Ben Adler’s memorial piece about Martin Luther King Jr at Campus Progress mentions that:
Young people today are often accused of apathy. But perhaps they’d be more likely to rally if they were blessed with inspiring leaders like Dr. King to rally around. Though, because of his belief in civil disobedience, he was dismissed as a demagogue and even a thug by conservatives at the time, he is now hailed across the political spectrum as a member of the pantheon of American heroes. After years of conservative opposition to naming a day in King’s honor, we now have a national holiday to celebrate his legacy.
For those who think Adler’s assessment is inaccurate, what do you think of King’s association with liberal newsmagazine The Nation? That’s hardly something that a conservative would do, either then or now.
Rick Perlstein’s “Day of Reckoning” at TNR explains conservatives’ problem dealing with King’s legacy. King’s words in opposition to unjust laws and in favor of civil disobedience were misrepresented to imply support for moral relativism and worse:
What looks today obviously like transcendent justice looked to conservatives then like anarchy. The conservative response to King--to demonize him in the '60s and to domesticate him today--has always been essentially the same: It has been about coping with the fear that seekers of justice may overturn what we see as the natural order and still be lionized. But if we manage to forget that, sometimes, doing things that terrify people is the only recourse to injustice, there is no point in having a Martin Luther King Day at all.
As Joseph Palermo writes at HuffPo, “The hollow tributes to King's legacy we will hear today by the enemies of everything King stood for must be tempered by a clear reading of the historical record.”