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"You don't play with Martin Luther King Jr."
January 20, 2013 9:37 PM   Subscribe

When Barack Obama is sworn in to office for a second term today, he will use two bibles: One owned by Abraham Lincoln, and second bible, used by Martin Luther King Jr.
Cornel West explains why Obama taking the oath with Martin Luther King Jr's Bible bothers him.
posted by dunkadunc (225 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
You think MLK would say something this bloviating and petty? Hell no. He'd take the opportunity to pray that the President will swear to step up his peace game, and that hopefully this bible will help him remember that peace and justice are friends, not enemies.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:42 PM on January 20, 2013 [85 favorites]


I forsee an obligatory conversation, lasting several minutes, about this on an upcoming episode of Real Time between frequent guest Cornel West and host Bill Maher...which may be surpisingly interesting (or entirely unproductive, as goes that show).
posted by trackofalljades at 9:43 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


i thought he was right on the money. obama using mlk's bible isn't as ironic as obama winning the same nobel peace prize as mlk, but it's still pretty fucking ironic.
posted by facetious at 9:52 PM on January 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Tavis Smiley said something quite similar this morning on CBS SUNDAY. He expressed hope, as do I, that using MLK's bible isn't a gesture of promises-kept - but rather promises-made. You know - not so much "I am using this bible because i'm the answer to Martin Luther King's dream" but rather "I am using this bible to renew the causes MLK fought for and to revive them".

Also, I am so going to start using the phrase "holy-ghost funky-gut gut-bucket Baptist" from now on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Cornel West has been critical of Obama (very vocally) for some time. Some context:
"Obama is a Republican in Black Face."
Melissa Harris-Perry (who has her on semi-public feud with West) on West vs. Obama.
Cornel West interview with Truthdig, on his initial support of Obama, followed by Obama's failure to return calls/provide inauguration tickets (in 2009).
This WSJ piece has a bit of a summary, with some choice quotes, such as "I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men."
posted by cushie at 9:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh my god, cushie: those quotes are so awesome. I was almost rolling on the floor.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:59 PM on January 20, 2013


Considering MLK gave this speech a year before his death, I'm guessing the two wouldn't see eye to eye on Obama's policy of programming death robots to bomb a foreign nation without a declaration of war.
posted by deathpanels at 10:06 PM on January 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


Was going to say the same as cushie. I love listenting to Smiley & West but it comes with a regular, heavy dose of Obama critique - from the left. This has to be taken in that context.
posted by Miko at 10:13 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the main "pageantry", as usual, is West's presentation and arguments. Cornel West says Obama is defiling the Bible of a man of "such high decency and dignity" as MLK Jr., a serial adulterer into prostitutes and a plagiarist. I'm not saying MLK Jr wasn't also a great leader, but it seems like over the last 15 years, West has gone from substance to just style.
posted by whatgorilla at 10:17 PM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


So, he's actually gonna swear on a stack o' Bibles.

I find it absurd, theatrical silliness.
posted by Goofyy at 10:17 PM on January 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the main "pageantry", as usual, is West's presentation and arguments. Cornel West says Obama is defiling the Bible of a man of "such high decency and dignity" as MLK Jr., a serial adulterer into prostitutes and a plagiarist.

And an America-hating communist, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:18 PM on January 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


This seems premature, albeit usefully so. I mean, Obama will give some sort of speech today too. And if his speechwriters are paying any attention, they have a golden opportunity to borrow some specific symbolism from MLK / MLK day but via some narrow path that sidesteps earlier readings of his intent.

Surely the real crime here is that Kelly Clarkson is performing.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:23 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


And an America-hating communist, right?

I don't get it. He actually was a serial adulterer and a plagiarist: it's not a values judgment. There's nobody I respect more than him, but he had human characteristics and some of these behaviors were among them.

if his speechwriters are paying any attention

Not only are they paying attention, but there's a reason they chose Monday to do this instead of the 20th, today.
posted by Miko at 10:24 PM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


No, I like a lot of West's stuff--read much of it up until about 2000 (last thing was something on "Future of the American Progressive" or something--even went back, after reading "Race Matters" and read stuff form the late 70s and 80s). Since then, I've just seen him in a lot of documentaries and interviews, and half the time he's entertaining, and the other half he's annoying. I feel the same way about rock-star-philosopher Slavoj Zizek--that it's become more about style than substance.
I think you can be a great leader (while being a shitty husband and academic) without hating 'Merica.
posted by whatgorilla at 10:25 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


He'd take the opportunity to pray that the President will swear to step up his peace game, and that hopefully this bible will help him remember that peace and justice are friends, not enemies.

Word to that. I'd rather he use MLKs book than the one owned by the warmongering Lincoln. The American Civil War was the antithesis of non-violent political change.
posted by three blind mice at 10:39 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And an America-hating communist, right?

Er? It's documented fact. Dr. King was a deeply flawed human being with important ideas, not a pure and innocent soul.

I rather think that makes him far more interesting and inspiring than the idea that he never did anything even remotely shady, ever. The truly great among us are flawed and HUMAN, and I believe that gives them a better understanding of justice, compassion, and plain old human decency.
posted by MissySedai at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Surely the real crime here is that Kelly Clarkson is performing.

This whole thing does have a sort of pop star circus atmosphere. Remember Clinton having Maya Angelou read at one of his inaugurations?

I appreciate the symbolism, and it's good, strong symbolism. But it's clear that Obama isn't the savior some people expected. There's only so much you can do in America, I suppose.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dr. King was a deeply flawed human being with important ideas, not a pure and innocent soul.

I think we get that, we're just questioning why his flaws are being introduced into this conversation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


it's clear that Obama isn't the savior some people expected.

The only people that expected a savior were naive. But I'm still naive enough to say that you can do anything in America.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah yes, the diversity inauguration with no diversity. "Like religion? We've got both kinds! Mainline AND Evangelical!"
posted by 1adam12 at 10:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry. Two bibles? It's just schtick. We're lucky he can't have a third term; he's probably have a Koran and a Tanakh under either arm, and balance a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on his nose.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


He got the peace prize, and we got the problem.. ... If I'm following a general, and he's leading me into a battle, and the enemy tends to give him rewards, or awards, I get suspicious of him. Especially if he gets a peace award before the war is over.

Malcolm X, Interview with Claude Lewis, December 1964

posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:56 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Poor Obama. He does appear to have monstrous tickets on himself. There was nothing to understanding Cornel West. He was to the point.
posted by de at 10:57 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, right before he was killed he came down to Selma and said some pretty passionate things against me, and that surprised me because after all it was my territory there. But afterwards he took my wife aside, and said he thought he could help me more by attacking me than praising me. He thought it would make it easier for me in the long run.

MLK

posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think we get that, we're just questioning why his flaws are being introduced into this conversation.

West is basically saying that MLK is the best possible person, and Obama's not fit to use his bible for "pageantry" (as if the inauguration of a black president was nothing more). Introducing MLK's flaws is a substantial counterpoint to West's adoration.
posted by fatbird at 11:00 PM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Bible and the Oath and the timing aren't what's important here.

It's completely legit, however, for West to take this moment and point out that people are conveniently selective about what aspects of Martin Luther King's legacy they cling to, what aspects they identify themselves with.

Mainstream politicians evoke King when they're talking of racial justice. They forget King when they're talking about poverty. They forget him even faster when they're talking about war.

They're enslaving King's memory and making him work as an icon, but only the kind of icon they want. West has plenty of reason to be pissed about that.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 11:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [38 favorites]


I don't get that West was claiming MLK was "the best possible person," fatbird - only that Obama hadn't yet lived up to what MLK was about. Which is also true.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


METAFILTER: Surely the real crime here is that Kelly Clarkson is performing.

and stop calling me Shirley
posted by philip-random at 11:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The subtle ways in which Obama has appropriated King's legacy is really disturbing to me and Cornel West understands King on a fundamental level as a prophetic voice.

