MLK Day 2020

Here’s to another Monday off from work (for those of us blessed to work in fields that give out random days off liberally).  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is one of those holidays that feels like an excuse to have a little taste of the recently-departed Christmas holiday.  Everyone is still dragging in January, coming off the high of Christmas and New Year’s.  I find the cold intellectually stimulating, but most of us are spending our time comfortably indoors, basking in central heating.  It all makes for seasonal sluggishness.

Last year’s MLK Day post sought to take advantage of the day’s cozy laziness with some suggested reading.  Contra the whole “make it a day ON” virtue-signalers, it really is the perfect day to crank up the heat, brew some coffee, and enjoy reading with some fried eggs (over medium, please) and toast (and, for us Southerners, a hearty helping of grits).  It’s one of the last taste of the hygge before the warm weather creeps back in (which occurs sometime in late February or early March here in South Carolina).

That’s all by way of lengthy preamble to today’s post.  I thought this year it might be worth looking at the holiday itself, and the man behind it.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was, indeed, a remarkable man, and one who did a great deal to advance the cause of liberty, more equally enjoyed.  But while we’re not allowed to say so—MLK has been elevated to something like sainthood in the American Pantheon—he was an imperfect vessel in many ways.

I remember vividly listening to Michael Savage’s program on the radio on the way home from a family trip to the beach.  He was talking about MLK’s legacy, and it was the first time in my life I’d ever heard anyone say anything critical about MLK (I was probably in the tenth grade).  It blew my mind—never had I heard anyone say anything negative about him.  It was eye-opening, and riveting.  I remember anxiously asking my parents to turn back the dial when they turned away during a commercial break.

I’m all for imperfect vessels—I love Donald Trump after all.  I don’t expect leaders to be spotless paragons of virtue.  But there’s such an aura of unmitigated godliness around MLK (unlike Trump, who we all know has been sowing his seed all over), revelations of his lurid sexual peccadilloes are (or should be) more shocking. .

It does seem the man was involved in some shady stuff.  The FBI surveillance of him may have been a hit job, but there were legitimate concerns about Marxist infiltration and such in the 1960s.

My point is not to smear Martin Luther King, Jr., but rather to bring some nuance to the discussion of his legacy.  His legacy is overwhelmingly positive.  His famous “I Have a Dream Speech” is a classic statement of the American ideal as embodied in the Declaration of Independence.  We can judge the man based on his life and actions, to be sure, but I’m usually more interested in a man’s ideas (and ideals).  MLK was, allegedly, a sexual scoundrel and a forceful defender of civil liberties.  Both can be true.

It is interesting to note that in our age of #MeToo witch hunts and intersectional identity politics, King’s ringing declarations of political and spiritual equality between the races is no longer in vogue.  King would not find a welcome reception on the Left today.  Nor do I think it’s accurate to claim King was somehow a conservative Republican.  After the luster of his “I Have a Dream Speech” had passed, he was championing the Poor People’s March, which advocated for a much more activist, statist approach to addressing poverty.

Republicans in a race to avoid being called “racist” have tried to rewrite history to make MLK fit within the Republican mold.  I do think his ideas, as expressed in the “I Have a  Dream” speech, are far more consistent with the Republican Party of today than the Democratic Party, which has gone whole hog on embracing identity politics—which are incompatible with the notion that “all men are created equal.”

Regardless, for a full treatment of the MLK Day controversy, check out’s annual dissection.  They update it annually with the latest information.  I’m not as critical as they are, but they’re doing yeoman’s work that is too politically incorrect for most other outlets to touch.

9 thoughts on “MLK Day 2020

  1. I find “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail” even more moving.

    My settled conclusion is that he was a very good Christian pastor, and a sinner, who wanted us to be the best we could be. He never really fit the left/right divide well at all. In short, a man.

    Liked by 1 person

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