Editor’s Note: The Rev. Raphael Warnock shared this letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson exclusively with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Because of its news value, this correspondence is being published unedited and it in its entirety.
Dear Senator Isakson,
You are Georgia’s senior senator, hailed as one of its most beloved politicians. And, while I most often disagree with you politically, through our personal interactions, I have come to regard you as a kind and decent man.
For years, I have been impressed that you have attended the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Ecumenical Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, staying for the entirety of a long service, as speeches are delivered about Dr. King’s philosophy and work.
Having heard hundreds of such speeches over the years, I wonder what you think Dr. King, who put forth a vision of “the beloved community,” might say about your endorsement of Donald Trump? Or, your silence when asked about his hateful words?
Dr. King said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” He understood that some things are more important than politics and sometimes the very soul of a nation hangs in the balance.
For years now Donald Trump — chief proponent of the birther movement — has high-jacked the continuing conversation about what it means to be an American. In Trump’s America, it’s us against them. The truth is he’s playing us against us.
A skilled con-man, Trump is trying to sell the American public a tired, old simple story: That our pain is the fault of “those other people.” We must therefore build a wall to lock out the Mexicans, ban the Muslims and answer bi-partisan calls for criminal justice reform with a brutal expression of “law and order.” His dark and dangerous vision would create a more isolated, xenophobic and mean-spirited nation.
While Trump hawks a murky and magical elixir that promises to “make America great again,” he has proven to be much more adept at making America hate again. His rallies erupt as carnivals of bigotry and bloodlust egged on by the showman’s penchant for playing with fire. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” utters the man who aspires to lead the free world.
But this week, he took it too far, playing with assassination itself, as he suggested that “Second Amendment people” might stop a President Hillary Clinton. These not so subtle hints of violent reprisals against those who threaten “real America” have no place in a nation that embodies the peaceful transfer of democratic power — an example for the world.
As pastor of the church of our martyred leader — whose mother was also gunned down while playing our church organ one June morning by an unstable man, I submit that this is no joke. It is dangerous rhetoric so far beyond the pale of conventional politics that the normal rules of party loyalty do not apply. Senator, you and others must choose nation over party, principle over politics. Like Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, you should dump Trump. Given your stature, perhaps others will follow suit.
You cannot embrace Dr. King’s inclusive vision of “the beloved community” while endorsing Trump’s hateful nation. You cannot remember Dr. King in January and dismember his legacy of love, justice and nonviolence in November. “There comes a time,” King said, “When silence is betrayal.” Senator, that time is now.
The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock
Ebenezer Baptist Church