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conservative carping about Coretta Scott King’s funeral

Many people have heard the comments that Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery made at Coretta Scott King’s funeral yesterday :

We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. [Standing Ovation] But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor.

Former president Jimmy Carter mentioned that:

"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."

Yes, some speakers actually had the temerity to mention that both Mrs. King and her late husband had a sometimes-unpopular tendency to speak out against war and poverty, and for civil rights and workers rights; some speakers even drew parallels between the sixties and our situation today. I feel so bad for Dubya, being at an event where his handlers couldn’t select the attendees, vet their speeches, and control the message for a perfect Fox-style soundbite against a blue slogan-laden backdrop. It must be so difficult for him to venture out into the real world, and find out that most people disagree with his policies and don’t trust him to tell the truth.

Kos has a retort (“Please, Politicize My Funeral”) to all the conservatives carping about this “politicized” funeral, as if the Kings and their legacies were somehow apolitical:

Here we have a woman who spent her lifetime speaking out, marching, lending her name to causes and fighting injustice with integrity in every breath she took. Her husband died for speaking out and she continued to do the same. Am I really to assume she would "tut tut" at the heartfelt and sometimes raucous, sometimes tear-inducing funeral we witnessed today? Am I really expected to presume that Michelle Malkin and the other winger crybabies know better than her family what would have pleased her at her last official ceremony?

Please, these people need - and I say this with all the respect it's due - to shut up. […] Just get out of our lives. And our deaths. And our funerals. And the way we honor our heroes, damn it.

I guess conservatives have forgotten that, in their eulogizing orgies for Reagan, they did plenty of politicizing: endless tributes to his Challenger speech, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, their emotional reactions to his “Morning in America” sales pitch, etc. (I suppose, in their minds, politicizing is only bad when Democrats do it.)

Greg Saunders writes in “Stealing Coretta” that the GOP should keep an honest distance from Mrs. King:

Face it conservatives, Coretta Scott King was a liberal. While civil rights heroes like the Kings were leading a non-violent struggle for equality, your political heroes were finding new ways to court southern racists away from the Democratic party. The Republican journey to victory was fueled by the votes of bigots, so it’s a little late in the game to start acting like you have the right to speak for the leaders of a movement you fought against.

Bill Clinton’s challenge to the assembled mourners that, “You want to treat our friend Coretta like a role model? Then model her behavior,” was right on the money, but that kind of message is easy for many to ignore.

The worst example of blatant misrepresentation that I have seen is at Mens’ News Daily’s BlogWonks, where a few pathetic swipes at Carter are followed by referring to Lowery—who co-founded the SCLC with Dr. King—as a “no-name preacher” who issued a “racist assault on the president” filled “ugly intolerance and vile hatred.” That’s delusion at its finest, from someone so obviously incensed at criticism of his Dear Leader Dubya that he couldn’t comprehend the words being spoken.

Last, but certainly not least, are King’s own sentiments about what he wanted for his funeral (I suspect that he and his wife were of similar minds on this subject):

And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.

[…]

I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

The desire to not mention what the Kings spent their lives fighting for is not a desire to avoid controversy: it is a desire for tacit politicization in the service of the status quo. Inoffensive platitudes and bland homilies would have been out of place at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, and ignoring important and relevant topics in this instance would have been far more offensive than mentioning them.

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