On Martin Luther King Day...
Back in 1973-4, my father took my mother and me on summer vacations to Washington, DC. This was easy enough to do since my father was stationed on Ft. Meade, Maryland at the time. Among the many monuments, memorials, shrines and buildings we'd visited were the graves of Martin Luther King, Jr and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Both men had been assassinated just five or six years previous, so the memories of their senseless and abrupt passing was still fresh in all three of our memories.
Visiting Dr. King's grave site would be impossible for my father today as he wouldn't become a full-blown racist until a few years down the road. But what struck me about King's, and especially Sen. Kennedy's, grave, was the humility that was granted to them, humility upon which both men would've insisted had they any control over it.
Dr. King's headstone is a good, solid one, larger than most, and it only doubled in size when he was finally joined by his widow, Coretta Scott King a little over a decade ago. Bobby Kennedy's grave is a simple white cross in Arlington Cemetery that could easily get lost if you didn't know exactly where to look. Having a vague sense of Senator Kennedy's importance in the ever-unfolding skein of American history, I was struck even at that young age at how simple his white cross was. It has not changed nor has been added to or embellished one bit since I'd visited it decades ago.
This speaks volumes about the measure of both men. They couldn't have come from more dissimilar worlds- King coming from a poverty-stricken life marked by virulent racism while Kennedy was raised in wealth and privilege. Yet both men saw and recognized the threats facing our nation (back when it was still great) and did their damnedest to stem the tide of evil and injustice that had threatened it. If human history had but one epitaph when our end comes, it'll be this:
It was ever the goal of man to keep at arm's length the ever-encroaching night. It was a losing battle but the brave distinguished themselves by fighting it nonetheless.
Nowadays, it seems the night presses ever closer, that this Zoroastrian battle between good and evil, or chaos and order, is turning in favor of the dark side. Dr. King and Senator Kennedy were not heroes merely because they fought the good fight but because they took their respective missions more seriously than they took themselves.
Nowadays, it seems Kennedy and King have been supplanted over the last two generations with so-called statesmen bloated with hubris and arrogance and we see no better exemplar of this than with the incoming President. Donald Trump is a man whose orange-tinted face could be reasonably placed in any dictionary next to the words "hubris", "egotism" and even "megalomania". He is a man who thinks he can take the reins of power of what is arguably the most trying, difficult and ego-bruising office and job on the planet without having the slightest capacity to brook even one insult from others. His latest shameful Twitter tirade against Congressman John Lewis is but one example of this man's inability to accept that some people aren't on board with his racist agenda or comfortable with the extremely discomfiting revelations regarding the legitimacy of his election or the integrity of his so-called morality.
At no time in American history (and I include George W. Bush when I write this) had any man ascended to the presidency under such a cloud of disrepute. We who know our asses from our elbows know Bush stole the election as well as his re-election but that was due to Republican operatives. This time around, there's a very real perception (and the facts or the lack of them be damned) that outside operatives, actors from a certain foreign nation, influenced an election that had been, as always, narrowed down to two oligarchs who never gave a damn about the working class and the working poor, two people who were so deeply flawed it makes the sane doubt their sanity for even recognizing how unqualified they both are for the presidency.
Dr. King would have been ashamed of Barack Obama and one has to wonder what an 88 year-old Martin Luther King would say now about a man who'd expanded a drone strike program to nearly cartoonish proportions and used his power as President to slaughter thousands of innocents in seven different countries and maintained two senseless wars begun by his predecessor. And however much of an embarrassment Obama would've been for an elderly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the civil rights icon would've been absolutely aghast to see his hard-won victories gutted by succeeding Republican-led Congresses and a right wing-leaning Supreme Court. And if that hadn't killed him. the incoming government would've finished him off.
Donald Trump's pick to head the Justice Department is an openly racist Senator from Alabama who has used the N word several times in his political career, thinks separation of church and state is "unconstitutional" and had publicly opposed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act that had gotten Dr. King, and Congressman Lewis, physically battered and arrested literally dozens of times. Anyone paying close attention to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions' public statements and testimony during his confirmation hearing by his own Senate Judiciary Committee knows that one of his first acts as Attorney General will be to gut if not outright abolish the DOJ's Civil Rights Division and probably using the same rubric than had Chief Justice John Roberts while he helped to gut Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: That we're post-racial and have no need to be a watchdog over civil rights.
Jeff Sessions is no more a moderate than his predecessors Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, who both filibustered the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts when they were still bills in Congress. Jeff Sessions is a withered little warrior for an America that never was: White and Christian to the core, a ridiculous puppet of racist factions still struggling to take up the White Man's Burden.
And the scary thing about Jeff Sessions is he seems to fit in this latter day Congress. His nomination is merely a controversial one because our supine mainstream media refuses to recognize Sessions' public and voting record and his exact place in history. If Jeff Sessions, or Donald Trump, have any public worth, it's to remind us of the need for more men like The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and that the chaos and the darkness is far from being held at bay.