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The coincidence of timing between President Obama's second inauguration, 50 years having passed since the March on Washington, Dr. King's Holiday, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is like a type of political catnip or intoxicant that the pundit classes--and those others interested in American history, culture, and life--cannot resist.

Such an alignment of dates could portend something "magical" and inspirational for the President's second term. Alternatively, perhaps Obama's second inauguration, and the alignment of dates which could suggest a radical breaking from standing history and the shadow of the colorline, is simply an easy lede for a story written under deadline.

Whatever the motivation or source, many folks, like those standing outside at the National Mall on Monday, talking in barbershops and hair salons, writing online, or whose editorials will appear on TV, radio, or in traditional print media, are likely asking "what would Martin Luther King Jr. think of President Obama's second inauguration?"

We can try to divine the wishes and thoughts of the departed. Some folks will pretend that they are clairvoyants, at a seance, and can actually hear Brother Dr. King's words and wishes in an act of paranormal and fantastical interpretation.

I am not able to channel the late Dr. King's wisdom about events that occurred more than four decades after his murder. However, we can look to some of his actual wisdom, cautionary words, and insights into the country which he died to improve and protect.

On poverty and war Dr. King famously said:

"(I)n the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers, (a)s I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.

But they ask -- and rightly so -- 'what about Vietnam?' They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

Dr. King also astutely connected the price of the military industrial complex and American imperialism abroad to a broken infrastructure at home:
"There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
Or race, inequality, and reparations Dr. King observed:
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

No one could offer those truth-telling statements and be elected President. This is especially true given the status of Black Americans as contingent citizens whose inalienable rights are forever suspect: no Black American with serious desires to be President (or any other high office), could ever utter such words, or give comfort to similar thoughts in public (or even in private) and be successful.

President Obama is just a man. He is not a black superhero. President Obama is a President who happens to be black. He is not a Black President. President Obama is not the living embodiment of Dr. King or Brother Malcolm.

He is not our shining black manhood as deftly spoken to by Ossie Davis during his funereal oratory for Malcolm X:

Some of you knew this. Others had to be told of its truth.

Barack Obama has demonstrated the veracity of a fundamental belief held by those who study the American Presidency: he is bounded by precedent and the decisions made by those who came before him; Obama will leverage those said happenings to the degree possible in order to advance his agenda; he will not concede power or the expanded understanding of what the office allows he or she who is President to do. And yes, that includes the unitary executive, the imperial presidency, drone strikes, and kill lists.

As he is sworn in a second time, President Obama is a paradox of sorts. He is a President who happens to be black who was reelected because of the overwhelming support of black and brown voters. The (twice) arrival of Barack Obama also heralds the end of Black Politics.

I am unsure if the the ways in which President Barack Obama navigates the political realities of post civil rights era America, with its insincere colorblindness, in the face of vicious and racist opposition by conservatives, is evidence of his genius (or not). As a supporter of Barack Obama, I lean towards the affirmative. Obama is playing a game that is not designed for a man who looks like him; somehow he plays it pretty damn well...whatever you/we/us think of the policy outcomes.

I have no doubt however, that Obama is very mindful of his legacy as the country's first black president, feels deeply beholden to the ancestors and the Black Freedom Struggle, and how the first draft of history will judge his tenure.

Realpolitik can be cruel in its honest truths. With few exceptions, outsiders and visionaries do not become President of the United States of America. The United States is an empire. Men like Martin Luther King Jr., leaders who are killed because they speak truth to Power, are not elected President of the United States of America.

Consequently, it is high time that folks stop using Brother King as a measuring stick for Barack Obama. They were playing very different games; therefore they should be held to very different standards of leadership. There is only one Brother Doctor King. There is only one Barack Obama. They are very different from one another. Both are first ballot hall of fame entries into The Pantheon of Black Exceptionalism and Greatness: deny that fact at your own peril. It is a far better use of one's energies to meditate on the consequences of Obama's elevation to a leading figure in the Black Freedom Struggle, than to deny if said conclusion will come to pass.

I am not suggesting moral cowardice or retreat by Obama's critics, and Progressives, especially. Rather, I would hope that President Barack Obama is judged by the standards of the office, pushed forward by his base to be like Johnson or FDR--or at the very least made to be more accountable to the people and the Common Good, than to the public opinion polls, the financiers, banksters, and his chances of reelection.

Obama is and has never been a "runaway slave." That temperament is not his way. However, President Obama is adept at playing 3 dimensional Star Trek chess. By leveraging this talent he can win a few victories for regular folks on both sides of the colorline. Incrementalism can be a virtue.

Would Dr. King approve? I am unsure. You tell me.

