January 16th, 2012

Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day

I have trouble with the hagiography of Martin Luther King. Yes, he was a great man who did a great thing for which he should be duly honored: he was an inspirational figure in the non-violent civil rights movement in this country, as well as a remarkable speaker.

The two, of course, are related. It was his personal qualities of leadership and what George H.W. Bush might rightly call “the vision thing” that enabled King to bring together so many people to peacefully demonstrate in furtherance of a lofty and necessary goal, that of ending discrimination against blacks in this country.

As for the rest of it—well, I think it can be summed up by saying that King was a flawed human being. Perhaps MLK himself would be the first to agree; he was a preacher, after all, and he knew a lot about human sin and error. It’s pretty much certain he was a philanderer as well as a plagiarist, and in later life he seemed to veer ever more leftward (some think that’s a feature, not a bug). Does that diminish his achievements? I don’t think so, if we keep it in perspective. I’ve always been more interested in real human beings who accomplish great things despite their own weaknesses than I am in a pretended (and mostly unachievable) perfection.

[NOTE: One thing that’s long amazed me is that King was so young when he was assassinated. At the time I thought him a man in his 50s, but he was actually a mere 39 years old. If he were alive today, he would only have just turned 83 yesterday.

There’s a lot of speculation on what King would have thought of current trends had he lived. I’m no expert on everything the man wrote and said, but it’s my impression that although he seemed to be in favor of some sort of reparations—which he did not limit to blacks, by the way—he would not have backed affirmative action or gay marriage. However, people do change—as I know only too well.]

16 Responses to “Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day”

  1. Curtis Says:

    He was pro-Zionist. He was a Republican. He was a superb speaker. He was socially conservative. And black. Could have been the first black Republican President.

    That the Left, Postmodern, Socialist, Democrat dragon has claimed him is not just ironic, but a great loss and a capitulation. It is time to start restoring him to the tradition to which he belongs.

    His romance with socialism? I think further events in his life would have convinced him of the foolishness, hypocrisy and intent of Utopian Leftists.

  2. Curtis Says:


    This interview with King provides a great analogy of why Muslims, like the “whites of good will in Alabama” are guilty of ignoring their conscience by allowing the inhumanity and brutality of others to abide and prosper under their non-involvement.

    See his remarks at minute 6.

  3. Occam's Beard Says:

    I, too, am leery of the hagiographic treatment King has received. At this juncture, I despair of ever encountering a candid reckoning uncolored (sorry) by those with an agenda.

  4. Don Carlos Says:

    King was a remarkable man, much more learned, thoughtful, and articulate than those next to him (e.g. John Lewis, Jessie Jackson). But to suppose he could prevent the eventual race-hustling and self-aggrandizement of his lieutenants (e.g. John Lewis, Jessie Jackson) and then the larger crowd seems unlikely.

  5. Trimegistus Says:

    I suspect that if he had lived he’d be Jesse Jackson, more or less: a Democratic Party power-broker corrupted by power and sanctimoniousness.

    And if he did not allow himself to be corrupted, corrupt men would have shoved him aside and made him a living relic.

  6. Curtis Says:

    Way to go Trim! Yahoo.

    Actually, Mr. King had already opposed his own “people” and programs. His flaws were certainly not lack of courage or power corruption. Indeed, he paid the price he indeed set for his rebellion against unjust laws. He was full of integrity to his nonviolent idea. I don’t agree with it, not quite, but you’re idea is so repugnant. To characterize a man, full grown and made, as different from what he was to what “he might have been”, well, let’s say I think you incorporate some bitterness from somewhere.

    Shove him aside? I don’t think so.

    No to your supposition. A resounding no. Mr. King living would have been a great whack on the dragon’s nose.

  7. Conrad Says:

    “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

  8. n.n Says:

    He is a symbol that represents positive progress. As a man he was imperfect and not free from sin. However, he offered leadership and several insights which can be equally appreciated by all people.

    In the spirit of “I have a dream”, it would be best to honor his memory not as a black man, but a man, an American, an individual who pursued positive progress while not quite escaping his own flaws. The last is a common tale in our mortal realm.

  9. Curtis Says:

    I would say offering his life for others is more than enough to atone for his own flaws.

    He knew he was going to die, accepted it, and did it. He lived the truth of his predecessor, who said, “No greater love has a man than this, that he give he life for another.”

    This is the greatness of Martin King, a greatness which has beeen denied him by both sides.

  10. expat Says:

    Did you all see how the great Valerie Jarrett honored King?


  11. kolnai Says:

    I second neo, Occam, and Don Carlos. I have no clue what King would have become had he lived, but he did turn hard left, basically socialist and pacifist, toward the end. Probably he would have been pro-life. Gay marriage? No idea. Wasn’t even an issue when he was alive.

    Undeniably a great (and flawed) man. I could not have done what he did; wouldn’t have had the energy or the courage.

    In my view, he was also undeniably a man of the center-left, who was gravitating to the far left, at least on economics and foreign policy. So it goes. Righties aren’t the only ones who can do great things (interesting thought-experiment: Being honest, can you name a leftist today who you think could do something great, however you define “great”? Maybe Tony Blair on Iraq, for those who supported the war? Maybe Artur Davis?).

    King was indeed a registered Republican; I’m pretty sure he would not have stayed one (how was he VOTING at the end of his life? Honest question, ’cause I don’t know).

  12. Curtis Says:

    The marxist idea that social and economic conditions determine history is largely accepted. We deny what earlier generations accepted: that individuals do shape and create history.

    It was largely the person who was Martin Luther King, not anything else, who convinced a nation of a moral certaintity. Without him, there is no moral and religious founding for the equal enforcement of laws, without which, no reform would have happened. He was and is a defense for natural law and our Constitution. His intellectual foundation, coming from an intense search of history, set forth the same propositions as our founding fathers. His profundity, compared to the “authorities” of today, is so much greater as to make them dogs.

  13. bob sykes Says:

    The amount of disinformation here is rather striking. At the end of his life, Dr. King was plainly in the socialist camp. He explicitly attacked conservatives like Barry Goldwater; he supported large scale income redistribution; he was against the Vietnamese War; and he explicitly denied that capitalism was the source of American wealth, he said the wealth was stolen from black slaves and poor whites.

    These facts cannot be reconciled with any kind of conservatism, and the left is correct to claim him as one of theirs.

  14. JuliB Says:

    I agree with Bob. He had some significant changes in his outlook. He was marginalized, but would he have remained so? I doubt it.

    Whit irks me beyond belief is that we are subjected to the deconstruction of our Founding Fathers, but MLK is off limits. The unequal treatment is not race based, but more anti-conservative.

  15. Occam's Beard Says:

    Bob’s right, King did become openly socialist in his later years, as the tenor of the times made such pronouncements more socially acceptable than they would have been when King began.

    Makes you wonder whether King’s latter-day statements reflected a change in his views, or merely the disclosure of long-held views.

  16. bro Says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why one was necessarily a racist if one wasn’t convinced that MLK was the only American worthy of being honored with his only holiday.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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