At the funeral of Coretta Scott King, attended by President Bush and the First Lady (as well as former Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Carter and their wives), the Rev. Joseph Lowery, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and former President Jimmy Carter used the occasion to take very thinly veiled jabs at Bush.
According to Reuters:
Lowery, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King helped found in 1957, gave a playful reading of a poem in eulogy of King.
“She extended Martin’s message against poverty, racism and war / She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar,” he said.
“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.”
The mourners gave a standing ovation. Bush’s reaction could not be seen on the television coverage, but after Lowery finished speaking, the president shook his hand and laughed.
With Washington debating the legality of Bush’s domestic eavesdropping on Americans suspected of al Qaeda ties, Carter also drew applause with pointed comments on federal efforts to spy on the Kings.
“It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated, and they became the targets of secret government wiretapping and other surveillance,” he said.
And there’s more, from Carter:
“We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi who are most devastated by Katrina to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans.”
(For more on that topic, see here.)
Eric Muller sarcastically points out that Mrs. King was an intensely political woman, and that it’s ridiculous to talk about the wrongness of politicizing her memorial ceremony. Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another is that today, the ideals represented by Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King are ideals that unite, rather than divide, America. In a society where political polarization is increasingly rancorous, her funeral could have been a rare moment that united. It shoudl not have been a time for division, or for scoring political points. Mrs. King herself, I think, would have understood that.