What a shock! Some speakers at the funeral of Coretta Scott King had the audacity and poor manners to bring up WAR (as in worshiping the Prince of Peace and the uncomfortable fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction), RACE (as in the faces of Katrina victims), and DOMESTIC SPYING (referring, of course, to the surveillance of Dr. King, but, so sorry if the shoe fits...), and the unfinished business of ECONOMIC INEQUALITY.
How weird would it have been NOT to talk "politics" at the death of the woman called the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement?" President Bush himself, in his letter in the program book, called her a "courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. She was a great civil rights leader, and her contributions to freedom and equality made America a better and more compassionate nation." He forgot to mention that anyone who chose to elaborate on just what that "noble dream" and "founding ideals" were could find themselves the object of the Republican slime machine.
The venerable Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, President Emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a long time soldier in the civil rights movement and colleague of Dr. King, did what the movement has always done - speak truth to power, and was rewarded with several standing ovations. His poetic tribute to Mrs. King spoke of "weapons of misdirection...millions without health insurance, poverty abounds. For war billions more, but no more for the poor." Tsk, tsk, tsk. Too "political."
Former President Carter had the nerve, much to the delight of the crowd, to suggest that the struggle for racial equality was not complete and cited the unequal suffering of the African-American victims of Katrina as case and point. And then, there, in the sprawling New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in the presence of thousands of un-prescreened people of faith, including the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter made this highly political statement: "It is always a temptation to forget that we worship the Prince of Peace." Could it be that these words were interpreted as an inappropriate rebuke of the man seated behind him, the current President of the United States? Tsk, tsk and double tsk!
If the Republicans want to blame anyone for politicizing a death, they could start with Coretta Scott King herself. The day before Dr. Martin Luther King's funeral, his widow took her children and her grief to Memphis, the very city where her (now universally viewed as) heroic husband Martin was brutally murdered, and led a very "political" march on behalf of the sanitation workers. She wasn't about to stop for even a day the struggle for which Dr. King had given his life. She let the world and all the politicians in it know that she intended to stand up for social justice for the rest of her life...and beyond.
I was at that funeral. I was proud to stand up and cheer for Coretta Scott King's leadership and sacrifice and I was proud to stand and cheer for the reminders of how much work remains. I know she wanted all of us to honor her memory by working for peace and justice and all those other "political" things that gave meaning to her life and can give meaning to ours.