As I noted in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, (“What would MLK say?“) it’s a weird fact of modern politics that even many ultra-conservative politicians try to frame their messages as somehow being in keeping with Martin Luther King’s work and vision. As the piece noted:
“Like many other famous events in history, the speech is now so familiar that much of the original energy and meaning has been bleached out. If you doubt this, check out the conservative politicians who quote it or stand by in dutiful attention as the last few moments are replayed at King Day celebrations, sporting events and other public occasions.”
Now, just a few hours later, we have the latest a case in point from North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who issued a statement today in which he said the following:
“All North Carolinians stand on the shoulders of what was accomplished 50 years ago today at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. We must keep Dr. Martin Luther King’s words alive, not by merely hearing or reciting them, but by transforming them into deeds that will create economic and educational opportunities for all. We must work together to create jobs, expand educational opportunities that will train and retrain our workforce, and lower the tax burden on our families to encourage more first-time homeowners and entrepreneurs whose success will stabilize our communities.”
Got that? According to the Guv, tax cuts are a way of honoring King’s vision and keeping it alive.
As was also noted in this morning’s piece, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at this kind of craziness. Sure, it’s heartening on one level that even conservatives who would have no doubt fought King now celebrate him. But we should be under no illusion about where the great man would stand if he were somehow still alive today. As this morning’s piece noted:
“Before the rousing conclusion of the “Dream” speech, King urged those who had trekked to Washington for the march to ‘Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.’
If he were alive today it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t have urged the attendees at last Saturday’s March on Washington to “go back to North Carolina” to help address our troubled ‘situation.’
Rev. William Barber, one of King’s most gifted heirs in the modern civil rights movement invoked just such an image last week at a press conference in Durham. In announcing a series of action events that will take place around the state today (click here to find the one nearest you), Barber called North Carolina ‘the Selma of today’ – the modern, gussied-up incarnation of the regressive phenomena that King battled against.
He was right.
Today’s world is vastly more complex than it was in 1963, but at its core, our fight is his fight. Whether the issue is voting rights, regressive taxation, corporate greed, the future or public education or any of a dozen other issues on which North Carolina raced backward in 2013, there can be little doubt that the state is measurably farther away from realizing King’s dream today than it was eight months ago.