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A 'Moral Obligation' To Protest Trump, Says Michael Eric Dyson


One thing about which there is no dispute is that Donald Trump has made himself the center of political conversation this year. Case in point - a provocative new piece in the New Republic by Michael Eric Dyson, an ordained minister and a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.

In his piece, Professor Dyson writes that Trump's soon-to-be nomination as the Republican presidential nominee has created a moral obligation to protest at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. He joins us from our studios in New York to talk about this. Welcome, Dr. Dyson. Thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Always great to talk to you.

MARTIN: Why do you think that people have a moral imperative to protest in July?

DYSON: Well, I think that what Donald Trump is doing, the way in which racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim belief and the like are being expressed through the campaign of Donald Trump, calls for, I think, a very vigorous and aggressive response to what he's saying.

MARTIN: Quoting your piece now, you say, (reading) we must go to Cleveland not to derail Trump's nomination, instead to protest, to proclaim the man's moral repugnance and political illegitimacy. So tell me how that works.

DYSON: Well, I'm not trying to say stop him from being elected as his party's nominee. I'm saying that we have a responsibility to raise our voices, to say what he does as an American citizen is pretty destructive to the practice of goodhearted and conscientious politics.

MARTIN: Well, some would argue the most effective thing you can do if you want to stop Donald Trump is to get people registered to vote and get them to the polls to vote for Hillary Clinton. What do you say to that?

DYSON: I say look, that's all good. But it's not an either/or. It's a both/and. What I'm talking about is both political and then also extra-political. Because what Donald Trump is doing is not simply to be measured in terms of its political effect. It's the very spiritual uplift of the nation. It's the very tenor and tone, morally speaking, of what this country is about. And so the unleashing of these fierce and ferocious beliefs have a potential impact that is quite deleterious, quite negative, quite destructive. And I think we have to say something.

MARTIN: But what is the value of the physical presence? There are those who argue that that's - and I'm not being demeaning. I'm not being diminishing here, but those who argue that that's old-school. There are other methods of demonstrating now. There's social media. There's - there are other ways. So what, in your view, is the necessity of the physical presence?

DYSON: Yeah, I guess I'm a Luddite. Let's have social media. But social media itself is not protest. To tweet is not to protest physically. To do a Facebook post, and though it's critical and crucial, is not to show up and embody the anger you feel, to embody the righteous outrage you feel, to embody the concern you feel. This is about putting feet to pavement and to register in the consciousness of America that this is something that's problematic.

So yeah, we need all the newfangled web-based Internet spread, you know, social media that can catalyze, you know, some serious consciousness about what's going on. But we also need people on the streets pounding the pavement to make a significant and dramatic appearance to suggest that what's going on here is unacceptable.

MARTIN: So I take it you're going?

DYSON: Yes, ma'am.

MARTIN: Are you scared at all?

DYSON: Sure. I mean, yeah. That's - I don't enter into this lightly. And I understand that there could be real severe consequences. But at the same time, I'm more nervous about the prospects of an America that refuses to abide by its best conscience and its best lights and its best angels.

MARTIN: Thank you so much for speaking with us.

DYSON: Thanks for having me, Ms. Martin.

MARTIN: The article by Michael Eric Dyson that we have been talking about is in the July-August issue of the New Republic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.