Originally posted to chaunceydevega on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight, RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, Black Kos community, and Barriers and Bridges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Is Dr. King smiling down on the President? (33+ / 0-)

    I'll bet my lilly-white ass he is.

    But he's also watching and waiting to see just how deep the President's commitment to social justice really is.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:22:55 PM PST

  •  I can't answer to what Dr. King's views would be (8+ / 0-)

    Though I do have my assumptions.

    I do know that a Black President, or even a white one holding similar views, will never get elected in this country.


    collards, meat, butter, sourdough, eggs, cheese, raw milk

    by Tirge Caps on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:25:57 PM PST

    •  double down on that one for sure (4+ / 0-)
    •  "Ever" is a very, very long time. (11+ / 0-)

      You can believe that, but you can't know that. Over time, things happen that no one could have predicted.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:32:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree with you on that. And people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      who hold those kinds of views (I count myself among them)? Most of them would not make good presidents.

      You think Obama is ineffectual? heh. MLK or X would NOT have succeeded as president, not any more than Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton would have.

      I know this about me: YOU would not me to be president, I would not WANT me to be president, and I would NOT make a good  president. The job and the mission fulfilled by Dr. King (or of X for that matter) was not a job or a mission that could be executed from the office of the presidency--by anyone. In many ways, their jobs and their missions were far more important, they exerted far more power than a lowly "president" could ever do.

      The kinds of changes MLK and X sought to effect? These changes aren't made in the oval office--they are made in the minds/hearts/souls and LIVES of the people/s, and it takes generations before those kinds of changes can "trickle up" to become policy issued/advocated by the oval office.

      The fact that these changes do not come more quickly has a lot to do with the whole waiting-for-superman-syndrome, waiting for someone outside (as close to the top as possible) ourselves to effect the changes we seek.
      These changes must come from the bottom. It's the nature of the beast:  You can't "demand justice", you can't "demand peace"--you have to make them happen.

      It is the difference between "trickle down" and "tickle up"

      Seems to me Obama is very clear about this.

      Ultimately, people place way too much perceived power and a whole lot of other things in the office of the president. To call this office the "most powerful in the world" is itself an error.

      If change is what you want: A college professor, a pastor, even a celebrity can have infinitely more power than a president, precisely because these positions are not bound by the same set of constraints.

      Yo. Keep sitting around waiting for the president (whichever one is in office) to effect change. Best guarantee that it never will come.

      •  I agree with a lot of what you say (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But as Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a demand. So I don't agree that you can't demand justice. In fact, we must continue to demand justice, in all its forms.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 03:03:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's how I see it M (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          For forty years, I did the "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE"-thing, really.

          At some point I realized: in my life time, I will either see justice, OR I will see peace. I cannot have both. Not in my lifetime.

          Asked myself, IF you are thus forced to choose, what would you rather have: I said "peace".

          And for me, that means peace within my own community--let's say 20-mile radius. Yeah. I'd be happy with that.

          Peace in my Hood. My NEIGHBORhood.

          Peace. I won't demand it. I do my best to make it. And that started by making peace with....what? The world? My own damn self? I don't know. But I'm tired of making demands, tired of waiting on justice (esp since in this country's terms that's mostly a mis-placed synonym for "vengeance/revenge"), and since I came to that place....well, things have changed.

          In another world, peace and justice might be possible.
          In this world, justice is overrated, imo, and I'll settle for peace.
          In my neighborHood.  

          Sellout? Could be.

  •  Dr King would approve (14+ / 0-)

    and he would be passionate in his suggestions and advocacy for a more enlightened future.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:42:12 PM PST

  •  Appreciate your thoughts. (7+ / 0-)

    Just one quibble...
    Barack Obama is our shining black manhood.
    Or nobody is.

    Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

    by JoanMar on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 01:09:18 PM PST

    •  by what criteria? and can't we do better than (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Truedelphi, shanikka, Lincolnlog Lady, AoT

      militarism, corporatism, and a profound unwillingness to talk directly about the particular challenges facing black folks in America? And I say that as a black man who voted for Obama.

    •  The Food for Thought (4+ / 0-)

      IMO, is at the end of your comment.  I'm sorry, but I cannot equate the success of President Obama, a politician, to that of someone like Malcolm or Dr. King.  Both were willing to die if necessary for their people, and both did, knowing that it would necessarily make offense if the truth be told as it had to be told.  Willing to die to articulate a vision outside of the parameters of acceptable and palatable.  As both did.  

      While keeping their people (the Black and the poor) at the center of their motivation, and their love, publicly.  As both did, even as their analysis expanded far, far, beyond the racial community from which they hailed and they realized that love necessarily had to expand to everyone to be truly meaningful.

      By definition, no successful politician can do such a thing. Not in this country.  And it is not even debatable that President has not.  We can IMO talk about it when he says the words "Black people" and "poor people" in the same paragraph.  Publicly.  Without any excuses from anyone about why he "can't."

