Georgetown University’s International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). We need to do the same for domestic terrorists like Mr. Packer and others.

Let us now turn to the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor his legacy by unlearning hatred and re-imagining our United States of America.

Remember, Dr. King in his “I have a Dream” (1963) speech, when he declared: “And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true… And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Let King’s words ring out again for everyone in our great nation!

J. P. Linstroth is a former Fulbright Scholar to Brazil. His recent book, Epochal Reckonings (2020), is the 2019 Winner of the Proverse Prize. He has a PhD (D.Phil.) from the University of Oxford. He is the author of Marching Against Gender Practice: Political Imaginings in the Basqueland (2015) and, most recently, author of Politics and Racism Beyond Nations: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Crises (2022).