Saturday, February 11, 2006

Political funerals

Enough already with the debate over Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Martin Luther King was a minister and the leader of a movement and the two roles were inextricable. A funeral that tiptoed around today's sharp political divisions would have been surprising, even inappropriate. It would have been a sign that the Kings’ struggles really are ancient history when they are not. It’s become de rigeur for Republican presidents to embrace the King legacy, and it’s nice that we all agree now, at least symbolically. But there is an element of opportunism to it, and M.L. King would have understood but perhaps not fully welcomed the embrace, given how much it papers over.

So when Joseph Lowery denounces the Iraq war, well, he’s just doing his thing. It’s hard to believe the Kings would have wanted him to remain silent on the issue. Jimmy Carter’s digs, meanwhile, were not frontal attacks:

The efforts of Martin and Coretta have changed America, they were not appreciated even at the highest level of government. It was difficult for them personally -- with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance and as you know, harassment from the FBI.
This commemorative ceremony this morning and this afternoon is not only to acknowledge the great contributions of Coretta and Martin, but to remind us that the struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina to know that they are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans.

These are, well, facts. The Kings were wiretapped and harassed. Katrina did show that equal opportunity is still a long way off. If merely alluding to these things is embarrassing to Bush, maybe that's because he should be embarrassed.