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Coretta Scott King Funeral: Hate Is Too Great A Burden To Bear

KingfuneralThough we try to stay focused on Indiana politics, someone brought up the Coretta Scott King funeral and the politically tinged comments made by various speakers there. We wanted to take a few moments to reflect on what happened and to explain our stance on the issue.

At the risk of invoking the wrath of the liberal blogosphere, we're going to come down on the "now, why'd you have to go and do that?" side of things.

We agree that the fight for equal rights is far from over, and we're just as livid as anyone about the treatment of Hurricane Katrina victims. We see that injustice remains in this country. We get it. But we'd be hypocrites if we condemned the GOP kids who showed up to videotape Melina Kennedy's announcement speech but let our own folks off the hook for stealing the limelight at what should have been a celebration of the life of an esteemed civil rights pioneer.

Right message, wrong location.

Don't believe us? Go over to one of the news search engines and type in "Coretta Scott King." There are thousands of stories from around the world, but it's hard to find one that doesn't focus on the political controversy. Is that how we want the world to see us? America, the country that can't memorialize a hero without producing a snarky soundbite?

Of course, it's possible that Mrs. King, whose legacy includes forcing the nation to re-evaluate its definitions of equality and justice, might not have minded having her funeral used to kick-start a new generation of debate. But we personally found it a little distasteful.

Feel free to disagree.


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In the African-American expereience, testimony, speaking the truth even if it makes some uncomfortable, is part of our community's lifestyle. The civil rights struggle, that Coretta and Martin worked and died on behalf of, was about speaking the truth, even if speaking that truth makes some uncomfortable. President Carter, as we know, has not been shy in critizing policies he strongly disagrees with. As a man of faith, as a baptist, it is part of his faith tradition to express truth, even if to others it seems "inappropriate". Rev. Joseph Lowery, lso baptist, has never been a shy man with words. Having met him on a couple of occasions and heard him speak, I would have been surprised if he had NOT spoken out against injustice, even with President Bush just three feet away.
Maybe TDW is thinking of the funeral of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone where some felt that politics got out of hand. Yesterday's service did mix politics, with a strong sense of faith and celebration of Coretta Scott King's life and service. Life and service which combined speaking the truth and comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. That trait is an integral part of our community. Worthy of praise, not TDW tut-tutting. P.S. If you had listened to the entire service and heard everything in context, I'm sure you'd agree with me.

I understand what you're saying, and I thought the service, most of which I was able to watch, was beautiful. I'm just concerned that Mrs. King's legacy, at least as far as media coverage goes, has been overshadowed by politics.

I don't like that our side, which stands for all the right things, gave their side, which stands for all the things Mrs. King fought against her whole life, a chance to make us look like petty partisans.

I am a middle-aged voter very interested in politics and in particular, in the rebirth of values of the Democratic party. This time in history, to me, has almost everything lined up to help promote Democratic victories in the November. Things are in shambles in DC and elsewhere. I would really hate it if the Democrats shot themselves in the foot and don't take advantage of this chance to take control. Having said that, unlike the Wellstone funeral, this is several months away from the election and the Democrats have time to shine the light on Republican failures if they just do it with class and fresh ideas.

Thanks for clarifying the difference between this and the Wellstone funeral, which has drawn many comparisons in the media.

My objection to this probably stems more from the fact that I've always thought of funerals as a place to celebrate the life of one we've lost, not as a place to condemn political decisions made by those still living.

Sometimes, as I think the argument is being made here, the two sides meet, and we're left with a celebration that includes condemnation almost on behalf of the deceased.

"Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation."

- Coretta Scott King

I agree that many of the speeches yesterday would make people uncomfortable. A funeral, at it's core, is a rememberance and celebration of a person's life. Many people would prefer to reflect solely on the positive Mrs. King's life; that makes us comfortable and eases our pain.

However, if we take anything from Dr. and Mrs. King, it is that searching and fighting for freedom and justice is always uncomfortable. Did some of the speakers go too far? Maybe. But what could have been a better celebration of Coretta Scott King's life: speaker after speaker getting up and speaking truth to power, urging people forward, and reminding everyone to continue the struggle.