 "I can hear God saying to America, 'You are too arrogant. If you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power and… place it in the hands of a nation that does not even know my name.'"
posted by koavf at 11:18 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cornell West reminds of the scorned ex-lover who never misses a chance to excorciate you to your friends, or anyone else who will listen.

Seems to me that if he was serious about speaking truth to power in the black community, and upholding the legacy of MLK, he should maybe start with calling out hip hop culture's fetishizing of crime, guns and misogyny. Granted, I'm not a West fan, so I don't know if he has come out strongly against these themes in hip hop culture, but surely he gets the most press- and love from the left- when he criticizes or chastises Obama in inflammatory ways, rather than calling out black superstars.
posted by dave78981 at 11:19 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


West is basically saying that MLK is the best possible person, and Obama's not fit to use his bible for "pageantry"

No. He's saying MLK has a specific legacy, and Obama's actions as president don't match those ideals, and therefore shouldn't use his bible for pageantry. If MLK's flaws as listed here speak against MLK's legacy as it refers to the three main points Cornel West speaks of (Racial Justice, economic Justice and the fight against military injustice), then that would be an interesting argument. But that argument hasn't been made here.

As to Obama, what I would like to hear from West is whether he thinks Obama is aiming to meet that legacy and failing, ignorant of that legacy, or willfully working against it. That's the deeper, more interesting analysis that he (and many of Obama's most vocal critics) seems to always fall short of.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:20 PM on January 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Tangentially related: Report: Rapper Lupe Fiasco thrown offstage during pre-inauguration event after anti-Obama rant
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:24 PM on January 20, 2013


only that Obama hadn't yet lived up to what MLK was about. Which is also true.'

who has?
posted by philip-random at 11:27 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aware of it, but rationalizing it to himself when he actively works against it. Pretty common.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:28 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about symbols in a world with connected peer-to-peer communication (the Internet) is that it is hard to radically alter those symbols without going to a great deal of effort. Back in the broadcast days, it was much easier to treat King (or anyone else) as a static symbol, and pick the elements that were relevant to your platform. Since media was broadcast back then, what you said is what people heard and that was that.

But now Obama can invoke the legacy of King and at least some people will go deeper and connect with a fuller understanding of King's legacy. The cognitive dissonance resulting from that understanding could be as disastrous for Obama as Bush's "Mission Accomplished" event, but probably won't be.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:31 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems to me that if he was serious about speaking truth to power in the black community, and upholding the legacy of MLK, he should maybe start with calling out hip hop culture's fetishizing of crime, guns and misogyny. Granted, I'm not a West fan, so I don't know if he has come out strongly against these themes in hip hop culture

Maybe it'd be better if you knew things before you got upset about them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:31 PM on January 20, 2013 [45 favorites]


He's making a conscious effort to Ascend as the Avatar of the Demagogue or the Orator. King was the previous Godwalker, and by consciously surrounding himself with his symbols he hopes to kick him out of the Statosphere. But King's Ascension cost him his life....
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:46 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Obama can't be an Avatar of the Demagogue, his entire first term violates the taboo.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:51 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Obama is manipulating with more than just MLK's legacy, he is playing with the Christian doctrine that fired it. If Obama opened that book to Matthew 23 I think he would find something interesting at verses 29 through 32
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Now "Woe to you", or ouai in the greek dialect that Matthew was written in, does not mean a pleasant warning of future misfortune. Really, according to the gospel, Jesus is saying FUCK YOU to these people in no uncertain terms. He is saying that those who co-opt the memory of the prophets1 are actors. Matthew uses a word ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which up until this point had a neutral meaning without a negative connotation, to describe the actions of priests like this, who ignore the heart of the Pentateuch, taking houses from widows, while they make sure to be careful to tithe a tenth of the fruits of their house plants. The way he uses the word hypokrisis, it definitely now has a negative connotation.

1When most think of being a prophet in a Christian sense today we think of the old testament prophets in a very Jewish sense that the ideas of the early church were pretty anachronistic to. The word Paul used, that is commonly translated as prophesy, no longer really has a good modern cognate. He used it to describe concept everyone is capable of to different degrees and could be developed like a talent. To "prophecy" into a person or subject was to gain an understanding of it, rather than see into its future. Thus, for example in a modern context, a good therapist might be expected to have a gift for "prophecying" into the lives of their patients developed from solid instincts with years of academic and clinical training. Not really a magic thing but also not really a thing that couldn't be understood as a gift from God or spiritually meaningful. In this context the Old Testament prophets can be understood as particularly bombastic folks with a gift for groking social justice issues, geopolitical realities, and - to the Christian eye - the will of God. Thus in this more authentically Christian sense, it would be absurd not to think of MLK as a prophet.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:53 PM on January 20, 2013 [39 favorites]


Maybe it'd be better if you knew things before you got upset about them.

I'm not upset about this, at all. I really don't care what Cornell West thinks about Obama, MLK or anything else.

My point was actually in the second part, the part you left out when you quoted me: that Cornell West is a media whore, he likes to be quoted and he likes to be an intellectual touchstone for hip hop stars, so he naturally won't call them on their misogynist, violent bullshit.
posted by dave78981 at 11:53 PM on January 20, 2013


@Blasdelb: It would be absurd to not think of King as a prophet.
posted by koavf at 12:02 AM on January 21, 2013


I also kinda rolled my eyes at Dr. West calling Dr. King "decent," but aside from that, West is completely on point. Dr. King was very concerned with poverty and with war, and I can't imagine he'd approve of President Obama's very right-wing politics (Obama's policies regarding economics and war are well to the right of Regan's) in those areas.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like West a lot and also really enjoy Smiley and West for their very incisive critiques of the mainstream of the Democratic party. But I honestly found this criticism to be a bit disingenuous - I mean, isn't West also playing with "MLK, the icon" here? Martin Luther King was a complex person and means a lot of different things to different people. West is cherry-picking a bit and saying that, because Obama diverges from MLK's ideals in the ways that West disagrees with, Obama can't possibly have a deeper connection to MLK than simple stagecraft. That's a stretch.

Which is not to say that I disagree with most of West's substantive policy beefs with Obama. I think one thing to remember is that MLK and West are activists (although, interestingly, both activists as a "second career"). Activists are always going to be critical of those in power, that's their job. And those in power are always going to move more slowly than they'd like, or give the other side more than they'd like.

Poor Obama. He does appear to have monstrous tickets on himself.

Huh, I'd never heard that turn of phrase before and had to look it up. Apparently it means he thinks highly of himself? That honestly seems like a bit of a strange critique, given that there probably haven't been many presidents who didn't feel that way. You have to have a fairly big ego to think you can be the leader of one of the largest countries in the world.
posted by lunasol at 12:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Seems to me that if he was serious about speaking truth to power in the black community, and upholding the legacy of MLK, he should maybe start with calling out hip hop culture's fetishizing of crime, guns and misogyny. Granted, I'm not a West fan, so I don't know if he has come out strongly against these themes in hip hop culture

I really don't buy the argument that in order to critique the use of presidential power, he also has to be a vocal critic of rap artists.

Nevertheless, he does speak out about negative messages in rap. He is characterized as "a vocal opponent of misogyny and hedonism in contemporary hip-hop" here. More of his views here. (I heard much more than that in a speech he gave in 2002-ish, but I can't find it.)
posted by salvia at 12:37 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Obama's economic policies are to the right of Reagan's? Hell, just today from Krugman.

Not sure how to measure his war policies vs Reagan's: ending the Iraq War and surging troops in Afghanistan before ending that war and drones in Yemen and intervention in Libya and non-intervention in Syria. Vs. walking away from ending nukes because of Star Wars and Grenada and the Contras and the massive inflation of the military-industrial bubble.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:05 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Granted, I'm not a West fan, so I don't know if he has come out strongly against these themes in hip hop culture,

but you'll assume that he hasn't, because finding information on the internet is extremely difficult. And, of course, looking for information may not let you do this:

that Cornell West is a media whore, he likes to be quoted and he likes to be an intellectual touchstone for hip hop stars, so he naturally won't call them on their misogynist, violent bullshit.

