Hallowed Ground

I didn’t watch Saturday’s Glenn Beck-run rally in DC and don’t have that much to say about it, but the orgy of apoplexy flowing from the rally’s critics on the left has been hilarious. The most extreme example is Bill Press claiming that God should not be mentioned on the spot where Rev. Martin Luther King jr. spoke these words:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Perhaps Press was thinking, in looking at the Lincoln Memorial of Lincoln himself, and the words of his celebrated Second Inaugural Address:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Or maybe not.
Dave Weigel, meanwhile, gets it at least half right in the reactions to Beck & co. praising Dr. King’s vision of a colorblind America:

Every January and (to a lesser extent) August, conservatives write columns arguing that King believed that we’d reach racial transcendence when we judged “the content of character” over the color of skin. Liberals rebut that by pointing out that King was a man of the left who worked for social justice and racial uplift and opposed the Vietnam War, and was condemned by conservatives for all of this. Liberals have the facts on their side; conservatives have the fact that King has become a secular saint, honored not for all of his politics but for a few specific achievements. Schoolchildren don’t learn about the social democratic politics; they learn about him Having a Dream. So when Beck said he identified with MLK more than with the founding fathers, it was ironic; figuratively, he’s been carved in marble for decades.

Of course, it’s a dicey business to guess what Dr. King, like Lincoln or the elder Kennedy brothers, might have believed had he lived another decade or two, and seen the political realities that led the Great Society and its era to ruin and the nation rightward by 1980. Perhaps he would have drifted leftward, like Jesse Jackson; perhaps rightward, and come to be horrified by the politics of racial preferences and racial grievance. We can’t know; we can only know what he did with the time that was given to him.

3 thoughts on “Hallowed Ground”

  1. We have done with King what we have done with many other famous Americans: made them men for all seasons. King was a radical in the field of economics. He said that he had no more use for capitalism than he did for communism. I also would say of the Dream speech what John Adams said of the Declaration. What original throughts were in it? In both cases, the aim was to lay before the audience the “common sense” of the subject. Sadly, I believe King would have followed down the road of Jesse Jackson. King, like Lincoln, died at a perfect time for his reputation.

  2. I have to disagree with Keith. I think MLK would have shown us path that neither followed the path or “victimhood” nor the path of “everymanf of himself” He was such a unique person that he would established a path no one today would ever have thought of. It would have been exciting to see where he could have led us.

  3. As Crank indictaes, it is impossible to know what would have transpired if JFK, MLK and RFK were not killed. Moreover, while King’s speech was magnificent both in substance and delivery, that fact should not and does not convey special proprietary rights over the steps to the Lincoln Memorial.
    That location is the best in Washington for a large rally and any group espousing any message should be allowed to rally there. Only by doing as Beck did, drawing comparisons to the Civil Rights March in 1963, is one opened up to comparison with the King speech and criticism for tone and content of the rally.

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