Impressions of Coretta Scott King’s Funeral
Last night I was up late watching Cspan’s repeat of Coretta Scott King’s funeral – it was called a Home Coming Celebration and it was just that – raucous, loving and beautiful.
The tribute and celebration went on for hours and there was a full house present at the huge church in Lithonia, Georgia in which it took place. Many congressmen and women were present and the speakers included 4 US presidents. Somehow I tuned in just as the sitting president was finishing up, what a break – I’m sorry, I just don’t believe a word that man says, our selected president. I’m sure the tribute was beautifully written by someone, but to me it remains just hollow words on a page when spoken by would be King George.
But I did hear Bush, Sr., Jimmie Carter and Clinton. Speaking also were many ministers representing various churches and denominations, plus Coretta’s daughter Berniece King, a minister herself, and Malcolm X’s daughter, Malaak Shabazz. I particularly liked Carter’s tribute because it was so personal, Carter was governor of Georgia prior to becoming president, and it was obvious he had a very personal connection to both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. He said “They overcame one of the greatest challenges of life, which is to be able to wage a fierce struggle for freedom and justice and to do it peacefully.” He also said “It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated, and they became the targets of secret government wiretapping and other surveillance.” The right wing pundits had a field day finding fault with this factual information, but the attendees in the room gave Carter a rousing ovation. Pres. Carter cited the victims of Katrina when referencing the racial struggles that still remain. In his words “The struggle for civil rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama & Mississippi. Those who are most devastated by Katrina know there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans.” Carter also got scathingly called “ungracious” by the right wing pundits, you know who they are, for not shaking Bush’s hand. Bush was sitting almost directly behind the speakers podium and so when each speaker would finish up and turn around to find their seat, it was difficult to ignore the president and not shake his hand – even if you wanted to – protocol you know – But Carter picked up his notes and walked deliberately past the president in what appeared to be a snub. He did what he felt like doing. He did not want to play the hypocrisy game. Mrs. King, I believe, in those circumstances would have been more gracious, if you want to call it that, but that is only because she had such a deep and abiding faith in transformation, even of the most stubborn and seemingly unredeemable among us.
Judge William Sessions, a former director of the FBI told the gathering of receiving a letter from Mrs. King in 1987 personally inviting him to be a part of the official King birthday celebration. Given the history of the FBI’s persecution of Dr. King, Sessions at first doubted the letter’s authenticity. He said he found the symbolism of the invitation astonishing. Speaking directly to King’s children, Sessions said “I came to know and to love your mother with an admiration for the treasure that she was.”
Watching the event was a kind of surreal piece of history in the making. I was struck by the obvious differing ideologies present in that one huge room. On the one hand a celebration of the life of a woman, Coretta Scott King, who has meant so much to all of our common dreams for a fair, just and equitable society, juxtaposed against the current administrations policies that actively work against that ideal. And many of the speakers were not shy in pointing this out.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder with Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference received long and thunderous applause when he said “We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there, but Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here – millions without health insurance – poverty abounds – for war billions more – but no more for the poor.” And I might add the middle class is being squeezed down to poverty levels.
Coretta Scott King went home on the eve of the possible dismantlement of our Constitution – recently in a kind of lame defense of his actions of spying upon Americans without a FISA court warrant, Bush implied that the FISA act was dated, we are living in a new world, he said. It would appear that he thinks our Constitution is outdated also.
By the appointment of one of the most ultra conservative judges to the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito, the court is now stacked against the people’s interests. An analysis of Judge Alito’s past judicial opinions found that Judge Alito would take minority positions at odds with other judges, and he voted on the side of government and big corporations and against the interests of people like you and me more than 80% of the time.
Bush’s new proposed budget has astronomical reductions in programs that serve citizens, while providing more tax relief for the very wealthiest Americans. In 1998 the top 1% of wealth-holders controlled 38% of the nation’s wealth. Do the super-rich really have too little and the rest of us too much?
Billions more are proposed to be slashed from federal education programs, while interest rates for student loans are being raised and cash bonuses for enlistment in the military are doubled.
Isn’t it ironic that our constitutional form of government began with a fierce rebellion against a King George and if we are not actively involved now, it may end with another would be King George.
Coretta, rest in much needed peace for now, but before too long, won’t you grab Martin and come on back to our little planet? We need enlightened leadership now like never before.