USA Today, from 2007:
Never Forget is not a direct critique of hip-hop, but West says rappers have to be responsible for what they say and portray.

"We know that misogyny is shot through the culture," West says. "It's in country. It's in rhythm and blues. It's in the White House, and it's on Wall Street. So you can't just single out the hip-hop artists and have them bearing the burden for the whole culture. On the other hand, Snoop Dogg is just as accountable as anybody else."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:20 AM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


If King could look down from some heaven on all of this, I'm sure he would be very happy and honored to see Obama swearing in for a second presidential term with his hand on King's bible on a national holiday dedicated to King and what he stood for, and he would also be very happy to see West, sitting in his privileged position, remind everyone of how far Obama and all the rest of us will always have to go.
posted by pracowity at 1:25 AM on January 21, 2013 [38 favorites]


You think MLK would say something this bloviating and petty? Hell no. He'd take the opportunity to pray that the President will swear to step up his peace game,
Just out of curiosity, what on earth makes you think you know more about MLK then Cornell West?

Obviously MLK is dead and any predictions can't be tested, but it's not like MLK never had any harsh words for LBJ over Vietnam, who did great things for civil rights domestically.

But one thing we should keep in mind was that MLK was as much of an anti-war advocate as he was an advocate for civil rights.
Er? It's documented fact. Dr. King was a deeply flawed human being with important ideas, not a pure and innocent soul.
Well, they are kind of orthogonal issues, though. The problem for west is that he views MLK as a peace and non-violence guy, an anti-poverty guy and thinks Obama fails to live up to that, so the tarnishing or whatever is in terms of those virtues. The philandering, etc is a side issue. Also (plagiarism? I think most people view that as a fairly minor vice, something fairly common - hardly something that makes someone 'deeply flawed'. I remember some of my college classmates talking about it as if it was something everyone did.)
only that Obama hadn't yet lived up to what MLK was about. Which is also true.'
Everyone who's never been violent or supported segregation? The vast majority of people don't even have enough power in their lives to fall short.
posted by delmoi at 1:56 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really don't buy the argument that in order to critique the use of presidential power, he also has to be a vocal critic of rap artists.

Neither do I. I have no problem with West critiquing presidential power (although I do think that in this case West was personally slighted and this tinges his critique to a large extent). I do think though that his complaint that Obama is not upholding Dr. King's legacy is disingenuous. As someone mentioned above, King (and West) are activists, Obama is a politiican. They have different roles and different functions.

The symbolism of being sworn in on MLK's bible has to, imo, be seen in conjunction with also being sworn in on Lincoln's- the thread from slavery to Emancipation (however hesitant) through the Civil Rights Movement to today, a second term for a black president. I think it's completely justifiable to use these as symbols in this way without having to embrace everything each man believed or stood for.

"We know that misogyny is shot through the culture," West says. "It's in country. It's in rhythm and blues. It's in the White House, and it's on Wall Street. So you can't just single out the hip-hop artists and have them bearing the burden for the whole culture. On the other hand, Snoop Dogg is just as accountable as anybody else."

I really think West is being disingenuous here, again. The coarse, violent misogyny that's present in hip hop just isn't there in other parts of the culture. On top of that, ultimately white people are making a lot of money off of this black on black violence. And the best that West can muster is "Snoop Dogg is just as accountable as anyone else?" Please.
posted by dave78981 at 2:00 AM on January 21, 2013


The coarse, violent misogyny that's present in hip hop just isn't there in other parts of the culture.

Yeah, entertainment products aimed at white people have the good taste to be subtle about the raging misogyny encoded into them!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


[Cornel West] should maybe start with calling out hip hop culture's fetishizing of crime, guns and misogyny. ... but surely he gets the most press- and love from the left- when he criticizes or chastises Obama in inflammatory ways, rather than calling out black superstars.
If you really believe that - can you explain why it is you don't think all the white, suburban kids who listen to hip-hop don't go out and become gang-bangers too?

Do you think movies that romanticize Italian mafioso (like The Godfather) turn make Italians more likely to be criminals? Do you actually think DOOM really was a major catalyst for columbine?

Or is it only black people who are so easily swayed by escapist fantasizing?

----

Also, pretty funny that you're trying to defend Obama by criticizing Cornel West's supposed indifference to misogyny in rap music. How often does Obama criticize rap music? As far as i know, he is an unabashed hip-hop fan who actually hangs out with rappers and seeks out their political support. I mean, had Jay-Z doing fundraisers for him

So WTF are you even talking about? Not only is it a totally inane general criticism, it's completely absurd when trying to use it to defend Obama from West's criticism.
posted by delmoi at 2:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


It seems really bizarre to me how people can become so exercised about symbolism. What seems most bizarre is the very act of swearing on a book at all, never mind whom it belonged to. This guy is angered - actually angered - by what he sees as a sort of disrespect to the symbolism he attaches to ownership of an inanimate object. In his mind he creates so many magical symbolic connections between the object and its erstwhile owner that he can actually become infuriated when another individual creates - or at least acknowledges - magical symbolic connections between the same object and his own character.

Human beings really are very strange indeed.
posted by Decani at 2:12 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


So two questions:

1) Do you think hip-hop causes white people to become criminal misogynists as well, or does it only affect black people?

2) If Cornel West's failure to agree with you that rap music is bad for black people vociferously enough means he doesn't care about black people, does Obama's actual embrace of hip-hop and and his partnership with various rappers to raise money and motivate voters mean that Obama actually cares less about black people then Cornel West?

Please explain. TIA.
posted by delmoi at 2:17 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems really bizarre to me how people can become so exercised about symbolism. What seems most bizarre is the very act of swearing on a book at all, never mind whom it belonged to. This guy is angered - actually angered - by what he sees as a sort of disrespect to the symbolism he attaches to ownership of an inanimate object. In his mind he creates so many magical symbolic connections between the object and its erstwhile owner that he can actually become infuriated when another individual creates - or at least acknowledges - magical symbolic connections between the same object and his own character.

Human beings really are very strange indeed.


Beep boop, I am a robot, I do not understand why these strange irrational humans are so emotional and so attached to things, beep boop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 AM on January 21, 2013 [35 favorites]


I'm not trying to defend Obama from West's criticism, I'm criticizing West for being hypocritical about who's upholding the legacy of MLK, specifically social justice. There are many issues in poor communities, but one of the more distressing ones in poor, black communities is the prevalence of black on black violence. I'm not saying hip hop imperils youth, black or white, by compelling them to commit violence, I'm saying that (some) hip hop glorifies violence, crime and misogyny. (Are you seriously arguing that it doesn't?)

Surely Dr. King would be against both black on black crime and the glorification of it to make money. West should excorciate these artists and institutions as vociferously as he does Obama.

Also, plenty of Italian Americans have been highly vocal about the representations of their culture and the stereotypes present in The Godfather and Sopranoes, et al.

All the causative links you draw are your own, but to call this criticism of hip hop inane is, well, inane.
posted by dave78981 at 2:35 AM on January 21, 2013


I think Obama should use Lance Armstrong's Bible. It is a LOT bigger and MUCH longer than Lincoln's Bible, or even MLK's. I think it actually won the Bible Olympics or something seven times. Actually Lance Armstrong's Bible used to have page rot, and it was only saved by cutting out the whole of the book of Deuteronomy and some of Corinthians. But it met that adversity by training harder than ever and coming back better than before, and Americans today venerate Lance Armstrong's Bible as the largest Holy Book of them all.

Some people have suggested that Lance Armstrong's Bible only got so big because it has been augmented by apocrypha, such as the History of the Rechabites and the Gospel According to Barry. But those people sicken me with their cynical refusal to believe this wonderful, uplifting story about Lance Amstrong's Bible, a Bible we can ALL look up to and say, "Wow. That's one pagey motherfucking Bible right there".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:54 AM on January 21, 2013 [29 favorites]


Cornel West explains why Obama taking the oath with Martin Luther King Jr's Bible bothers him.