      Now, none of that takes away from the success that the President has had, as a Black politician who has broken the hundreds-year old the lily-white stranglehold on the office of President while also not doing a bad job at it. He will go down in history for at least some of his successes in that regard.  He deserves our love and respect for that, unquestionably.

      But he is not the vision that Ossie Davis articulated when he talked about our Prince or our shining Black manhood.  Because that vision requires something that President Obama has never done in national office.  Publicly embrace us, and our collective struggle, as a primary motivator for what he does.

      So, perhaps, it really is that at this moment in time, nobody is.  Heartbreaking as that may be to contemplate.

      •  Politician versus spiritual leader/"preacher". (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Obama is a politician. He holds a political office. At the same time people insist on the separation of church and state, they are demanding from Obama that he function as a spiritual leader.

        This only became clear to me while watching Cornel West here

        But you can't blame Obama for his inability to generate the same kind of "prophetic fire". It is not his job, as the person presently holding that office.

        My blood boils as hotly as Dr. West's, but I still feel that his "fire" is misdirected.

        It is the people of the United States of America who are the targets of MY "fire"; the blood of the PEOPLE has to boil this way. But hey, it's easier to throw that kind of righteous indignation at the feet of one mortal human being than it is to throw it at the feet of billions of mortal human beings.

        I personally think the latter would, however, be more effective.

        •  I Personally (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, grumpelstillchen

          Am not asking President Obama to be a "spiritual leader", and I've never heard anyone Black even say such a thing.  Certainly, nobody is "throwing that kind of righteous indignation at hte feet of one mortal human being" and if you have ever read anything by Dr. West (outside the context of folks trying to tear his expressed beliefs down since 2009 because they feel compelled to whenever anyone criticizes something about our President) you know that Dr. West doesn't hold the President responsible for everything all by himself, either.  

          What some people, but not all, are asking for is that he actually DO something more than just be a politician as it relates to the poor.  One cannot have it both ways -- one cannot try to liken one's self, without directly saying, to transformative men of action like Dr. King without being judged by the same standards of conduct.

          I think reasonable minds can differ on what is "more effective", especially since "effectiveness" is one of those things that must be measured not just in the here and now, but over time.


          •  No, I've never heard anyone, black *or* (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            white express this idea: it was a "light bulb" that went off in my head while watching this vid. It's a distinction I don't think people have been making, but maybe they should. I'm sorry if my words were sloppy enough to imply otherwise.

            I've read enough of West's work--I agree with much of it, and have great respect for the man.  

            Politicians  don't have a good track record in doing much for the poor. Most great efforts that have benefitted the poor (world wide) have come from spiritual/religious leaders first, and then translated into policy.

            At the same time, I haven't seen much evidence of Dr. West actually DOING anything for the poo either, except talking about it.

            Watching this video, seeing him fired up in a way that I haven't seen him before, this is what struck me: the notion that what he (and others) are actually  expecting of Obama (whether they know it or not)   is that he provide spiritual leadership, and that West himself is not comprehending that all the politics in the world aren't going to be able to "fix" this.

            We are the "I don't give a fuck about anyone but me and my kind society". That is a spiritual sickness. And we all suffer from it to varying degrees.

            Up until now, most people are still "getting away" with the notion that the "poor" are not "me and my kind" (the reality is changing rapidly, and obviously, a lot of folks live with the illusion of being much further removed from the "poor" than they actually are!)

            My point: when it comes to poverty,  spiritual leadership is more needed than political. Because this country's neglect of its poverty levels is actually, imo, the reflection of a profound spiritual/soul wound as much as it is the reflection of political failings (we are now at: chicken/egg, right?)

            But no country, no people in possession of this much wealth that is also  spiritually "whole" or healthy can stand by and witness what poverty is doing to destroy certain communities. This is a spirit-sickness that  is reflected in policy. West is demanding policy come first--I'm saying, I don't think it can: the spiritual "will" , as it were, has to come first.

            Who knows? Dr. West could be that spiritual leader, or the catalyst for that kind of spiritual "awakening/healing"? I think he would be more effective if he actually sought to fulfill THAT mission than trying to "force" the issue politically, and specifically by pointing fingers at Obama.

            West has tremendous potential to inspire "fire in belly": again, I think he's trying to stoke fire in the wrong place.  

            I don't believe the politics can precede the spiritual revelation or healing or whatever you want to call it. This country's neglect of the poor is the sign of a profound spiritual sickness. Policy can't fix that. And until that's fixed, better policies toward the poor are not likely to be possible.

