One of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Joseph Lowery, spoke of Mrs. Kings opposition to the occupation of Iraq. Lowery colorfully said at the funeral,
She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we knew, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor.
First, let me be clear; the right-wing doesnt care about propriety. If they were at all interested in genteel debate or civility, they would have muzzled Ann Coulter years ago. No, their real agenda is squelching any critical voices. To carry out that mission, whenever this presidents detractors are given a forum to make a valid point, the knee-jerk response from the Right is to refocus the debate away from the substance of the message and make the speaker himself the subject of the debate. Labeling the message as inappropriate, unpatriotic, or aiding the enemy has worked in the past to throw the public off the scented trail. Thats exactly what right-wing pundits have been doing; ignore the funeral speeches substance while focusing on whether its proper etiquette to make a speech at a funeral.
Second, given who Coretta Scott King was, these statements are absolutely appropriate especially at her funeral. Coretta Scott Kings life was centered on political struggles and a quest for social justice. This was the essence of her being. These were words that King would have voiced herself had she had the opportunity. Should truth be muted in order to avoid displeasing the attending President Bush? That affords him way too much deference. As president, Mr. Bush has declined every invitation to the NAACP annual convention - the first president since the 1930s not to attend. Its therefore especially ironic that Bush changed his presidential schedule at the last minute to meet with King in death but not in life.
The voices of the poor, whose social programs were slashed in order to provide the already rich with tax-cuts, are never heard by this born on third-base president. Mr. Bush doesnt attend any soldiers funerals, so the weeping of dead soldiers families caused by his war of choice does not disturb his sleep. Therefore, for a president who keeps himself insulated from the effects of his own policies, the funeral of Coretta Scott King, whose life amplified the voices of the poor and the powerless, could not be a more appropriate venue to voice words Mr. Bush never gets to hear.
Joel Peskoff lives with his family in New York and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.