Taking the oath with any bible (or other religious book) bothers me. But what can ya do?

Religiousers are gonna...umm....religious-er.

yep
posted by lampshade at 2:58 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe he should swear on the Koran to stop droning children to death.
posted by Mblue at 3:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that (some) hip hop glorifies violence, crime and misogyny. (Are you seriously arguing that it doesn't?)

Obviously it does but Cornel West has been critical of those things as well. You have to see his perspective, a lot of the noise about the dangers of rap has traditionally come from people who do not otherwise act as if they have the interests of the black community at heart. I'm not accusing you of being one of those people, but that is an important bit of context.

When Americans criticize their own culture as being overly violent, materialistic and selfish, many Americans agree with those things.

When people from other countries which are currently friendly/neutral to the USA make those same criticisms it raises hackles, especially if those countries have had or do have those same issues themselves.
A German who complains about American warmongering may have a valid point, but even the pacifistic American can't help hearing a little voice at the back of their minds saying, "who are you to speak?".

When enemies of the United States make those criticisms - and Al Qaeda has been known to criticize American commercialism and individualism - even those Americans who hold those viewpoints most fervently reject the criticism.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that an African-American public intellectual is going to be measured in his criticism of black entertainers.

All of this, incidentally, is much less relevant now than it was 15 years ago. Gangster rap is dead and has been for more than a decade. The vast majority of mainstream hip-hop is not about drugs, guns, or violence. Is hip-hop overall still more misogynistic than American music in general? Yeah, probably it is, but it's worth noting that in the last few years the centre has been moving towards a less misogynistic, less homophobic consensus.
When you have major stars like Jay-Z openly supporting equality, you are in a *very* different place than you were in 2000.

I'm not going to get into "which genre has the most negative content" because how do we compare misogyny in rap with jingoism in country with racism and racial essentialism in neo-folk and I don't think it's productive. I don't hold Toby Keith responsible for the battle of Falujah.
posted by atrazine at 3:13 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not trying to defend Obama from West's criticism, I'm criticizing West for being hypocritical about who's upholding the legacy of MLK, specifically social justice. There are many issues in poor communities, but one of the more distressing ones in poor, black communities is the prevalence of black on black violence.

Luckily they've got a nice white guy to tell 'em what their problems are!
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:13 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe he should swear on the Koran to stop droning children to death.

hmmf....yeah, that would be interesting.

And fwiw, I would be ok with him using this bible.
posted by lampshade at 3:14 AM on January 21, 2013


As long as we are all gonna pretend we know what MLK would say, I've decided I'll play that game also.

I'll stake out a claim that the good reverend would say "For years and as younger and more able bodied man I walked across this Nation brining a message of peace and petitioning the Government for change. Now, on this day of the start of a second term of the Commander in Chief the following news comes to me - and I now call upon the Commander in Chief to use his executive power to address this wrong-headded position."

A written exam administered by the Pentagon labels "protests" as a form of “low-level terrorism”

The written exam, given as part of Department of Defense employees’ routine training, includes a multiple-choice question that asks:

“Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism?”
— Attacking the Pentagon
— IEDs
— Hate crimes against racial groups
— Protests
The correct answer, according to the exam, is "Protests."
posted by rough ashlar at 3:28 AM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm okay with Obama channeling MLK occasionally, well hey first African American president, fair enough man. I'm thrilled that people like West exploit that to hi-light MLK's peace legacy to criticize our foreign policy, our police state, etc., massively elevates the level discourse. <applause>
posted by jeffburdges at 3:31 AM on January 21, 2013


The subtle ways in which Obama has appropriated King's legacy

I suspect, like Carter and Clinton before him and in notable contrast to Reagan, and Bushes Jr and Snr, Obama is barely at the middle of both his own legacy and his appropriation of the legacy of others.

He will be just 55 by the time he finishes in office. Clinton was 54. His willingness towards bipartisanship, his republican stances on defense issues and so forth are not just realpolitik. They are also a nod towards the role Obama sees for himself from 2017 onwards. The MLK bible is not just a statement about who he is and what he plans to do in the next four years. It is as much part of his crafting of his own narrative as publishing his memoir was at age 34.

At the moment his is constrained by his mandate and vehement political opposition by Republicans to anything that looks like a move leftwards. Post-presidency, however, he will pick his causes. It won't be peace in the Middle East. It is far more likely to be poverty/development in Africa and social change in the United States - both areas where Obama is well suited to take on the role of a latter day MLK.

Ironically, Bush Jr is, or was, a much stronger candidate than Obama to evangelise about development in Africa. He certainly did far more in office than Obama has done thus far. But Bush Jr appears comfortable in his retirement and at 66 years old is unlikely to roar back into politics in a major way after a four year hiatus.

The casting of Obama as the voice of downtrodden America and aspirational Africa is barely begun. My guess is that from 2015 onwards you'll see a much clearer picture emerge of Obama building on MLK's legacy, and taking over the mantle from Bill Clinton.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


The truly great among us are flawed and HUMAN,

I believe in the Mr. Rodgers obit thread no one could find a flaw in the man, other than he was 'too nice'.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:34 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Blatant politicking (on everyone's side), nothing more, nothing less.

Perhaps if we could put aside the constant feathery shows of dominance and potency we could get some work done in this country.
posted by HuronBob at 3:44 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the real turd on MLK's legacy is using the day for 40% off on Baby Gap. Yes. Because the man had a dream that all children could enjoy cardigans!
posted by sonika at 3:49 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's an old book. A skeuomorph.
posted by panaceanot at 3:56 AM on January 21, 2013


A German who complains about American warmongering may have a valid point, but even the pacifistic American can't help hearing a little voice at the back of their minds saying, "who are you to speak?".

But only because we're taught to do so.
posted by hoyland at 4:10 AM on January 21, 2013


Because the man had a dream that all children could enjoy cardigans!

...when all of God's children will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Forty percent off! Forty percent off! Thank God Almighty, they are forty percent off!"
posted by pracowity at 4:38 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Cornell West may have legitimate beefs with Obama's administration, but I don't see how that has anything to do with the use of the bible in the inauguration. It's a way of paying tribute to a man who was extremely important to the history of the US. It would be an appropriate thing to do for any President, regardless of their race.
posted by snofoam at 5:01 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Obama is manipulating with more than just MLK's legacy, he is playing with the Christian doctrine that fired it

Of all of the Presidents since MLK was assassinated, Barack Obama is the least guilty for exploiting Christianity and the legacy of MLK. Maybe Jimmy Carter was a bit better, but come on. Nixon? Reagan? HW and GW? I guess I would consider Clinton a tie with Obama.

Either way, singling out Obama here seems to be more about fashionable anti-politics than anything else. Why not accuse Obama of playing with Christian doctrine since he refuses to drink poison and handle deadly snakes? Instead of using the whitewashed bits of the gospel to accuse Obama of being a hypocrite, why not praise Obama for killing infants with some scripture?
O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us—
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Psalm 137
Of course, I always forget which parts of the bible can be conveniently forgotten and ignored. God sure is funny when he kids around about infanticide.
posted by tripping daisy at 5:37 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


As an aside, Lupe Fiasco song's Words I Never Said rocks, ditto Battle Scars.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:43 AM on January 21, 2013


Word to that. I'd rather he use MLKs book than the one owned by the warmongering Lincoln. The American Civil War was the antithesis of non-violent political change.

My first thought was "EPIC TROLL, MAN, EPIC!"

But nobody bit. sad horn plays.
posted by eriko at 5:45 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


What black people can expect on this day: Forty percent off on mules.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:58 AM on January 21, 2013


Obama is manipulating with more than just MLK's legacy, he is playing with the Christian doctrine that fired it.

