The Violation of a Funeral

Regarding the funeral for Coretta Scott King, obviously sad because of its reason for being, but sadder still because it was a seven-hour farce, fiasco, or formidable boot-camp obstacle course, when it should have had the dignity and respect so richly deserved by Mrs. King, a great woman by any account. I checked on it periodically via TV (C-Span). A woman with a marvelous voice sort of set the tone when she decided to give Albert Hay Malotte’s enchantingly beautiful “The Lord’s Prayer” a bit of soul, thus mangling it and holding one note (or screech, in that range) for so long that it was about to be 911 for either her or the people holding their breaths in sympathy and/or dodging her flying tonsils. The presiding pastor was dressed exactly like the Pope of Rome in his flowing white floor-length garment and vestment buttoned to the clerical collar at his neck…leaving no doubt as to the actual center of attention. I heard that there were 39 speakers, but saw none in academic gowns or robes.

I heard/viewed the orations by the Bushes, Clinton, Kennedy, Georgia Governor Perdue, and the Atlanta mayor, as well as other speeches throughout the day…a long day. President Bush XLIII spoke within the context of scripture and emphasized Heaven as the joyful destination. President Bush XLI did much the same and added some humor to the occasion. President Clinton was at his charismatic best, speaking flawlessly without notes and, this time, in obvious sincerity, although his plug for the city of Atlanta to do something about the King Memorial Center probably left the mayor cold. The governor turned the meeting into an old-time revival – great stuff. The mayor turned the thing into the predictably, strident political affair that it became shortly after it started. I didn’t hear President Carter but discovered later that he was at his nastiest, a little man who took the opportunity to castigate someone with the guts he didn’t have in 1979 to face down the bloody Muslims, leaving more than 50 Americans in Iranian captivity for well over a year. If a lesson had been learned at that time, it might not have been too late for the learning on 9/11. Carter even mentioned Katrina, as if Bush had conjured up a hurricane just to plague black folk.

Senator Kennedy was to the King funeral what Senator Harkin was to the Wellstone funeral in 2002, a blustering blathering egocentric who had the self-serving gall to mention brother Robert’s help to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1960, but not Robert’s permission later as the Attorney General for the FBI to tap King’s office and home phones, the source of much of the info regarding MLK’s philandering. His date of 1960 was, of course, wrong, since Brother Bobby was not even in the Justice Department then, much less the attorney general. While he spoke, I kept seeing the picture of an upside-down Oldsmobile in a shallow pond in 1969, in which Teddy, a 37-year-old sitting U.S. senator at the time, left a young woman not his wife to die alone while he swam to his hotel and went to bed to “sleep it off.”

It wasn’t actually a funeral, of course, but a political rally, whether hijacked by those who could get away with it at a time when the King children were in distress, or actually planned by the children in the ongoing effort to see that WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Males) are blamed for being the perpetrators of all that’s evil in this world. Seven hours! I had two meals during that time. The truly pathetic figure was Dr. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral, who sat there stoically through it all, though President Bush stayed for three hours and absorbed the venting of the spleens, whether toward him or white folks in general. Schuller gave the benediction. The other main players had been long, long gone by then. Bush retained the dignity he knew he would need, with the certain knowledge he would be viciously attacked. It didn’t matter. No republican could ever hope for more than 10% of the black vote, no matter if he could snap his fingers and triple entitlements, so his motives were pure.

Whenever people spend what amounted probably to nearly an hour altogether in simply applauding a thing, whether speech, song, ballet, or someone, honor/respect is out the window, including any for God, whose name was taken over and over somewhat in vain. It was more of a love-in for those who have as their mantra, “We’ve come a long ways, but we have a long ways to go.” After 50 years of being granted everything conceivable by state and federal legislatures and courts (most all of it justifiable), African Americans might have wondered if maybe they’ve finally arrived. They have arrived, in any case, and should start finally to use everything and every opportunity that has been made available to them, instead of continually caterwauling for more, in the vein of the ways of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Instead of calling people like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Clarence Thomas by the epithet of “Uncle Tom” or its equivalent, they should start emulating these people.

Longtime, legendary activist Joseph Lowery used his time to talk about no WMD in Iraq, but about weapons of “misdirection,” presumably in the South, as if that had anything to do with eulogizing Mrs. King. It might have escaped him that some 360,000 union soldiers (practically all of them white) died of wounds and disease in the Civil War to free the ancestors of blacks in this country, and that American GIs, about 10% of them black (as of last September, about the same as Vietnam), are doing the same thing with respect to the Iraqis. Colorblindness can be very selective, depending upon the person and the privilege.

Actually, it was a funeral within a campaign rally of sorts, the same as that which happened regarding the Wellstone funeral in 2002. One could have expected at any moment to see/HEAR Howard Dean of the SCREAM, but, thankfully, that didn’t happen. The democrat lost in 2002. Perhaps those who attempted to hijack this funeral should take note.