             If we could heal that "spirit-wound", we may not need government policies to "do more for the poor". All the billionaire.millionaires hoarding their wealth, building "extreme homes", and million dollar rooms to plug up the holes in their souls.....THEY could do a helluva lot more for the poor than Obama could at this point.

            (In fact, I think I just saw an article somewhere something to that effect, here it is)

          •  I wonder if now that he can't run again (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            the president will start articulating these things more openly. It's possible there may have been some signs of this in his inaugural speech, which many have described as more frankly liberal and ideological than he usually was in his first term. It would have been nice if he had been much more direct in that speech in addressing the condition of the black community specifically, but I think it's possible that's to come. We shall see.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 03:08:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree. And I hold great hope that he will. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              (Go out an EARN that Nobel, baby! ;-)

              I still believe he is constrained--even within his own sense of integrity, and the way he believes he must "represent all Americans"--by the office.

              I believe it probably pains him that he cannot "do" more, especially w/ re the black community.

              But dammit, every time these issues come up: I have to start asking folks, what are you doing to address these issues.

              I know damn well what I'm doing, and I'm doing the best I can, within the real-world constraints set by my life/abilities.

              We must all ask ourselves this question, in the spirit of JFK/MLK and X.

              What I think of when I see Cornel West going off on BHO: how much it must literally hurt to see/hear it. You gotta know he's well-versed in all things Cornel West.

              But for all I know they're doing a good cop/bad cop routine, whether they know it or not.

              I'll probably work this Cornel West video into one of my classes, actually--Dr. West truly in top form here. Much more inspiring/entertaining to my students than dr. lilolme! lol.

  •  Happy to see that someone is talking about MLK (4+ / 0-)

    I haven't heard any parallels on tv yet even by the MSNBC or CNN crew!

    The History Channel is worthless. They had a special on the "Ultimate Guide to the Presidents" and for a one hour program they forced 25 minutes on St. Reagan then proceeded with conspiracy theories.

    We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing. Louisa May Alcott

    by YoungArizonaLiberal on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 01:26:49 PM PST

  •  I am unsure what Dr. King would think about (18+ / 0-)

    President Obama's inauguration. I think he would be proud, happy and hopeful.

    But I am 100% sure what he would think of a Romney inauguration.

  •  On the Fact of the Nation Re-Electing a Black (10+ / 0-)

    President, sure.

    As for policy however, Mr. Obama and today's Democratic Party are very far from Dr. King's scrubbed-from-the-mainstream words about poverty, labor, materialism, war and economic justice. Apart from the scale of foreign war, our Democrats are much farther from King today --even for white society-- than the Democrats and Presidents King faced during his leadership years.

    Entitlement reform in Dr. King's lifetime included establishing Medicare. In our time our party speaks of reform as cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

    I wouldn't want to single out Mr. Obama because his policies aren't terribly exceptional for today's Democratic Party. But it's clear from Dr. King's words that he would not be smiling about the prospects for the people on this day.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 01:50:34 PM PST

  •  Without question (19+ / 0-)

    I have no doubt whatsoever that King would approve.  It took three hundred years to overthrow overt legal racism in America and a single generation to elect a black two term president.  The progressive movement is eternal, there will always wrongs to right.  But the swiftness of the transition from universal suffrage to a black president is not to be trivialized.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:22:30 PM PST

  •  History sometimes is poetic. (12+ / 0-)

    Today is a an example of that. The linearity of it is stunning, when you think about it.

    That said, nobody should be comparing Barack Obama to MLK. MLK is a singular figure that happens maybe once every century, and also never had to govern. It's not entirely fair to either man to make the comparison, I think.

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:39:18 PM PST

    •  It really isn't. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They were/are very different men trying to do very different things.

      I think any comparison between them is of less significance than the fact of Obama's (two-term!) presidency being a dramatic validation of King's dream, at least in some measure.

  •  . (4+ / 0-)

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:43:27 PM PST

    •  Roll eyes. (7+ / 0-)

      Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

      by JoanMar on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:40:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I love Professor West - (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but crab meet barrel...

      "In the battle of existence, Talent is the punch; Tact is the clever footwork. Wilson Mizner -7.25/-5.64

      by mikejay611 on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:44:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It seems like it might be appropriate to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, Oaktown Girl, Nowhere Man

        respond to the criticism rather than just attack the person as being jealous.

        •  I don't believe it's crab meet barrel (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mikejay611, MichaelNY

          in Dr. West's case: As I said above, I'd be happy to subject my own blood to a comparative temperature reading. But I think as long as he keeps trying to go after Obama, he's barking up the wrong tree, or trying to put fire under the wrong pot.

          Pot meet frog: place a frog in a pot of cold water and let it gradually heat up, the frog will not notice the rising temperature and will die before it has time to jump out.

          Place a frog in a pot of boiling water, the frog will jump out and survive.