Actually, he isn't. Quoting a piece of scripture does not make it a piece of Christian doctrine. What Obama is doing is actually being consistent with his lens of Christianity. He's a 1950s conservative democrat, with a Christian lens rooted in a post WW2 American neo-orthodoxy - a neo-orthodoxy that fed the boom in churches that mainline denominations enjoyed (and then squandered). His use of both bibles is consisted with his framework: a bible from a president who had, in my opinion, a rather firm understanding of two-kingdom Christianity and a bible from a prophet who spoke truth to power. This is Reinhold Niebuhr's legacy - a legacy that heavily influences Obama theology and expression of his theology. An argument can easily be made tying the woe's of Matthew to a need for a robust use of political and military force to restrain evil and enact social change.
posted by Stynxno at 6:00 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Dude can speak.
posted by odinsdream at 6:04 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


plenty of Italian Americans have been highly vocal about the representations of their culture and the stereotypes present in The Godfather and Sopranoes

But the Sopranos wasn't about Italian culture. It may well have focused on a particular sub-culture which has many similarities to other gangster sub cultures across a number of overall cultures, as it were, but it was never about Italian culture. I get that people may be weary of others failing to realize this and thus stereotyping Italians as sociopaths, a few bricks shy of a full load, immoral, hypocritical, criminals. But what can you do with people who fail to realize that such people are in every nation on Earth? You can try to give them a basic education about the nature of art and fiction I suppose but attacking the art and fiction for what it is not isn't the solution.
posted by juiceCake at 6:14 AM on January 21, 2013


Maybe Obama should leave a symbol or two unused for the second Black president.
posted by BinGregory at 6:21 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the next one is going to have to break out the Malcolm material. Future black president addressing all the white faces at an NRA convention:
It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks. It is legal and lawful to own a shotgun or a rifle. We believe [hoists a semi-automatic assault rifle] in obeying [looks out the window, then back to the audience] the law [grins].
posted by pracowity at 6:47 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surely the real crime here is that Kelly Clarkson is performing.

WHY IS METAFILTER SO ANTI-KELLYBELLY
posted by mightygodking at 6:52 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Actually, he isn't. Quoting a piece of scripture does not make it a piece of Christian doctrine. What Obama is doing is actually being consistent with his lens of Christianity. He's a 1950s conservative democrat, with a Christian lens rooted in a post WW2 American neo-orthodoxy - a neo-orthodoxy that fed the boom in churches that mainline denominations enjoyed (and then squandered). His use of both bibles is consisted with his framework: a bible from a president who had, in my opinion, a rather firm understanding of two-kingdom Christianity and a bible from a prophet who spoke truth to power. This is Reinhold Niebuhr's legacy - a legacy that heavily influences Obama theology and expression of his theology. An argument can easily be made tying the woe's of Matthew to a need for a robust use of political and military force to restrain evil and enact social change."

The whole point is that Obama isn't picking any bible to get sworn in on, he is picking Dr. King's bible and invoking his memory as well as his Social Gospel theology. While Obama clearly already has a nuanced view of Social Gospel theology, as well as the role he can play in living it as the US president, I think it would be wrong not to be at least leery of his use of those symbols when he has already done so much to betray its core principles. Using flying robots to blow up weddings and funerals from an inhumanly abstracted distance so as to hopefully murder a few purportedly bad people is fundamentally indefensible from either Niebuhr or King's view of the Christianity; its not the salvation of humankind that those drones are proclaiming.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regression to the mean is human nature, isn't it? All icons end up sanitized and packaged to some degree.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:07 AM on January 21, 2013


mightygodking: "WHY IS METAFILTER SO ANTI-KELLYBELLY"

She's going to be using a microphone once owned by Thom Yorke, so I can see why they'd be upset.
posted by Big_B at 7:21 AM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Of course, I always forget which parts of the bible can be conveniently forgotten and ignored. God sure is funny when he kids around about infanticide."

If you open up the damn book I think you'll find that Psalm 137 is not in the gospel, that the Psalms in general are records of prayers given to God (This one traditionally by Jeremiah) and not understood to be the words of God, and if you are really looking for superficially embarrassing things there are better places to look.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:33 AM on January 21, 2013


This is the Pepsi Blue inauguration. Pepsi pitchwoman Beyoncé is singing the National Anthem.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:04 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love that Obama walked out accompanied by about 10 people, ALL of whom seem to be shorter than he is.
posted by HuronBob at 8:21 AM on January 21, 2013


That's because he's a heightist, obviously.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:28 AM on January 21, 2013


Myrlie Evers-Williams has a beautiful voice.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:35 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


No YOU'RE deeply flawed.
posted by surplus at 8:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, watching the majesty of this ceremony, the beauty of that building, the smiles on the thousands and thousands of faces present at this event, and understanding the significance of the fact that the first African American President was elected to a second term, all of the petty words about which Bible is used pale and become insignificant.
posted by HuronBob at 8:42 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I like that Schumer is rocking out to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2013


I apologize to God, but this music is damn cheesy.
posted by angrycat at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2013


The coarse, violent misogyny that's present in hip hop just isn't there in other parts of the culture.

Bull. Shit.

It's everywhere. The obvious example is porn, which has pretty much become mainstream entertainment (people talk about porn stars, by name, in polite conversation), but if you're looking for something more mainstream you just need to take a look at the explosion of "torture porn" in the horror movie genre over the past decade or so. I mean, I know that horror movies are supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but watching women get tortured to death as a form of entertainment? That's pretty violently misogynistic.

And, frankly, there is a lot of hip hop that speaks against exactly the sort of misogyny you're accusing it of. That it's generally not in the mainstream says more about our broader Western culture and the corporate nature of the music industry than it does about hip hop as a whole.

Let's not pretend that hip hop is the root cause of the worst sort of misogyny in our culture, and let's not pretend that it doesn't exist in other aspects of the culture (and I won't pretend that it doesn't exist within hip hop).
posted by asnider at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eh, maybe Mr West is playing Malcolm X to Obama's MLK?

By bringing MLK's bible to the party, Obama has pushed forward discussion about whether and how to understand MLK's legacy and whether and how to pursue it further.
posted by notyou at 8:44 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lamar? No. Plaid-wearing jerk.
posted by angrycat at 8:44 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


MLK: "the white moderate...prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice"
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:46 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


dave78981, I'm utterly dumbfounded that you think someone trying to emulate MLK ought to prioritize critiquing entertainers above critiquing political leaders.
posted by straight at 8:48 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh man, Biden just almost swore to "deport and offend" the Constitution instead of "support and defend" it.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:48 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pallas Athena: "Myrlie Evers-Williams has a beautiful voice."

Worth noting: Myrlie Evers-Williams is the first woman, and the first layperson to recite the Inaugural invocation.

Also, the Joint Congressional Inaugural Committee is providing streaming video and a live transcript of the inaugural ceremonies, going on right now. We've also got a secondary descriptive audio track for the visually-impaired (thanks to PBS affiliate WGBH!). I worked on this, so it's a self-link, but I'm pretty proud of it -- I'll take this one day to be proud of my country, who (in moderately decisive numbers) elected the guy that they thought was right for the job.

Yes, we're far from perfect, and have a long way to go -- but I'll take one day to recognize that numerous facets of Barack Obama's second inauguration represent huge strides taken in the right direction. Obama isn't perfect, and Congress certainly isn't, but we certainly seem to be doing a bit better than we were in the past, and I'll take this one day to respect that, and honor the remarkable peaceful transition of power that we've enjoyed for hundreds of years.
posted by schmod at 8:51 AM on January 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


Oh, did everyone see Scalia's tiny shriveled heart growing tinier, more shriveled-er and ever more bitter, during that ceremony.

