Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How to behave at funerals

Coretta at Martin Luther King's funeral
Revka weighs in on what matters about Coretta Scott King's funeral–the president's feelings:
I have no respect for the people who stood up clapping for 2 minutes after the political jabs were spewed at Bush..This funeral was a joke.

You don't hang someone who is paying their respects out to dry at a funeral.
Yes, why couldn't people who were there to pay their respects to a civil rights leader be nicer to this president who's snubbed his nose at everything she worked for?

Of course, it isn't just our homegrown hacks who are outraged. Katie O'Beirne is peeved. The Freepers are bananas, and Malkin is in a lather. Democrats this, Democrats that. I see a lot of mentions of President Bush, some discussion of the Clintons, the occasional swipe at President Carter, and of course criticism of SCLC co-founder Joseph Lowery. What I don't see is a lot of discussion of the person at the center of the event, Coretta Scott King.

As ThinkProgress reminds us, President Bush chose Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday to announce his opposition to affirmative action, two years after Coretta Scott King used the occasion to call for people to improve the society they live in, especially by opposing the "attack on affirmative action."

On that same day, CNN explains that she spoke out against violence, advocating stronger gun control, an end to the death penalty, and less military spending. These would not seem to align terribly well with the President's positions, which might explain why President Bush's policies came in for criticism today. CNN continues:

The most pervasive form of violence, Mrs. King said, is that identified by her husband as the "systemic violence of poverty and neglect." Fighting that violence, she said, requires greater investment in job training and economic development, along with improved housing and health care opportunities for all Americans.
As thousands of Katrina refugees are about to be left homeless by President Bush's government, one has to wonder what Mrs. King would say about about the President today. Given how Katrina exposed our society's failure to confront the "systematic violence of poverty and neglect," it would hardly be surprising if Mrs. King had not spoken out against the Bush administration's failures on the Gulf, had she not been hospitalized before the disaster and in recovery for some time after.

The funeral was about her, her life and her work. That work was in many ways opposed to what the Bush administration has done, and the contrast is inescapable. A victim of excessive government surveillance, an advocate for economic policies targeted at people in need, an opponent of wars of choice and Iraq in particular, a voice for the oppressed–most recently gay Americans, a strong woman who built a legacy of her own, beyond the foundations her husband laid.

In her own words:
"I am often identified as the widow of Martin Luther King Jr.," she said some years ago. "Sometimes, I am also identified as a civil rights leader or a human rights activist. While these designations are factually correct, I would also like to be thought of as a complex, three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human being with a rich storehouse of experiences, much like everyone else, yet unique in my own way … much like everyone else."
Anyone who attended the funeral thinking it would be a bland photo-op was doing her a disservice. Real people's funerals are spirited and reflect the person who passed and that person's friends. That's what happened today, and if the President didn't like it, he didn't have to go. But he went, and it wasn't about him. It was about a woman who spent her life squaring off against people in power.

Had her funeral done any less, it would have been an insult to her memory.