          The American people need to be thrown into that pot of boiling water if this country is going to survive.

          The water has been heating up and up and up, and it really wasn't till Bushiepoo came along that a lot of folks noticed.

          I jumped out at Reagan!

        •  Attacking the POTUS is not helping move the causes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          of the Black Community forward... What has Brother West along with Mr. Smiley done since the POTUS has been in office, but denigrate him? Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I see very little in the way of suggestions to solve the issues from either of them. Only complaints... ijs..

          "In the battle of existence, Talent is the punch; Tact is the clever footwork. Wilson Mizner -7.25/-5.64

          by mikejay611 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:58:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  He didn't get a super special invite again? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "Mitt Romney looks like the CEO who fires you, then goes to the Country Club and laughs about it with his friends." ~ Thomas Roberts MSNBC

      by second gen on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:21:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, if you hadn't posted this, I was (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, shanikka, Chitown Kev

      going to. Because as Chauncey said in the diary above:

      Consequently, it is high time that folks stop using Brother King as a measuring stick for Barack Obama.
      Then the first person who needs to stop inviting those comparisons is Barack Obama himself. Those comparisons don't get much more inviting that by choosing to use Dr. King's Bible for your swearing in.

      And I wish people could get past rolling their eyes at what Professor West said, and actually listen to it objectively. Barack Obama is who is he, and Dr. King was who he was.

      If "elitist" just means "not the dumbest motherfucker in the room", I'll be an elitist! - David Rees from "Get Your War On".

      by Oaktown Girl on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:25:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ha! You don't want to go there with me. (9+ / 0-)

        Criticism is not action.
        I have listened to the two stooges - West and Smiley - and watched as they have taken their dog and pony show around the nation criticizing and condemning Barack Obama because they got their feelings hurt.
        Obama didn't attend Tavis Smiley's marketing-tavis-and-delivering-black-folks-as-customers-to-big-business forum.
        West didn't get his personal invitation to the inaugural event and he deserved his own special handwritten invitation because he his professor West, don't you know.
        Martin Luther King does not belong to West and Smiley and if MLK's family is thrilled that the President is using the bible, who are they to be "upset."
        Tavis would not have been upset if Bill Clinton had used MLK's bible.
        Where did you hear Obama say he was MLK?
        Praise the two stooges if you want but don't come here complaining because people see through them and their petty jealousy.
        Now they are concerned about the poor and Obama is the big boogey man? Puhlease!
        Obama has done more for the poor and black folks that Tavis and Smiley combined can do in a million years.

        Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

        by JoanMar on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:48:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think MLK's family understands the (6+ / 0-)

          situation better than West. King's death was, at 15, the horrible reinforcement of what I realized when Kennedy was assassinated (11).  The incredible loss of what these men could have done, would have changed the world so much more than martyrdom ever could.

          It has been well argued here that men like King are not elected to POTUS. It won't happen until and unless a lot of other things are changed first.

          Changing those things is going to take time and a hell of a lot of political finesse. No president, especially AA with the obstructive ideologues in Congress, is going to do it faster than tortoise speed. Obama also spoke to the idea that although King, Johnson and the grassroots movement had brought about important legal progress, further progress needed less emphasis on legal aspects.

          What MLK would think of Obama's political actions in this period is impossible to say. He was not here to alter the trajectory of the GOP rise and ruin of the country. How he would have modified his own actions, views and opinions of others is beyond realistic calculation. I suspect he also might have toned down some of his efforts in order to keep some progress. He had already upset too many and did not have enough security.

          Also, no one has compared Obama's presidential purity to Lincoln's. Not so color blind as King dreamed of? Would Lincoln have been upset by his Bible being used?

          Meanwhile we are talking a huge ceremony marking the aspect of American government that stunned the world 216 years ago. The civilian election of a leader every 4 years and the peaceful transfer of power from incumbent to successor. The fact that there was no transfer this year is as amazing to me as in the first decades when it went without any glitches again and again, to the astonishment of the old world.

          Does anyone honestly think Obama does not revere King and was not greatly influenced by him? Why would adding King's Bible to the ceremony in any way diminish or taint their records? I'm not a Christian but I do have a BS in Sociology. This is very much a part of human traditions and rites. They are very strong events the human psyche seeks and uses. And maybe, possibly,

          Obama was making an effort to connect more strongly with King as he took that oath for his second and last term.

          "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

          by Ginny in CO on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:27:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  the comparison Obama draws is to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Reagan: as I've said elsewhere, I believe what he's trying to say by using that comparison is that, the same way Reagan managed to substantially change the "American psyche" (the way he was able to turn money into God, make ketchup a vegetable and convince the entire country that it was OK not to give a rat's ass about anyone but your own damn self), Obama may well have the power to effect those kinds of paradigm shifts.