Ah, the small pleasures of this re-election never end.
posted by Skygazer at 8:54 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hey, no more war on terror, cool.
posted by angrycat at 8:59 AM on January 21, 2013


CLIMATE CHANGE! YES!
posted by Blasdelb at 9:03 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obama may come out swinging in the second term after all.
posted by tripping daisy at 9:05 AM on January 21, 2013


Listening to this speech, I look forward to seeing the word cloud it makes... 'We' will be huge. 'I' will be minuscule.
posted by meese at 9:06 AM on January 21, 2013


Shout-out to Stonewall!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


And gay marriage and equal pay!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh My God I just imagined what this day would be like if the election had gone the other way. It was like a day-mare.
posted by angrycat at 9:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


See, this is why I love the man, like, for real.
posted by angrycat at 9:08 AM on January 21, 2013


"what this day would be like if the election had gone the other way"

Could I have listened to the inauguration from Canada?
posted by HuronBob at 9:10 AM on January 21, 2013


I rather think that makes him far more interesting and inspiring than the idea that he never did anything even remotely shady, ever. The truly great among us are flawed and HUMAN, and I believe that gives them a better understanding of justice, compassion, and plain old human decency.
It's interesting to see the sanctification of a real human being happening in the present. The same happened with Mother Theresa (almost literally sanctified as of 2003), who is on record as feeling "no presence of God whatsoever" and completely doubting Christ's power, despite spending her entire life telling people to have faith in God and to never doubt Christ's power, and caring for the poor under the auspices of a religious faith. Some people think this makes her a fraud, just as some people would say MLK's probable plagiarism makes him a fraud, but they're not frauds in my eyes. To me, these are real people. They've made mistakes, and if they were around today, they'd still be making mistakes. Looking backward, we can probably assume that all the prophets, seers, saints, and sages of the past – e.g., the Mother Theresa's of 500 BC – were equally flawed.

I find this conclusion really comforting. It implies that there's nothing really stopping any of us normal schlubs from accomplishing amazing acts of courage and spiritual power. Saintliness is truly banal. Anybody you meet on the subway might be the next great spiritual leader, going through the motions. It closes the gap between MLK-level moral badassery and ho-hum everyday existence. It makes the stuff he did real and important, not a relic of the past to be venerated.

So I think it's good to reality-check MLK on MLK day. Be critical of him. It's probably what he would have wanted you to do. He'd probably want you to reflect on his humanity, and how he did amazing things despite being a pudgy bag of flesh like you. I think that's pretty on the money as far as what the guy stood for.
posted by deathpanels at 9:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


If it had been Romney, you could replace each instance of "citizen" with "corporation".
posted by HuronBob at 9:11 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eventually a President mentioning Stonewall when I was not expecting it will not cause me to burst into tears; today was not that day.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:14 AM on January 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


Patriotic music will never cease to be creepy to me.
posted by tripping daisy at 9:14 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to say thanks schmod! Making nice thoughtful things like this is exactly what our tax dollars should be for.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:15 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Patriotic music will never cease to be creepy to me."

Sad statement.

I suspect it depends on when (or perhaps where) you grew up...
posted by HuronBob at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, I chuckled at Schumer's reaction to Kelly Clarkson.

And someday I hope that one of the songs sung during the formal inaugural is "This Land is Your Land."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know that horror movies are supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside

That should, of course, have said: I know that horror movies aren't supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
posted by asnider at 9:20 AM on January 21, 2013


I can't wait for Luther's anger translation of these ceremonies.
posted by angrycat at 9:28 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, the bilingual benediction was nice.


And heeeeeeeere's Beyonce.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on January 21, 2013


Inaugural trivia: President Obama was the first president to be an opening act for Beyoncé.
posted by mikepop at 9:33 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


...And I just had the cynical thought that somewhere out there on Twitter, there are some very ugly racial things being said about Obama's inauguration and/or MLK day. *sigh*
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on January 21, 2013


Inauguration Day In Post-Racial America: George Stephanopoulos Thinks Bill Russell Looks Like Morgan Freeman
posted by tonycpsu at 9:36 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are some very ugly racial things being said about Obama's inauguration and/or MLK day. *sigh*

I've been trying lately to keep my eye on the prize. I've seen a lot of that crap already, and thanks to the gun discussion a lot of other idiocy and paranoia. There are surely some stupid, head-in-the-sand, backward-dragging people out there. But I can't waste my time on them. WE can't. They're not actually a meaningful part of the national conversation. There are tons and tons and tons of well-intentioned, thoughtful, and reasonable people working very hard to improve matters in our country. I want to help them and spend time with them. The ignoramuses are actually pretty irrelevant.
posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Inauguration Day In Post-Racial America: George Stephanopoulos Thinks Bill Russell Looks Like Morgan Freeman

How big was the screen Stephanopoulos saw him on? Does Stephanopoulos have a history of racism? Who cares, we have hurf durf twitter puns!
posted by tripping daisy at 9:45 AM on January 21, 2013


Miko: He actually was a serial adulterer and a plagiarist: it's not a values judgment.
"But it's true!" is not proof that the statement isn't a values judgment. The fact that such judgment-laden words as "serial adulterer and plagiarist" were chosen pretty much makes it a values judgment.

File that under BS, along with "It's not boasting if it's true!"
posted by IAmBroom at 9:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like we might be winding our way up to a George Carlin routine.
posted by edgeways at 10:06 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to make it clear that I have absolutely nothing but deep admiration for Martin Luther King. I was simply taking exception to Pope Guilty's attempt to troll by suggesting that anyone who accepts the truth of these labels must also think Dr. King was an America-hating Communist.

It is possible to accept that both labels are accurate and also revere Dr. King.
posted by Miko at 10:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wake me when a president is sworn in with Jefferson's bible.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well for one thing I think Dr. King would be very proud that we've all found this occasion to snipe at each other on the internet.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


The world is full of contradictions and paradoxes, isn't it?
posted by Mister_A at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2013


Guess who I just got an email from -- Pres. Barack Obama! Take that, haters.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa, Pope Guilty, I agree with a number of your comments, but this:

Luckily they've got a nice white guy to tell 'em what their problems are!

In response to dave78981's comment on:

I'm not trying to defend Obama from West's criticism, I'm criticizing West for being hypocritical about who's upholding the legacy of MLK, specifically social justice. There are many issues in poor communities, but one of the more distressing ones in poor, black communities is the prevalence of black on black violence.

It uncalled for. The comment is dismissive, contemptuous, and a little bullying. Throwing down the race card is just a conversation killer, and it will set a nasty precedent if the only people who can comment on threads about the intentions of Black presidents or Black commentators are other Black people. Which is what it sounds like what you're saying when you snark that how lucky Black people are to have a White guy to tell them what their problems are (not!). I don't think it's your intention but comments like that seem to me to drift into, 'only those who can are insiders can know, so only they can speak' precedents. Seems antithetical to the philosophy of fostering all of the interesting conversations happening here.

As for West being hypocritical: well it is incredible how many people (Cornel West, etc.) feel that they know the heart and mind of MLK so well that they can speak to his beliefs with such authority. Seems to me that MLK left behind a significant amount of work behind - enough that a lay person really could just read it themselves and come to their own conclusion about how MLK might have felt about his own bible being used for this event. Lincoln too for that matter. Still, West has the right to share his opinion on any aspect of the event - I suppose focusing on the bible is as reasonable as focusing on any other aspect of this weekend's activities.
posted by anitanita at 10:34 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am jubilant today that we are inaugurating a president that is closer to MLK's vision than Romney would have been.

Call me sappy, call me sentimental - I am so happy to see that electing a black president was not a one-time accident - we did it twice. A true affirmation, mirabile dictu. I honestly did not think that would happen in my lifetime and I am grateful and proud that we have made that much progress as a nation.

I will soon enough bemoan that he is not as liberal as I want -- but today I am happy to have the symbols, and to hear such an inclusive message to the poor, the dispossessed, the gays, the latinos, the blacks, the women...godspeed President Barrack Hussein Obama, godspeed Joe Biden.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:47 AM on January 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


@MuffinMan: I think you're probably on the right track, actually. But Obama will not follow in the mold of King's legacy of non-violence—which was pivotal as an end as well as a means—nor will he be as radical about labor and economics. In terms of community organizing in his post-presidency, I'd never thought of that or how that would connect him to someone like King, but swearing in on his Bible when you are leaving out so much of his message (and furthermore, directly contradicting it) is still patently offensive to me. I suppose I can rest easy knowing that no one will be doing that with Dorothy Day's Bible.
posted by koavf at 11:01 AM on January 21, 2013


Let's not pretend that hip hop is the root cause of the worst sort of misogyny in our culture, and let's not pretend that it doesn't exist in other aspects of the culture (and I won't pretend that it doesn't exist within hip hop).
posted by asnider at 8:43 on January 21 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


QFT. The hip-hop discussion is a total derail, not to mention entirely devoid of substance. I also think it is more than patronizing to counter West's arguments by saying that he is not addressing the "real" issues facing black communities. I mean, what?!

