The President of the United States is coming to Mississippi. And it’s a good thing.
The last time that a sitting President visited Mississippi in a non-disaster response was George W Bush almost 10 years ago (thanks to Professor John Hilpert of Delta State for that).
More importantly, his visit to our bicentennial and more visibly the opening of our Civil Rights Museum is a win for people who really care about Civil Rights . . . if they’ll let it be. Be honest. If people were asked twenty years ago or even two years ago if having the President of the United States come to a dedication of our Civil Rights museum in 2017 in Jackson would be a good thing, everyone (and I mean everyone) who cares about Civil Rights would’ve said “yes”.
People who oppose Trump coming want the issue much more than the result. Because the result is huge. Civil Rights is more about changing hearts and minds than anything else. And here we have the leader of the free world here to celebrate that occasion. Here we have a white Republican that most Mississippi Republicans overwhelmingly supported and still support sharing the stage with Civil Rights leaders like Myrlie Evers. That can be a visible and unshakable moment to say “it’s OK” to tens or even hundreds of thousands of Mississippians who still struggle in their hearts on the wrong side of the issue. That potentially has incalculable value.
Yes, Trump can be inartful at times. Yes, he’s unscripted. That means there’s risk. But everyone is thinking about the downside in terms of “what happens if he comes here and says something unscripted or wrong?” Marshall Ramsey does a masterful job of capturing that sentiment.
But here’s a question . . .
What happens if he comes and has a really poignant moment? What’s the upside of that for Mississippi and the nation? (Hint – it’s uuugge). And he’s had them. There have been several moments with veterans groups that have been really powerful, not the least of which was his recognition of the widow of a Navy Seal in his first address to Congress. If he had one of those moments here, then what? What does the NAACP say then after telling him not to come? What do sanctimonious finger-waggers like “Rethink Mississippi” say then?
Yes, the professionally triggered, the self-anointed and those that profit off of the fight will oppose him, no doubt. But I’ve always said that the greatest play in football is the one where the quarterback kneels on football to run out the clock and win the game. By getting President Trump here, those that really care about Civil Rights have actually won no matter what happens. If you really care about Civil Rights, let yourself embrace the victory and what it means. Be able to take “yes” for an answer and take the result over just the cheap points of the political fight.
I’m sure there will be people Saturday during his two hours on the ground in Mississippi that want to protest with signs, put tape over their mouths, kneel, raise their fists, wear protest T-shirts and all of the other ways to make themselves feel good. But that show is just about them. The Movement is best served by a respectful and enthusiastic welcome to the President of our nation coming to recognize, pay homage to and celebrate a historical marker of our ascension from the darkest hours of modern history in the place that it all happened.
If you can’t come celebrate Donald Trump being at the Mississippi Bicentennial and Grand Opening of the Two Museums, come celebrate the President being in Jackson . . . or come celebrate the grand opening of the Civil Rights Museum. Or celebrate what it means to have the leader of the free world take the stage and recognize Civil Rights leaders. If you can’t bring yourself to do any of that, then yes, by all means, stay at home. We’ll both be much happier that way.