It has been sad, but predictable, to watch a parade of leftist hacks draft the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. into service this week, to promote some bit of Democrat Party dogma or other. Impeached former President Bill Clinton took the cake by uncorking a bizarre finger-wagging rant that was presumably intended to slam voter-ID laws by comparing them to the process of purchasing an assault weapon. Since Clinton is a lazy ideologue who assumes his audience is filled with idiots, he didn't put a lot of thought behind his words, and ended up saying something that could be interpreted as a call for photo ID, background checks, and a waiting period before allowing voter registration.
Alas, also high on the hackery roll call of shame is Martin Luther King III, who used a Washington Post op-ed to peddle a bit of ersatz Trayvon Martin mythology: "When an unarmed 17-year-old walking home with Skittles can be brutally slain by an armed man - a man who had been told by police to leave the boy alone - and that man is acquitted of all charges, something is very wrong." He made the now-obligatory effort to link Martin's death to the hideous murder of of Emmett Till, which is an insult to the memory of Emmett Till that nobody on the Left seems to tire of dishing out. Based on this, he concluded that if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he'd be crusading against Stand Your Ground laws and pushing for a few of the Democrats' favorite gun-control laws as his highest priority.
Dr. King's daughter, Rev. Bernice King, chipped in from the National Mall by calling for "freedom to ring" in Libya, Egypt, Syria... and Florida. Thanks for trivializing all that nightmarish evil, Rev. King. You know, not only was Martin Luther King Jr. a lot more honest and perceptive than some of his children seem interested in being, but he was far more interesting. Regurgitating a wheezy script prepared by the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson isn't going to seize the attention of History.
Black conservatives were distinctly unwelcome at the MLK celebration today, including a snub of the nation's only sitting black Senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, who has the wrong letter after his name. That's too bad, because I've seen no better discussion of what Dr. King might be saying today than the one offered by Dr. Ben Carson at the Washington Times.
Carson begins by listing some things MLK would be happy to see, indisputably including the presence of a black President and Attorney General. Personally, I'm looking forward to reaching the day when nobody votes for a candidate based on the color of his skin, or any other superficial attribute, but we're not quite there yet.
As for the issues MLK would most urgently address, if he were alive to grace the national scene, Carson suggests he would be a dedicated opponent of violent gang culture:
The epidemic of black-on-black violent crime indicates that there has been a significant deterioration of values in the black community. Not only are the lives of their fellow blacks and others being devalued by street thugs, but the lives of unborn babies are being destroyed in disproportionate numbers in the black community.
There was a time when blacks were justifiably angry that the larger community discounted their value, but now, ironically, many members of the black community themselves place little or no value on these precious lives that are snuffed out without thought. I think King would be waging a crusade against the marginalization of black lives in America.
And then we come to the issue that would ostracize Martin Luther King Jr. from the modern Democrat Party completely:
Another area of great concern would be the fact that 73 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock. When this occurs, in most cases the educational pursuits of the mothers are terminated and the babies are condemned to a life of poverty and deprivation, which makes them more likely to end up in the penal system or the welfare system. This is a burden not only for the black community but for the nation at large.
Although I believe King would be very concerned for all parties in these tragedies, his energies would be primarily channeled into an attempt to give these young women the kind of self-esteem that would preclude their yielding to the charms of individuals who really don’t care about them and are only interested in their selfish pleasures.
There's no room for that kind of thinking in the Party of Planned Parenthood, where "family values" are a subject for ridicule, birth-control pills are skated across the counter to tween girls with no questions asked, discussions of abstinence and fidelity are forbidden, and unwed mothers are a vital constituency. Don't you know that it's impossible to set high standards for kids? All we can do is arrange outpatient procedures to clean up the results of their libertine behavior, and try to keep squaresville parents from getting in the way.
Carson also discusses the value of entrepreneurial investment and healthy job creation to the black community, which is not an easy message to sell in an era where "investment" has become synonymous with "government programs." Every now and then, President Obama will roll through a black community and hear some grousing about how nobody can get a job in his flatline statist economy, but the grumbles always subside quickly.
One of the consistently interesting things about MLK's philosophy is that he made a strong connection between individual behavior, social health, and national character. People who don't live the right way can't expect a virtuous government to appear and save them. For one thing, people with sloppy and degenerate habits of conduct and thought don't conjure noble governments out of thin air by wishing really hard for Hope and Change. Society really cannot be separated from government - they influence and shape one another. That means everyone has to do their part to make things better.
But instead, many of us have been persuaded not to try at all, because we think we're "entitled" to everything we really need, and the game of life is hopelessly rigged against us. The "secret ingredients" to a prosperous and virtuous life really aren't secrets at all. They've simply been obscured by decades of destructive social policy and liberal cant. The Left assembles for big events like the "I Have a Dream" celebration to fool everyone into forgetting what a disaster their policies have been. For people who embrace words like "Forward!" and "Progress!" as slogans, they're awfully eager to turn the calendar back to the early Sixties and pretend the Great Society hasn't been given a chance yet.
I'm not going to play the cheesy game liberals have been pulling all day, and try to co-opt the spirit of MLK as a spokesman for any of my causes. I have to wonder what this deeply religious man would have thought about ObamaCare's offenses against religious liberty, but I won't presume to slip words into his mouth. But I think Dr. Carson is right to suggest that Dr. King would spend a great deal of time talking about the virtues of family, fidelity, and hard work. And he would not direct those lessons exclusively at black people.
In the "I Have a Dream" speech, he called for a great brotherhood of Americans to "forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." He came to Washington that day to speak about one particularly urgent struggle, but I think he would agree that every great struggle is best conducted on that high plane, including the everyday battles of life. And the "cup of bitterness and hatred" he warned against is part of no healthy menu. Clean living leads to pure thought and high aspirations.