For my part, I admire both Obama and West. I don't think this is problematic. As lunasol said above, Obama is a politician, and West is an activist. They have different roles (though the idea that Obama will have a post-presidential renaissance is an interesting one and I look forward to seeing what he does when he doesn't have to answer to the crazed members of the GOP). West's role is arguably more important, because I think he does elevate the discourse by making us interrogate our own support for the President and his policies, and think critically about whatever MLK's legacy has been or could be, and whether Obama is building upon or in some way besmirching that legacy.
posted by nonmerci at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This morning I heard someone describe MLK as "the greatest human being who ever lived." Now, while I suppose Dr. King has as much right to that title as any one else who's done great things, it doesn't seem like a useful way to talk about history and I suspect that Dr. King would have deplored it.

Likewise, you can agree or not with West's criticisms and still think that objecting to the use of MLK's Bible on the grounds that Obama daren't defile it, is foolishly close to idolatry. Might as well say that he doesn't have the right to invoke Jesus Christ, or mention Selma or Stonewall.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Also, let's be fair here: had Obama chosen not to use MLK's Bible, what are the odds that the outcry would've been "Why did Obama disrespect Dr. King?")
posted by octobersurprise at 11:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could I have listened to the inauguration from Canada?

No, we don't have the day off. But that's where a tastefully worn Obama 2012 campaign pin comes in handy.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:31 AM on January 21, 2013


octobersurprise: "(Also, let's be fair here: had Obama chosen not to use MLK's Bible, what are the odds that the outcry would've been "Why did Obama disrespect Dr. King?")"

Vanishingly close to zero?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2013


A German who complains about American warmongering may have a valid point, but even the pacifistic American can't help hearing a little voice at the back of their minds saying, "who are you to speak?".
I don't really think that's a good example, given the fact that WWII was seventy years ago. The Germans are actually fairly anti-war these days.
He's a 1950s conservative democrat
A 1950s conservative democrat? WTF are you talking about? In the 1950s, "conservative democrats" were people like George Wallace. And beyond that, in the 1950s and 60s the new deal was still popular, conservative democrats, and even mainstream republicans supported expansive social welfare programs. The left/right divide was completely different at the time.
Well for one thing I think Dr. King would be very proud that we've all found this occasion to snipe at each other on the internet.
Did you know MLK was a huge Star-Trek fan? Based on that data point I'm going to extrapolate wildly and assume he would have thought the internet was pretty cool.
posted by delmoi at 11:56 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"A Time Comes When Silence Is Betrayal"
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:17 PM on January 21, 2013


Dr. West, "So the righteous indignation of a Martin Luther King becomes a moment in political calculation, and that makes my blood boil."

Because MLK never did anything that was politically calculated!
posted by kirkaracha at 12:39 PM on January 21, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: ...And I just had the cynical thought that somewhere out there on Twitter, there are some very ugly racial things being said about Obama's inauguration and/or MLK day. *sigh*
I follow @YesYoureRacist, so I've seen the worst-of-the-worst today: Hundreds of people wishing their followers a happy James Earl Ray day.

On the other hand…
.@cornelwest: President Obama Doesn’t Deserve To Be Sworn In With MLK’s Bible bit.ly/WRAg3H << Who the HELL are YOU to say?—Goldie Taylor (@goldietaylor) January 21, 2013

posted by ob1quixote at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2013


I'd rather he use MLKs book than the one owned by the warmongering Lincoln. The American Civil War was the antithesis of non-violent political change.

Tell it to the Confederates. They fired on a supply ship in Charleston, SC's harbor in January 1861. Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861; he said he had "no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists" in his first inaugural address. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had already seceded. He forwarded the Corwin Amendment to the states for ratification after Congress passed it on March 2, 1861. The amendment would have prevented Congress from ending slavery. The Confederates attacked Fort Sumter on April 1861. They could've avoided war and kept slavery. They chose war.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:54 PM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


People who think West's point here is petty can go ahead & bloviate me.
posted by Perko at 12:57 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beep boop, I am a robot, I do not understand why these strange irrational humans are so emotional and so attached to things, beep boop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:28 AM on January 21


This seems rather an unfair interpretation of my point.
posted by Decani at 12:58 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cornel West approves of an extraordinarily narrow range of human behaviors, activities, and possibilities. He's a classic extremist and a lefty version of Pat Robertson.
posted by aerotive at 1:41 PM on January 21, 2013


I'm amused by this exchange between 'Abraham Lincoln' and Lupe Fiasco on his Words I Never Said video :

"I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence" - You

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - You

posted by jeffburdges at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2013


Cornel West is performance artist and a pain in the ass, and his pique at Obama is all about not getting tickets to the 2009 inauguration. And a cabinet appointment.
posted by LarryC at 2:14 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love how by far the most common response in this thread has been to attack West's character rather than responding to the substantial critique offered. It's a pretty simple critique when all the colorful language is removed. Obama is a warmongering terrorist while MLK very clearly preached a gospel of nonviolence and love. His issue seems to be that Obama has co-opted MLK on the Civil rights front while completely excising the nonviolence/antiwar part. A fair critique I dare say, and I have yet to see any Obama apologist attempt a cogent rebuttal.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


A fair critique I dare say, and I have yet to see any Obama apologist attempt a cogent rebuttal.

Probably because it's an argument that hardly anyone is making in the first place, unless they're trying to pick a fight.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:29 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


So when Obama says this:

For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

MLK answers thusly:

But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

That right there was the heart of West's critique from MLK's own mouth.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:41 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's bring it back down to Earth: MLK remains totally silent on Obama using his bible.

West was concerned that Obama was walking to his inauguration slopping around in MLK's ill fitting shoes and no-one would notice. (It's noticeable.)
posted by de at 2:54 PM on January 21, 2013


I note for the record that it's been reported that the King family asked both President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts to sign their family bible after the ceremony today.

Also, Charles P. Pierce's analysis in his column today, "Obama's Inauguration Speech: A Primer," is an interesting take on the President and his speech.
The speech was a bold refutation of almost everything the Republican party has stood for over the past 40 years. It was a loud — and, for this president, damned near derisive — denouncement of all the mindless, reactionary bunkum that the Republicans have come to stand for in 2013; you could hear the sound of the punch he landed on the subject of global warming halfway to Annapolis. But the meat of the speech was a brave assertion of the power of government, not as an alien entity, but as an instrument of the collective will and desires of a self-governing people.

[…]

He reclaimed government as a manifestation of a country's aspirations, and not as an anchor on its progress. And he refuted, with precision and neatly camouflaged contempt, many of the most destructive ideas that have poisoned out politics for nearly four decades now. He did nothing less than redefine patriotism in a progressive way. That is already bothering all of the right people. This, I tell you, is what gives me hope.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:05 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


MLK's vehement condemnations of US militarism are more relevant than ever: His vital April 4, 1967 speech is a direct repudiation of the sophistry now used to defend US violence and aggression
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Obama is a warmongering terrorist while MLK very clearly preached a gospel of nonviolence and love.

If I grant that, then what's the difference between Obama taking his oath on MLK's Bible and Obama taking his oath on any Bible? Jesus Christ wasn't less non-violent than MLK, or so I'm told.