It would have been easy to be nice, to be uncontroversial, and comfortable. That would have been a incomplete celebration of Coretta Scott King's life indeed.

The question really is whether you can pay tribute to someone who spent her life dedicated to raising uncomfortable issues without bringing up uncomfortable issues as part of the tribute.

To me there's a difference between saying our fight for injustice is far from over and turning the event into a war of words.

I must confess I was not as worried about what they said (as Dr. King used his pulpit successfully to further the cause)as I was about the perception. As perception is often reality and all the conservative blogs and talk shows have hit the ground running with this in an attempt to link it to the Wellstone funeral and make political hay with it.

Thank you for articulating what I was trying to say much better than I originally said it.

I think at the end of it all, it will come down to what Coretta Scott King and MLK Jr. would have wanted the ceremony to be.

King said this about what he wanted said at his funeral:
....Every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning....

I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.

Glad to see someone from the Democrat side share this view. I thought Clinton was as much as saying it as well when he lectured the audience, almost as teacher to pupil, not to forget that there was a woman's body in the casket sitting in front of him--in effect, not to lose sight of the purpose for the memorial.

Right. Let's not going saying anything that could be misconstrued by, and roil the normally pacific waters of, the right-wing blogs.

Check out how the liberal New York Times covered the event. President Carter's mention of the Kings' nonviolence was "a veiled reference to Iraq," and his mention of the FBI hounding them "referred to Bush's NSA eavesdropping". It's difficult to imagine how one could have eulogized Mrs. King and not riled up the Pajamaliners or brought out the Wellstone script. As Truth Teller points out, the reactions point out a complete unfamiliarity with the African-American culture, as well as, in some cases, a telling unfamiliarity with Dr. and Mrs. King themselves.

And while we're at it, let's stop enabling the Wellstone mythos. One man, Senator Wellstone's best friend Rick Kahn, went over the top in urging the election of Walter Mondale in Wellstone's memory. The event, which was by all accounts quite moving and featured no celebrity speakers, has been treated ever since as if professional Democrats trampled the body in a rush to turn the funeral into a campaign function.

The analogy to me is that, at the funeral of a great athlete, no one should mention sports. Mrs. King's entire life was devoted to fighting for justice, and so was her husband's. For speakers to not mention the injustices in the world today would have been insulting to her and her martyred husband's memories. It's just another example of the right's spin machine trying to quell the slightest hint of dissent. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

I see it a different way. Current events have a way of seeming so important at the time, but end up being rather lame when historically compared to other events.

If it is truly accepted that Mrs. King is the type of historical figure that students will read about in 50 years, then relatively insignifficant current events don't have a place in her eulogy.

Her life was so much more than the current president's failures.

I'll also note that nobody addressed a key civil right that Mrs. King had expressed lately - the right of homosexuals to marry.

Plus it really pisses me off when preachers preach about the poor from their golden pulpits.

On a different note, (but maybe related to golden pulpits, I don't know) did anyone else note the news reports that stated that the funeral program listed "a lengthy acknowledgement of corporate sponsors." That just struck me as odd and a bit unsettling. Thoughts?

There's wisdom in the philosophy that people in glass houses should not shuck stones. Both parties have their share of fragile dwellings. Let's concentrate on being the party that truly honors Dr. King. The party that feeds the poor, clothes the cold, houses the homeless. The party that cares about more than the almighty buck. And then, as the hymn says "they'll know us by our love" so it won't matter what pulpit we preach from.

And the people said 'Amen!'

Corporate sponsors? Did anyone read the Pitts column recently re pricetags on everything? I don't understand. Is that a cultural difference, or maybe another sign of a golden pulpit

Reverend lowerey specifically mentioned Coretta's commitment to Homosexual rights.

What would you expect an elegy about a political activist to be about? It seems to me that the right wing can say the cruest, most hateful, bigoted remarks and no one says anything. Progressives speak the truth, and the republicans whine about it. Grow up. Was anything said at her funeral false? No. Did she fight her whole life for the issues mentioned at the pulpit? Yes.

One final question. Where was Barbara? GHWB was there alone.

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