      •  How is using his bible inviting a comparison? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, WB Reeves

        I read that as wanting to honor his memory, nothing else.

  •  There was a thoughtless (12+ / 0-)

    and frankly, offensive diary written at Redstate today on this very topic. The author of that diary tip-toed into waters where he was uncomfortable, and wrote a morally bankrupt piece that would offend your sensibilities and mine.

    At one point, the author suggested that he was "sure" Dr. King would approve of voter ID laws that require "all voters" to show photo ID before voting. Because, you know, these laws treat all men equally.

    It was the sort of horseshit analysis that shows either the author's intellectually ineptitude or his dishonestness. Yea - Dr. King would be perfectly fine with a law designed specifically to disenfranchise black Americans even though it's written with a racially neutral face. That sort of ignores King's opposition to the Jim Crow era, where laws did exactly that. They provided legally neutral "solutions" to the "problem" of Negro voting. And today's voter ID laws are an extension of that. They've just adopted a modern method that's even less detectable.

    Your take is quite obviously more reasonable, and it poses important questions. I do not have answers, but it made me think.

    "I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." ~Bobby Kennedy

    by Grizzard on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:48:44 PM PST

    •  Also ignorance of his focus on economic issues (8+ / 0-)

      because those same laws also disenfranchise people who can't afford replacing identification documents required for state photo ID, who do not drive and therefore may only have state photo nondriver ID (and there are anecdotes of people trying to reject those as voter ID for not being licenses at individual precincts), and who do not have bank accounts ('but how do you cash/use checks if you don't have photo ID?' doesn't admit the all-cash economy exists).

      If you are rich and white or middle-class and white, no problem with the voting ID laws. Poor or minority, problem.

      Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

      by Cassandra Waites on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:52:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  excerpt from MLK Jr speech in Grosse Pointe, MI (5+ / 0-)

        March 12, 1968:

        "But we must see that the struggle today is much more difficult. It’s more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. And it’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It’s much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality."

  •  Serendipity (5+ / 0-)

    indeed!  " The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:56:32 PM PST

  •  I would imagine he has mixed feelings NT (6+ / 0-)

    "We need a revolution away from the plutocracy that runs Government."

    by hangingchad on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:33:02 PM PST

  •  No (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ginny in CO

    Unfortunately, when people are dead, they're dead. No smiling down or glaring up occurs, as much as we would like to think it does. People only live on in our memories after they die.

    Just another day in Oceania.

    by drshatterhand on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:37:09 PM PST

  •  heralds the end of Black Politics? (4+ / 0-)

    How so?

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:41:25 PM PST

    •  Fred Harris had a great new book on (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, luckydog, shanikka, AoT

      the irony of a "black president" has undercut the particular justice claims of black American. Short hand? How can you black folks keep talking about all that racism stuff when a black guy is President.

      Colorblind racism in the neoliberal age is some sophisticated and tricky stuff. For a particular type of colorblind--and old school racist--Obama is check and mate in the service of their agenda.

      •  I really hope my response is not presumptuous (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But here is my reaction:

        So what you're saying is that the racists get things both ways: That President Obama is not really an American and stole his way into office by having Acorn get illegal aliens and felons to vote (or whatever their exact claims are) and that he actually is the president, so that proves that there is no such thing as racism anymore.

        Giving the racists the right to determine whether black politics is dead seems to me to be profoundly, even violently inappropriate. The racists will always find some explanation of how they actually have the best interests of black people at heart (if they'd only "know their place"). I hope none of us has any respect for their "arguments."

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 10:53:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

          •  OK, I understand this (0+ / 0-)

            None of what you linked addressed the racist attitude that the fact of a black president being elected proves that racism and discrimination no longer exist, though.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 11:50:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I linked the referenced author, Harris... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              ...discussing the referenced concepts in an opinion piece in the NY Sunday Times. And I linked a Washington Post review of the author's book.

              If you have additional questions about the author's perspectives, there's the book itself, or you can read more about it if you google the title...The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and Rise and Decline of Black Politics...

              I'm not clear on what you think I'm supposed to prove or disprove about the author's perspectives, or why.

              Tho' Harris' perspective is not that "a black president being elected proves that racism and discrimination no longer exist".


              •  absolutely, just that justice claims around a (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY, luckydog

                traditional black civil rights mass mobilization model are going to be even more hard/impossible to sustain.

                that is a subtle argument that I think lots of folks just don't get. for the life of me I do not understand why.

                •  Right (0+ / 0-)

                  I don't understand why, and I think Harris' argument is that it shouldn't be so. Why can't there be mobilization over specific issues?

