was no shortage of opportunists present as they broke ground the other day
for the $100 million Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, DC.
Charlatans from Oprah to Hilfiger lined up in the hope a little of Dr.
King's integrity might rub off on them. But the most out of place speaker
was, of course, President George W. Bush, who told the crowd, "our journey
to justice is not complete. There are still people in our society who
hurt, neighborhoods that are too poor . . . there's still prejudice that
holds citizens back." That whirring noise heard in the background . .
.well, you know the rest.
As Dubya spoke about "the promise of
America," I had to wonder what he'd think of the Dr. King who said: "A
nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military
defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom .
. . Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided
missiles and misguided men." Surely, today's America would have an orange
jumpsuit all ready for the MLK that believed, "The question is not whether
we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be" and "When
you are right, you cannot be too radical."
Billionaire Oprah delivered the boilerplate speech about how she wouldn't
be where she is today if it weren't for King. I guess no one told her or
Hilfiger that their hero believed that to achieve "a real equality the
U.S." we would have to "adopt a modified form of socialism." Oops. "When
machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered
more important than people," King exclaimed, "the giant triplets of
racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
Bill Clinton ("the first black president") used the opportunity to align
himself with our current Decider-in-Chief. "When the real battlefield is
the human heart, civil disobedience works better than suicide bombing;
fighting your opponents with respect and reason works better than
aspersion and attack," said the man who bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical
plant to distract us from Monica's kneepads. Bubba then added: "If he were
here, he would remind us that the time to do right remains."
Well, we don't know exactly what King would say about the U.S. invasion of
Iraq, but his thoughts on another brutal intervention are on the record.
The Vietnamese, he said, "must see Americans as strange liberators ... For
it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not
simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face
each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of
death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the
things we claim to be fighting for are really involved ... What do they
think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested
out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?"
Jesse Jackson said the memorial was "a full circle for black people in
this country." A full circle: from the jungles of Vietnam and streets of
Watts to the deserts of Iraq and levees of New Orleans. Keep dreaming . .
is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions
You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found
on the Web at:
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