More Self-Serving Rhetoric In King’s Name

One can only wonder what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would make of all that is said in commemorating his life. Perhaps the dream gets lost in translation. More likely, it too often morphs into rhetorical self service.

Sounding not unlike Kanye West, Sen. Hillary Clinton told a mostly black audience in a Harlem church that she was apologizing to Hurricane Katrina survivors for a government that “turned its back on you.” Clinton, who had been tacking to the political center, then ratcheted up the pander-speak by descending into an analogy of the (Republican-controlled) House of Representatives to a plantation.

“The House has been run like a plantation, and you know what I’m talking about,” declared Clinton to thunderous approbation.

King’s most remembered and revered lines were calls for inclusiveness – not slavish exercises in partisan divisiveness.

Then there was New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Sounding not unlike a Crescent City Pat Robertson, he told a crowd at City Hall that not only will the city be rebuilt as a “Chocolate New Orleans,” but in so doing it would be “the way God wants it to be.”

Nagin has a hard enough time speaking for himself, let alone presuming to channel the Almighty with a demographic invocation. And this from a black politician who has arguably been part of the pre- and- post Katrina problem.

In an ironic way, however, maybe King’s words were revelatory. Wherever there is scapegoating, political pandering and race-baiting there is character content on display – irrespective of skin color.

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