                  Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                  by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:21:08 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  complete agreement... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  ...I'm curious, are there wrinkles on this - and responses - that can be picked up from smaller scale versions of this "success" outcome? I'm thinking cities that saw electoral progress in City Hall followed by a flattening of response in the mobilization efforts and results.


              •  I'm not asking you to prove something (0+ / 0-)

                and I thank you for the links.

                I was just reacting, perhaps without sufficient understanding, to this remark:

                How can you black folks keep talking about all that racism stuff when a black guy is President.

                Colorblind racism in the neoliberal age is some sophisticated and tricky stuff. For a particular type of colorblind--and old school racist--Obama is check and mate in the service of their agenda.

                In content, I (mis?)understood that it was racists' arguments that were impeding continued agitation for equality among the entire black community.

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:20:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  see the link below, also (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, shanikka

          "violently inappropriate"

          what does this mean?

          the mating of post-civil rights colorblindness and neoliberalism/hyperconservatism has been one of the final nails in the civil rights model of black and brown political empowerment.

          we may not like a thing; that does not make it any less true.

          •  My point is this (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Batya the Toon

            It should never be up to the racists to determine the course of black politics. Their arguments that the election of a black president proves that there is no discrimination are utter nonsense and should not be respected. And furthermore, they are also trying to have it both ways by denying that Barack Obama is legitimately the President of the United States, and then arguing that because he actually is the president, there can be no justification for ever again making an issue of the effects of racism and discrimination on the black community.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:11:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'd add this (0+ / 0-)

              I understand the point about President Obama not concentrating particularly on the trials and tribulations of the black community. As you said, the president has a particular role to play. But if I understand Harris' main point, it's the same as mine: That black people - and indeed anyone else of conscience - who is outside of government should not be constrained to stop agitating against racism wherever it rears its ugly head and for its results around the country to be addressed and dealt with. For example, not only should there be agitation for full employment and the eradication of poverty (which I hardly ever hear politicians talk about, nowadays), but there needs to be more mobilization against police misconduct, such as the "stop and frisk" policy in my own city of New York. And in that sense, the argument by racists that the election and reelection of President Obama makes such agitation unjustified should be ignored.

              I sense that I may be missing something, though.

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:23:48 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  meant friendly... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ...I think that you're missing a coupla perspectives... the identification and examination of arguments that are being made by racists does not equal agreement or capitulation. And a different set of issues - while folks will be describing and defining ways that Obama has impacted the political environment, this does not equate with suspension of efforts in particular directions.


          •  maybe it's time for the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "civil rights model of black and brown political empowerment" to shift toward one of human rights.

            Already in 1969, American Indian scholar Vine DeLoria made this distinction in an article called "The Black and the Red"--and cited this distinction as one reason American Indian leaders at the time were so hesitant to get on board with the civil rights movement.

            It was too limiting to think in terms of the "civil rights" that would afford people a better position or bigger piece of a pie that was rotten as hell to begin with.

  •  Brother West (5+ / 0-)

    I was going to reference the monologue by Brother West. I think he said it very well...It is incredible how everyone loves the sanitized Dr. King. I guess that's what happens to icons of history - we project onto them what we need to and fail to see them for who they were even when their positions were very clear (see Dr. King's Beyond Vietnam speech for evidence of his wonderful radicalism).

  •  I can only guess... (4+ / 0-)

    I hear you, Chauncey. Everybody wants to weigh in on what MLK would say about everything black.

    Even Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) had an episode about an alternative reality where MLK didn't die but went into a coma, woke up decades later and declared how disappointed he was in the poor black community and moved to Canada. Sounds like a fantasy straight out of the Black Elitist Bougie Chronicles.

    MLK didn't blame the poor. That's Aaron McGruder talking for him.

    We haven't gotten to that promised land of equality yet. Until then, we have to deal with Barack Obama with two minds (if we're black).

    We have our individual grievances and political differences with each other but we praise the rise of such a man because he opens doors for us. He widened the landscape of our children's dreams as wide as MLK would have approved.

    If I had to guess, I would say that dreams like these are the most immediate goal of the civil rights movement. Equality is a chance at a dream. We haven't seen the promised land of equality yet. We're still dreaming. That's something I think MLK might agree with.

    "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

    by GenXangster on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:36:14 PM PST

  •  Dr King would be perplexed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    By the war on terror. Bye would instead urge a war on poverty.

    These overseas are stupid and wrong.  Get out f afghani stand and Iraq. And I do mean out.  Close the bases down.  In fact, close 500 bases down and cut the military by 50 percent.  Then we can talk seriously about rebuilding here at home.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:18:33 PM PST

  •  First of all, this is a great diary (8+ / 0-)

    and probably one of the better ones I've read here.

