Kate O'Beirne, a shrill harpy whose publishing record suggests she has no business lecturing anyone about civility, made an appearance on "Hardball" today to clutch her hanky and lecture the King family about how they should celebrate their mother's life. I'm sure the Kings would love to get advice from a National Review contributor like Kate O'Beirne. After all, back when Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King were risking their lives to advance the cause of civil rights in the South, it was the National Review that had the courage to come out and ask:
whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.Clearly, the National Review has been on the Kings' side for fifty years, and the family should heed their words now.
Anyway, as we all learned during the Paul Wellstone funeral, conservatives love to lecture liberals on how our heroes (and their opponents) should be remembered. Personally, I think it makes sense when honoring someone who sacrificed all their life for a political cause to mention that cause. (And I seem to remember maybe one or two references to the nuts and bolts of the Reagan Revolution during the weeklong national mourning of Ronald Reagan.)
Given the GOP playbook, I'm sure we're going to hear more along these lines in the coming days. Apparently, this comment is going to get a lot of play:
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., drew a roaring standing ovation when he said: “For war, billions more, but no more for the poor” — a takeoff on a line from a Stevie Wonder song. The comment drew head shakes from Bush and his father as they sat behind the pulpit.All Americans who don't get their history from Bill O'Reilly will remember that Martin Luther King Jr. offered virtually the same criticism of the Vietnam War, noting that the cost of America's overseas adventure was undercutting the Great Society programs meant to help the poor.
While MLK didn't take this stance until 1967, his wife had already taken a public stance against the war in 1965 and had been pushing him to do likewise for years. After his death, she became even more outspoken in her opposition to the war. (The photo here, incidentally, comes from a speech she gave at an antiwar rally in 1970.)
Given her passionate involvement in the antiwar politics of the Vietnam era, it's not surprising that Coretta Scott King continued her activism in our own time. Although you won't hear it mentioned much in the news, she spoke out early and often against the war in Iraq:
On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mrs. King celebrated the anniversary of birth of her late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by recalling that the slain civil rights leader had been outspoken in his opposition to unnecessary and unwise wars.Coretta Scott King devoted her life to taking strong, principled stands against what she regarded as unncessary and costly wars -- first Vietnam and, later, Iraq. Through her own speeches and the work of the King Center, she's been a leading figure in the peace movement for the past forty years. And importantly, she framed her continued involvement in antiwar activism as a way to honor and remember her husband's legacy. Why shouldn't her family and friends be allowed to do the same for her memory?
"We commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. as a great champion of peace who warned us that war was a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful tomorrow. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. Martin said, 'True peace is not just the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice,'" Mrs. King told a crowd that had gathered at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. She continued, "May his challenge and his example guide and inspire us to seek peaceful alternatives to a war with Iraq and military conflict in the Middle East."
President Bush invoked the name of Coretta Scott King at the start of his highly political State of the Union address, calling her "a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream." At her memorial service, however, he seemed put off that anyone would dare provide details of her courageous activism, or remind us what ideals she and her husband considered worth fighting and dying for.
If we as a nation are going to memorialize Coretta Scott King, let's be sure to get the memory right.
Update: If you want more evidence of how the eulogies to CSK were exactly the kind of thing the Kings would have done, check out this excellent compilation of politically charged comments made by MLK at several funerals of civil rights activists and similar comments made by eulogists at his own funeral.