Dear Mr. President: Come to MS & learn


Some civil rights leaders and Democratic officials in Mississippi are objecting vehemently to President Donald Trump’s plan to attend Saturday’s opening of Mississippi’s two newest museums.

They take particular offense to the nation’s chief executive being there for the dedication of the Civil Rights Museum, saying his words and actions during the 2016 campaign and in the White House have been a repudiation of the positive changes that the civil rights movement accomplished.

Some of the objections to the president’s pending visit have been downright nasty. The Mississippi Association of County Democratic Chairs and Hinds County Democratic Party, for example, issued a statement in which they called Trump “a disgraceful president, a malicious influence, and an abominable human being.

He has no place at a celebration of the very values and aspirations his presidency is clearly committed to destroy.”

Trump is undoubtedly a flawed president. He has stoked divisions in this country and seems happiest when he’s stirring the pot by sending out insulting tweets against anyone he considers an adversary.

Nevertheless, he is still the legally elected president of this country and deserves the respect that accrues to that office.

Besides, he isn’t trying to crash in on anyone’s party. He was properly invited by a fellow Republican, Gov. Phil Bryant, who has been a big supporter and adviser to the president. Bryant obviously thought that having Trump visit the state for such a grand occasion — the opening of both the Civil Rights Museum and its adjacent Mississippi Museum of History in conjuction with the state’s bicentennial — would bring national attention to what the state has accomplished and lots of free publicity for the museums.

In normal times, such an appearance by a U.S. president would be considered a boon. It’s a reflection of how bitterly this country and state are divided that it is being depicted otherwise.

There are other considerations that the objectors to the president’s appearance should also remember.

These two museums belong to all of the people of Mississippi — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Trump critics and Trump supporters.

The museums’ nearly $110 million cost was funded largely by public dollars, including by a whole lot of taxpayers who voted for Trump in a state that went heavily for him in last year’s election.

The Civil Rights Museum is, of course, especially poignant for those who helped to end Mississippi’s shameful discrimination and mistreatment of its black citizens, but no one has more claim to these publicly funded institutions than anyone else.

Besides, why do we build museums in the first place? Isn’t it largely to educate, to help broaden our perspectives, challenge our prejudices and

lessen our ignorance. Rather than shunning Trump’s visit to the Civil Rights Museum, we should instead hope that he takes some time to view its painfully honest exhibits.

And learn something from them.

Maybe then, he would realize why his anti-immigration rants offend so many, why his succor of white supremacists is so galling, why his tone-deaf response to the deadly racial clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this year was so poorly handled.

This president needs a lot of educating about the racial past of this country and the current state of race relations. Let him come and learn. And let him do it free of harassment.

If we do that, maybe this state also could be instrumental in teaching him a valuable lesson about hospitality and decorum: namely, that he might get a lot further with honey than with vinegar.