erik lundegaard

'His Patience Infuriates Me': Another MLK/Obama Comparison

MLK and Obama

Two patient men.

While writing about the death of John Doar, I was looking through my copy of Taylor Branch's “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years,” and in the latter part of the book, just a few pages after Doar's memorable, hands-in-the-air calming of a potential riot in Jackson, Mississippi, I came across this passage about a behind-the-scenes battle for Medgar Evers' legacy. I'd forgotten about it. I'd forgotten that Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP, hadn't been a big fan of Dr. King and the SCLC. I'd particularly forgotten the passage below, but it's reminiscent of something that's happened during the Obama presidency. 

The speaker for most of this is Stanley Levison, whom Pres. Kennedy warned MLK to disassociate himself from since Levison had ties (or once had ties, I'm not quite sure) with the American Communist Party:

Levison poured out a long tale of grievance against Wilkins. “Roy and every single member of his staff except John Morsell ... have carried on against Martin,” he said. For years they had conducted a “dirty campaign” of gossip against King—for instance, spreading the “hair-raising” rumor that King moved to Atlanta in 1960 only because the Negro insurance companies paid him $1 million a month to “hold the Negroes back.” Through it all, said Levison, King kept speaking at NAACP functions, opening NAACP branches, and praising the NAACP in speeches. He did not understand how King had been “so patient with the amount of garbage that's heaped on him.” In fact, Levison said, King's patience “infuriates me.”

Sound familiar? 

There's a phrase in British tabloid circles, “monstering,” or relentless smearing of a public figure to turn him/her into a monster, and that's what the GOP and Fox News have been trying to do to our president for the past six years. They've called him a socialist, a communist, a fascist. They compared him to Hitler for bringing health insurance to millions. They've not only called him un-American but many keep implying he's not American at all.

Monstering, though, like a lot of far-right rhetoric, is mostly projection. We know who the real monsters are.

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Posted at 11:49 AM on Thu. Nov 27, 2014 in category Books  
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