    Second, I have no doubt if Dr. King were alive today, he would comment on the extraordinary but overdue nature of a president who is a man of color being inaugurated for the second time. He would praise the president for the progress he's been able to achieve on health care and in avoiding economic collapse, and he would have choice and extremely clear words for the Republican obstructionists. But he would also criticize President Obama wherever he falls sure of the morality that was part of Dr. King's deep faith. Wherever the president is not a pacifist, he would object; wherever the president abides injustice in any sense, Dr. King would object. Since we know what he said about the failures of President Johnson in regard to the poor at his speech before a union local in Memphis just before his assassination, we know he would be outraged by the level of unemployment and underemployment today and the lack of commitment from almost anyone in politics to the eradication of poverty. Dr. King never hesitated to speak out on any matter of conscience, but he was also happy to accept any way station on the road to justice for all. I am sure he would be an honored guest at the White House and have a respectful relationship with the president, and indeed other presidents before him (I can well imagine him having been consulted by Presidents Carter and Clinton).

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:25:49 PM PST

  •  What do you mean exactly when you say this? (0+ / 0-)
    Obama is and has never been a "runaway slave."

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:32:27 PM PST

  •  John Lewis was asked this about the first (6+ / 0-)

    inauguration and he said that Dr. King would have been "very pleased" and that he might have even said "Hallelujah."  Lewis knew him fairly well.

    Thanks to President Obama, the Iraq War is Over!

    by Viceroy on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:52:29 PM PST

  •  is this a trick question? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, mindara, slothlax

    hell to the yes

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:28:41 PM PST

  •  Don't think there's any doubt (7+ / 0-)

    Dr. King would have been heartened by the second inauguration of the nation's first Black President.

    I also think there's no doubt that he would be eloquent and unsparing in his criticism of the President on many points.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 10:14:41 PM PST

  •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, mindara
    President Obama is a President who happens to be black. He is not a Black President.
    I don't think you were riffing on George Carlin's punchline about Colin Powell, but this gave me a chuckle.
  •  King would agree... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, MichaelNY

    I say King would agree and also understand that they had very different roles and responsibilities.  I think they would bond around the issue on how many white folks want to kill them.

    As a black woman who had a leadership position in a white liberal female organization, my blackness informed every decision I made and their whiteness informed the culture that I swam in. Now I work for a black civil rights organization and my blackness informs my decisions in a very different way.

    Dr. King was about full participation of Negros in America.  I'd argue the President Obama fully embodies that, just for that alone Dr. King is smiling.  What I think gets lost in King's words, was the strategic thinking behind the Civil Rights Movement.  Yes, the words were bold and he understood who he was talking to and the push back he would get.

    The first time I saw their images together was in 2008 on a boot-legged t-shirt being sold on a corner in south central Los Angeles by a local entrepreneur.  He understood the connection before I did.

  •  Tipped and recced for the discussion (5+ / 0-)
    President Obama is just a man. He is not a black superhero. President Obama is a President who happens to be black. He is not a Black President. President Obama is not the living embodiment of Dr. King or Brother Malcolm.
    I understand why people feel as if PBO is a black superhero or something like that no.

    Although in his post-presidency he could very well become that.

    •  a discussion could be had on why can't be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chitown Kev, MichaelNY
      ...He is not a black superhero...
      it sucks, but being as centrist as Obama is the wackadoodles still scream socialist, black radical, hitler, etc

      I'd personally hate to have the pressure on my shoulders that Obama deals with in walking the tight rope let alone the pressures of actually being POTUS

      If he was even a sliver more left than center than he is the southern wack jobs would explode

      a discussion can also be had on why Obama could not go FDR esque on the economic issues ala a larger stimulus and such citing the same exploding heads despite his being centrist

      The next/ 2nd African American president will have the freedom to be

      ..... a black superhero....
      and more NEW NEW Deal

      thanx to the groundwork laid by Obama

      •  Lest we forget (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DEMonrat ankle biter

        Because of the filibuster rule, the president needed 3 Republican votes, plus the votes of balky conservative Democrats in the Senate to pass the stimulus. He couldn't get a full-on New Deal out of them.

        I do think they missed the boat on some executive actions, but they would have involved dealing with banks and banksters, not more stimulus (I think the "too-big-to-fail" banks should have been temporarily nationalized, with their criminal executives fired and prosecuted and replaced by clean people, and subsequently sold off in pieces at a profit to the taxpayers).

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 03:14:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  have said in past, re-election even more important (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chitown Kev, slothlax, MichaelNY

    the wackadoodles could explain away the 1st election of Obama no matter how historic as a fluke or some such

    the 2nd = reality shift and affirmation that Obama election was no fluke

    the re-election is HUGE/ historic

  •  After talking to the people sent to join Dr. King (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    by Obama's policies, I doubt it.

    Somehow, I don't see MLK approving of murder by drone.

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