Wednesday, January 19, 2005

You know, my reaction to the sainthood of Martin Luther King is not real positive. Let's start by saying what we have to give King credit for: He was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, definitely the most charismatic of them; he showed real courage the several times he confronted racist Southern police; and he always condemned violence no matter who committed it. Now, those actions show King to have been right.

If he hadn't been assassinated, though, and reached the status of martyr, he'd likely still be alive today, and we might today think of King as we think of, say, Ralph Abernathy, someone we admire but who hasn't been elevated to sainthood. I've never thought, for example, that King was particularly eloquent; the "I Have a Dream" speech is the same early '60s idealistic twaddle of "Blowin' in the Wind". As for King's personal behavior, saints should be, if not saintly, at least above routine suspicion. King was a womanizer and he plagiarized his dissertation. He also diluted the strength of his appeal by giving his support to non-civil-rights related causes of the time, especially his opposition to the Vietnam War; you'll remember that when King was shot, he was in Memphis to support a striking union.

Here's a what if: what if King had lived? He'd likely have continued on as he was, as a major leader in civil rights organizations. I doubt he'd have gone into elective politics, though Jimmy Carter would have offered him a Cabinet post, I'm sure. And I'll just bet that along about 1984-1992, when the PC (Pre-Clinton) sexual harassment wing of the feminists was raging and Clarence Thomas was being grilled on whether he'd left a pubic hair on a Coke can, somebody would have outed him. The extreme feminists would have loved showing Nobel Prize-winner King up as an example of the stereotype of the "typical man" they were pushing.

Here's another what if: what if King had swung to the Right as he got older and times changed? I don't see King having much truck with abortion or gay liberation, and I don't think he was much of a feminist, either. I also don't think he was a big fan of the Soviets, though he was a pacifist. Remember, King was a Baptist, and he was socially conservative. He might well have joined the "family values" crowd on some issues, while remaining on the left regarding socioeconomic policies.

Here's one more what if: what are the odds that some other racist redneck like James Earl Ray would have popped King a few years down the road, assuming he somehow survived or never went to Memphis?

I dunno. Significant assassinations or assassination attempts: 1963, JFK; 1968, RFK and King; 1972, Wallace; 1976, Ford twice; 1980, Reagan. Other significant public violence: 1967-71 rioting; 1970 Kent State; 1971 Attica. I bet if King had survived until about 1974, nobody would have tried to shoot him after that. The last three assassins, those who tried to kill Ford and Reagan, were nuts, unlike Ray, who apparently volunteered as triggerman as part of a small conspiracy that most likely included at least one of Ray's brothers and a St. Louis moneyman, who financed Ray's escape to Europe.

No comments: