Ben at Badger Blues thought about St. Thomas Beckett in connection with Coretta Scott King's funeral. That's good. What isn't so good is his suggestion that there is some parallel between Beckett's martyrdom and its role in establishing the rule of law, King's martyrdom and its role in bringing about an acknowledgment of the evil of racial prejudice, and turning Coretta Scott King's funeral into an opportunity to embarrass the President.
How would that connection made? Bush going to Mrs. King's funeral was sort of like when King Henry II had to, you know, wear like sackcloth and ashes and get whipped by these monks because - the King? - he murdered St. Thomas Beckett. And then it was like the King had to obey the law just like a regular dude. So at the funeral, you know, they actually made Bush sit and listen to what a tool he is. Way cool.
On a certain level the fact that four Presidents (from both political parties) attended Coretta Scott King's funeral does suggest an enormous sea change in our political life in a very short time frame. We have come, in a relatively short period of time, to an almost univeral consensus about an idea that was once very controversial and the idea that King was martyred for that idea is not a new one. But the fact of that sea change and the significance of that martyrdom is what makes the behavior of Rev. Lowery and our worst ex-President so disgusting.
Martin Luther King and his wife are widely admired (there's the sea change)because of their commitment to the notion that persons ought not to be treated differently on the basis of their race. You can argue that they did - or would have - supported a whole slew of liberal positions on Viet Nam, Iraq, affirmative action, etc., but their moral authority is based upon that single proposition. We remember Dr. King because he dreamed of a day when people would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Perhaps he also dreamed - or would have dreamed - of a day when 30% of municipal contracts would be set aside for minority owned businesses or of a day when we would spend even more than the trillions we have already spent (for good or ill) on urban poverty. Maybe he would have dreamed of the day when we treated the international terrorism that he did not know about as a law enforcement problem and not as the equivalent of war. But that's not why we celebrate King Day.
And it is that one concept; that commitment to equality before the law that drew four Presidents to Coretta Scott King's funeral. It was appropriate for them - and appropriate for us - to honor the fact that, whatever else we disagree on, we now do agree on that one principle. It would have been appropriate to put politics aside. It would have been appropriate to resist squandering the moral capital built up around that principle on the political differences of the day.
But that didn't happen. Rev. Joseph Lowery trotted out the multi-discredited "Bush lied about WMDs" trope and suggested that liberating Iraq from a murderous dictator was like genocide. He then suggested that because, I guess, the President could have called for increasing social spending even more than he has, he is "turning a blind eye" toward the poor. We can disagree all day about Iraq and poverty policy, but that's all just silly.
The increasingly execrable Jimmy Carter then implied that the complicated legal wrangle over NSA eavesdropping undertaken to prevent foreign terrorist attacks was like spying on Martin Luther King for political gain. I concede that there are serious issues around the NSA program but it is a world away from what Carter was referring to. He pulled out the now largely discredited set of racial myths about Katrina. As President Carter's ineffectuality blunted his sanctimony. Now that he is responsible for nothing, he has become insufferable.
Perhaps obeisance to this week's lefty shibboleths is the equivalent of forcing a monarch to submit to the rule of law. But I can't see it.