On the Washington Post op-ed page today, Colbert King snidely protests the conservative feeling that liberals turned the Coretta Scott King funeral into a bit of whooping political theater. "The fuss over the funeral is probably the silliest snit of all."
King raised several straw men. First, how could you expect a funeral for a political icon like Coretta not to raise issues of racism, poverty, and war? (But we didn't expect it to be free of political themes. We did expect it to be free of whooping ovations of sentences that seemed designed to embarrass the President as he sat there.) Second, he claims this is the way black Baptist funerals are. (But the "mourners" were not worshiping Jesus, saying Amen to their Lord in loud voices. They were whooping at liberal anti-Bush sentiments. If that's a black Baptist funeral, then it IS as much a campaign event as a religious event.) King concludes:
How could a civil rights icon such as Coretta Scott King, a child of the Baptist Church, whose husband was shot dead, whose home was bombed, and whose own government attempted to smear her husband and break up her marriage, not have a home-going service that didn't bring out its share of freely and honestly expressed emotions?
Answer: because President Bush didn't shoot Martin Luther King, didn't bomb his home, didn't "smear" him by exposing his marital infidelity. Those days are long gone.
Minutes after the remarks on MSNBC, Colby King insisted to Chris Matthews that the anti-Bush remarks of Rev. Joseph Lowery were "not political." Apparently, he's reconsidered their political echoes:
And as harsh as they were to conservative ears, they also served a useful purpose. For 10,000 mourners bearing a special kind of pain, those words had a cathartic effect. They became the vehicle through which emotional tensions in the church could surface, the means by which the assembled could give expression to what they were feeling deep down inside. Hence, the laughter, the cheers and loud roars.
George W. Bush -- no passionate orator himself but no political slouch when it comes to reading an audience, black, white or brown -- apparently got it. Too bad some conservatives on the outside looking in, and caught in their own cramped world, did not.
But again, if black Baptist funerals are all about getting in nasty personal digs, then where is the forgiveness of Christ? Believers are not called to surface their "emotional tensions" with sneering zeal at long-festering grievances, but to attempt to forgive and forget, to unite and not divide. The NAACP types and their "Confederate Swastika" speeches don't seem to be attempting that approach.
In a Friday afternoon online Post chat, reporter/columnist David Broder came from a mildly different direction than Colby King, granting that the comments bordered on badly misplaced partisanship:
St. Louis, Mo.: Much has been made of the critical comments made at Coretta Scott King's funeral. What does this really tell us about the scope and longevity of the so-called "Bush Bubble"?
David S. Broder: The funeral for Coretta Scott King was a mixture of very moving tributes and some political comments that, in my judgment, bordered on out-of-place partisanship. I thought it was very odd to hear President Carter going on at such length about how helpful she had been to his political career, as if that were one of her main achievements. But I think everyone has to make allowance for the emotions of the event, so I don't want to be too judgmental.
PS: On the ABC News blog The WorldNewser, reporter Steve Osunsami notes the racial composition of the excitable crowd in Georgia, and how their prayers were loud and long:
I was also struck by the fact that there are no white people here. As I write this, I'm sitting next to the overflow room where there are about 1000 people and I don't see a single white face anywhere. I take that back. Four middle-aged white guys, but they're here working for Reuters and the AP. I bet you, at one point, there were probably more white people on the main stage (the four Presidents and their wives), than there were throughout the entire church. I wonder what that says about things.