My King Yada Yada ...
It's that time of year, folks. There was a call from the Washington Post this morning and a request from Minnesota Public Radio yesterday. The questions are almost always the same:"What would Dr. King say about ...?" Iraq? the Bush administration? the tsunami crisis? My sense is that it's not that anyone cares deeply about what King would say or that I have exclusive insight on what King would say. Given what I know, I can speculate that he would have been opposed to the invasion of Iraq, that he'd be a critic of Bush administration policies, and that he'd be in the forefront of efforts at relief for southeast Asia. But the man's been dead for 36 years now. Get used to it. The world is your responsibility now, not his.
As the years pass, I mourn the death of Martin Luther King less and less because I experience and mourn more and more deaths of our other comrades in the civil rights movement. Just this week alone, 91 year old Rosa Parks was found to be suffering from dementia and Jim Forman and Joanne Grant have died. Virtually everyone has some superficial sense of who Martin Luther King was. Many people have heard something about Mrs. Parks, but mention Jim's and Joanne's names and you'll get vague looks of non-recognition. Jim was the executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1961 to 1966. Joanne began her career in 1959 as an assistant to W. E. B. Du Bois, published Black Protest in 1968, and was biographer and filmographer of Ella Baker. So, the questions about what would King say also bother me because those who gave substance to and occasionally challenged his leadership of the movement are passing from us, even as we give superficial deference to his influence.
This Martin Luther King holiday, I'll be mourning the deaths of Jim Forman and Joanne Grant and the fact that dear Mrs. Parks has slipped beyond us. This Martin Luther King holiday, I'll be asking those around me to read what Dr. King said and make the connections for themselves. If George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld dare pay tribute to his memory, my middle finger will fly up in righteous contempt for their meaningless gestures. As George said on Seinfeld:"I gotta tell you, I am loving this yada yada thing. I can gloss over my whole life story." The world is your responsibility now. The only thing I ask is that you not demean our movement by grotesque distortions of its promise.
Ralph E. Luker - 1/14/2005
No apology necessary, Mr. Kabala. In fact, I appreciate your having clarified a discussion about some of Clayton Cramer's words some time ago and your point here was not irrelevant. Being a card carrying member of the Republican Left, yours is a point that I would have made in another context. I have no sense that Bush/Cheney/ Rumsfeld are racists at all. I object to the direction they've given the country in many other ways, including especially the war in Iraq. I think that is sufficient reason to think that their tributes to Dr. King ring very hollow indeed.
James Stanley Kabala - 1/14/2005
I thought that Mr. Luker was trying to say that any praise of King by Bush or Rumsfeld would be insincere, and I was trying to say that despite Rumsfeld's numerous faults in other areas, there isn't any evidence that he is a closet racist. Since I was apparently misinterpreting Mr. Luker's remarks, I apologize if I confused or offended anyone.
Derek Charles Catsam - 1/13/2005
I assumed that was what you meant as well, which is why I thought Mr. Kabala's statements were odd. If he had a larger point, it is sort of his responsibility to make it. left as is, I simply thought I ought to remind him that Rumsfeld's support had a context but in any case that the context did not to me seem germane to your points.
Ralph E. Luker - 1/13/2005
How this discussion got off onto the percentages of Republicans and Democrats who supported the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is a bit beyond me. It is a peculiar moment in history when Republicans support the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 in greater percentages than Democrats, but then Republicans in national convention nominate its most prominent opponant for president of the United States. My reference, I thought obviously, was to the administration's miserable misconduct of a war it rather obviously ought not to have undertaken in the first place. Given that, I'd rather be spared tributes to King by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.
Van L. Hayhow - 1/13/2005
I don't like to speak for someone else, but I assumed his point was that as Rumsfield had voted for the various civil rights bills (and I think its true that through the 1960s the per centage of Republicans who voted for the various civil rights bills was higher than the democrats)any tribute he might make would not be hypocritical. On a side note the WGBH evening jazz show Eric in the Evening usually does a tribute to Dr. King from 7 pm to midnight. I always try to listen. Anyone who is within their range may want to give it a listen.
Charles V. Mutschler - 1/13/2005
I suppose Mr. Kabala's point is that the hostility toward Rumsfeld's views might be taken by some as a cheap shot. Especially since Dr. King was not a flawless man himself.
In my view, none of us has lived up to the promise of the republic as proposed by its founding fathers, and Dr. King eloquently reminded the citizens of this fact. We still have not reached that point, but perhaps we would all be better served by reflecting on how each of us has not lived up to the promise of America, and how we could do a better job of making its promise a reality in the coming year. Taking quick one-liners at the failings of our fellow men, while ignoring our own failings is all too human. It is also probably one reason it has been so difficult for our society - or any society - to truly judge our fellow man by the content of his character, and not the color of his skin. All of us have a long way to go.
Derek Charles Catsam - 1/12/2005
Well, Northern Republicans and non-Southern Democrats, with Northern Democrats hugely responsible for shepherding it through Congress and a guy by the name of Lyndon Johnson using all of his acumen and the Johnson treatment to get it passed. In any case, your point is?
James Stanley Kabala - 1/12/2005
As a congressman, Don Rumsfeld voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights (open housing) Act of 1968. As far as I know, he wasn't a leader in any of these efforts, but it was rank-and-file Northern Republicans like him who provided the necessary votes for these bills to pass, and they deserve credit for that.
Derek Charles Catsam - 1/12/2005
This post is nothing short of brilliant.