Coretta Scott King "was the glue that held the civil rights movement together" after the death of her husband, Rep. John Lewis says. She was "the first lady of the civil rights movement," the Washington Post reports, or "our Jackie Kennedy," said NPR commentator Juan Williams. PHOTOS: Retrospective Gallery of Coretta King's Life at WashingtonPost.com. I had the opportunity to interview her briefly once, in 1980 as a reporter for The Durham Morning Herald, when she spoke in Chapel Hill. I dug up my report from my files. Excerpts:
fair-skinned, neatly dressed young man, looking as if he might have just left a
Jaycee meeting, waited anxiously in a corner of the Morehead Planetarium lounge
in Chapel Hill.
As the crowd thinned out of
the room, he moved in closer to the focus of attention, Mrs. Martin Luther King
Jr. She was sitting on a sofa signing autographs and periodically spooning
fruit from a cup. He soon said something that a decade ago he probably wouldn’t
King,” he called out so earnestly that all eyes turned to him. Coretta Scott
King, clearly weary from a long day of traveling and lecturing, turned a
curious face to the young man. “Mrs. King, I was brought up to hate black
people,” he blurted out, “and while your husband was alive, I hated him.”
always heard that he’d start demonstrations, and as soon as violence erupted,
he’d flee the scene. But I really didn’t know what he stood for, and I did a
lot of reading about him later. I was so moved by who he was and what he was
that I decided to devote myself to the ministry.”
King smiled serenely and gently clasped the young man’s hand. “It’s people like
you that keep me going 18 hours a day,” she said. “You help me to know that
Martin did not die in vain.”
had to believe that some good had come from her husband’s death. “As a result
of Martin’s death,” she said, “black people and white people are closer than
they once were. I know, because I lived in that South and I remember when
blacks were afraid of whites and whites were afraid of blacks.
made tremendous progress, but we have a long way to go.”
stll speaks of Martin, dead nearly 12 years, in the present tense: “Martin
believes…” she said repeatedly. “Martin says…”
that does not mean she doesn’t have her own opinions, and express them
Carter,” she said, “truly loves Andy Young. He loved and respected him too much
to fire him…” as ambassador to the United Nations when Young offended some
people with controversial statements such as “there are thousands of political
prisoners in America.”
student looked skeptical. “Do you really think that’s true?” he asked.
King whipped around and admonished him gently. “I know it’s true. There were
bureaucrats in the State Department who wanted Andy to resign all along, and he
stayed only because Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and President Carter wanted
Carter faces a challenge during this (1980) presidential primary season from
Senator Edward Kennedy, who boasts of a stronger record on civil rights. But
Mrs. King strongly defended Carter on a range of foreign and domestic issues,
and said she speaks to him often. Since they are both from Georgia, Mrs.
King said she felt she had a special friend in the White House.
of all, she challenged the students to carry on the work her husband began. “Be
ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity,” she said, quoting
the educator Horace Mann.
"These men believed they had discovered a cosmic secret, that the rules did not have to be obeyed, that the norms of society were arbitrary. I suspect they felt they had not only the opportunity to find true freedom, but the obligation. To be a bohemian was to be a commando in a culture war. What to others might look like irresponsibility or selfishness was, for them, a courageous assault on a repressive, uncreative and phony society. They were out there taking one for the team. And they didn't tend to live a long time, those guys, I'm sad to say." -- Joel Achenbach on "Bohemian Dads," which inspired remarkable, well-written online sharing about fathers and mothers in the "comments" section of Joel's Washington Post blog.
"Virtual communities could help citizens revitalize democracy, or they could be luring us into an attractively packaged substitute for democratic discourse." -- Howard Rheingold, quoted on "Imagining the Internet," past and future predictions about the Internet, a joint project of Elon University and the Pew Internet project. http://www.elon.edu/predictions/default.aspx. Includes a survey. "Share your vision today." Read recent predictions.
"Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified
Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to
evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups
were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in
candidates they opposed. When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it..."
After posting 13 messages contending a Martin Luther King holiday is unnecessary, Ron Moore now says: "I really didn't care one way or another whether there was a MLK holiday. Completely different than being opposed to the holiday." Such a laughable equivocation is probably as close to a concession as Ron is ever going to make about any issue on this blog.
But he has a point that in his real life, off-line, "when I have a little get-together at my house it looks like the the
General Assembly of the UN. Seems there are people out there of all
hues, genders, sexual persuasions that like the nasty, old
None of us who only know Ron's online persona can argue with that. We don't know whether his real-life friends know the extent of his political views as expressed here. Offline, he could be a warm, open-minded and charismatic humanitarian and I could be a cold, narrow-minded and self-centered bigot, in terms of how we actually live our lives, for all anyone who reads this blog could know. We all of us are challenged by the words we express, the beliefs and ideals we say we hold, and how we actually live our lives.
All of us have affinity for people who think like we do. Most of us have experienced immediate dislike for people who strike us as stereotypical archetypes of political or social beliefs we dislike. But most of us have also met people we agreed with politically but disliked personally, and most of us have been surprised to discover people we disagreed with politically but liked personally. I have met humorless zealots of the left and of the right who struck me as less generous and less humanitarian than the apostates they're trying to convince, as well as cynics who no longer believed in anything and seemed to have lost their way. Keeping beliefs in balance is a challenge.
I thought Mike Anderson accurately nailed Ron's political philosophy as expressed on this blog -- "fierce reactionary" -- as much as my effort to classify him as a libertarian or 19th century liberal. Wikipedia defines reactionary as one who "wishes to return to a real or imagined old order of things." It's a "reflexive politics rather than responsive and informed."
For both Ron and me, there's a tendency toward reflexive REACTION -- "if he's for it, I've got to be against it, for I know he can't be right about anything."
There can, of course, be liberal reactionaries, those who react negatively to anything and everything proposed by George W. Bush, who wish to return the country to FDR's New Deal, JFK's New Frontier, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, or "if only Al Gore had assumed the presidency he rightfully won in 2000," or if only the votes in Ohio were accurately counted and John Kerry would have rightfully won the presidency in 2004.
We all have to guard against the politics of reaction, fighting the last war, looking backward rather than toward a future that will be both better and worse than we imagine. We are sure to be both awed and appalled by what's ahead.
Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent (UK), self-described secular humanist and author of Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right, asserts that there is an attempt by some in mainstream media, more in Britain that the U.S., but in certain enclaves of Hollywood, to drive religion out of public life, as witnessed by reactions to movies like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and the "censorious dismissal of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." It is the Anglo-American cultural elites' insecurity about their own values that encourages their frenzied attacks on religion, he contends.
Harshly negative reactions to both films "are testaments to a potent mood of intolerance towards expressions of religious faith in popular culture today," Furedi writes in Spiked Online, supposedly consisting of essays rejected by mainstream media.
"The artistic representation of religious conviction is frequently stigmatized with terms such as 'fundamentalist', 'intolerant', 'dogmatic', 'exclusive', 'irrational' or 'right-wing'," he writes. "As a secular humanist who is instinctively uncomfortable with zealot-like moralism, I am suspicious of the motives behind these doctrinaire denunciations of films with a religious message." Read the whole thing at Spiked Online.
In another Spiked Online article, he contends that both left and right practice the "politics of fear," or reaction. He points out that certain right-wingers want to ban stem cell research, while certain left-wingers seek to ban genetically modified products.