Look, you can argue that Obama isn't sufficiently non-violent to be President (and good luck with that—although to West's credit, at least he isn't arguing for the right to stockpile weapons out of the other side of his mouth at the same time), but arguing that Obama is therefore unworthy to take his oath on MLK's Bible, is a poor way to make that argument, is borderline idolatrous, and chooses to ignore the way icons and symbols are used (and always have been used) in every kind of public and political rhetoric.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:34 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


What will possibly be the most memorable moment of the inauguration:

Watch Michelle Obama Throw World-Historical Shade at John Boehner, damn is it beautiful.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Well, Michelle is from Chicago.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:38 PM on January 21, 2013


...Obama is a warmongering terrorist while MLK very clearly preached a gospel of nonviolence and love. His issue seems to be that Obama has co-opted MLK on the Civil rights front while completely excising the nonviolence/antiwar part. A fair critique I dare say, and I have yet to see any Obama apologist attempt a cogent rebuttal.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:23 PM on January 21



Well, I've never been accused of being cogent, but I'm going to give it the old college try:

Remember when Obama gave the Cairo speech in his first term, and said that it didn't make any sense for America to have nuclear weapons while telling other countries they couldn't have any, overturning fifty years of American foreign policy? Remember when he created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat?

Remember when he signed the New Start nuclear arms treaty with Russia? You know--the Obama agreement commits the U.S. and Russia to reduce their number of strategic nuclear warheads, long-range missiles, and bombers over the next seven years? Remember when he negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India?

Remember when he closed a number of secret detention facilities (including all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere)?

Remember when he offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, and called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence?

Remember when he refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program (and thus avoided another war that Republicans wanted)?

Remember when he issued an Executive Order blocking interference and helping to stabilize Somalia?

Remember how, on his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention? How he released the Bush torture memos? How he ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of"enhanced interrogation" and ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual?

Remember how, in response to the emerging "Arab Spring," he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them?

Remember how he supported the Iran Sanctions Act (which got passed, and which he signed), to prevent war, and to encourage Iran to give up their nuclear program?

Remember how, through United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, he helped negotiate a peaceful split of Sudan into two countries, this allowing for the creation of an independent South Sudan?

Remember how he authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010?

Remember how he restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush?

Remember how, through the Defense Authorization Act, he reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq?

Remember when he took action to use NATO to limit the slaughter in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple the Khadaffy (sp?) government and determine their own fate? Remember when his efforts got Egyptian president/dictator Mubarak to leave the Egyptian government to the people, to determine their own fate?

Remember how he negotiated a deal with Afghan government, to withdraw troops and military support, while assisting in rebuilding and modernizing of the country? How he developed the first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan?

Remember when he ended the Iraq War?

There's a shit-ton of foreign policy stuff I didn't add to this list, of course. If you've been paying any attention over the last four years, I'm sure you can figure out what they were. And I'm not even going to address the domestic policy stuff; we'll be here all night.

The items in the above list certainly aren't perfect. There's stuff that didn't pan out the way a lot of folks wanted (f'rex,Obama tried to shut down Gitmo; the GOP and "progressive" Democrats nixed that). And there's still plenty of problems out there--drone strikes, anyone? I personally give him points for doing all of the above--and more!--in spite of the GOP fighting him every step of the way, and a bunch of Dems in Congress who were about as useful as buttons on a dishrag.

But God DAMN it--if you can honestly look at the above list and still call Obama a "warmongering terrorist" with a straight face...well, shit, all I can say is that you'd better be prepared for this next four years, 'cause you're gonna have more disappointments than a damp match.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:52 PM on January 21, 2013 [40 favorites]


The hip-hop discussion is a total derail, not to mention entirely devoid of substance.

Yeah, damn, that was remarkable! I skimmed the thread this morning, and it seemed to come out of nowhere, but since I didn't have time to watch the video, I figured maybe West was holding up hip-hop as some kind of paragon of speaking truth to power or something.

But nope, having just watched the video and read the article: not a single mention of hip-hop in any of the OP's links. Just, "Oh, a philosopher black man talking about a leader of the free world black man? TIME TO TALK ABOUT HOW HARMFUL RAP MUSIC IS."

That was amazing!
posted by Greg Nog at 4:56 PM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm old enough and jaded enough not to be blinded by any kind of cult of personality. He has his faults. And sure, this last election was a lot of, the lesser of two evils to me. But I liked the speech. Didn't care about the bibles.

I still like the sucker.

And I hope for the best.

You go, Mr. President, you go. You don't have to worry about re-election now. Make your legacy a powerful one. Do the right thing, man. Bust some heads. Make a real difference this time.

Please.
posted by Splunge at 5:06 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


One other note about the inauguration. Anton Scalia looks like Cheswick from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest.
posted by Ber at 5:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


That right there was the heart of West's critique from MLK's own mouth.

I didn't see anything in what you quoted about "nobody who Cornel West or AElfwine Evenstar thinks I would have disagreed with is ever allowed to touch anything that ever belonged to me, so there!" That MLK was a pacifist and that Obama is not is hardly something you need to work to establish, but it does not determine the argument one way or the other.

The issue is not "would MLK have entirely endorsed every single aspect of Obama's presidency" or even "would he by and large have approved or disapproved of Obama as a President." The issue is whether that question has anything much, at all, to do with whether or not it is appropriate or inappropriate for Obama to use MLK's bible in his swearing in ceremony. To claim to know what MLK would have thought about that is a pretty damn arrogant piece of beyond-the-grave mindreading.

MLK was willing to meet, in person, with Kennedy, with LBJ, and with Nixon. We may safely assume that he thought it was more important to get the chance to try to testify to the importance of his values, even to people who did not agree with them, than to simply denounce them as unworthy of his presence. I find it had to imagine that he would have begrudged an attempt to acknowledge his memory during the inauguration of a President who by any standard whatsoever has been far less willing to use military force than any President MLK would have known during his lifetime.
posted by yoink at 5:42 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This article is worth reading....
posted by HuronBob at 5:59 PM on January 21, 2013


I guess you guys didn't listen to what Cornell West had to say. Whether Obama should or shouldn't touch the bible is incidental to the overarching critique which most here seem too willfully obtuse to parse. But of course fixating on the incidental allows one to ignore consequential.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my general experience, when I point out uncomfortable truths to people, they fixate on the incidental or merely walk away with their hands over their ears.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:27 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias."

Or bayonets. Zing!
posted by kirkaracha at 6:33 PM on January 21, 2013


I think you can agree or disagree with Cornell West's point, but what's interesting is just how butthurt people seem to be about it, like actually getting offended at the suggestion that maybe continuing to fight wars all over the world isn't exactly in keeping with MLK's ideals.
(f'rex,Obama tried to shut down Gitmo; the GOP and "progressive" Democrats nixed that)
He didn't exactly try very hard, and he didn't even want to put the prisoners on trial. He wanted to keep them indefinitely detained without trial in other prisons in the U.S, rather then at the particular prison in Gitmo (actually he proposed three classes of prisoners - some would get civilian trials, some would get military trials, and some would get no trials).

Simply moving indefinitely held detainees from one prison to other prisons is really beside the point
Remember when he ended the Iraq War?
I remember when the Iraqi government kicked us out, against the administrations position by refusing to renew the status of forces agreement
Remember how he negotiated a deal with Afghan government, to withdraw troops and military support
years after his failed disastrous "surge" expanded the war and extended it for year? Obama campaigned on expanding the war and when he was elected, he did. Obviously you can agree or disagree over whether or not it was a good idea, but to claim his handling of Afghanistan is some kind of exemplar of peace is really pretty ridiculous.
Remember when his efforts got Egyptian president/dictator Mubarak to leave the Egyptian government to the people, to determine their own fate?
Are you kidding? The Obama administration issued a few tepid statements after it was Obvious that Mubarak was over. The way you wrote that makes it sound as though Obama was personally responsible and he somehow let the Egyptians 'determine their own fate'. I'm pretty sure they are the ones who made that happen.
Remember when he took action to use NATO to limit the slaughter in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple the Khadaffy (sp?) government and determine their own fate?
Obviously this is something people can agree or disagree was a good idea, but getting involved in a civil war and arming one side is not an act of peace.


No one is saying that Obama has been singularly war-mongering. In some areas he's reduced the amount of violence we're engaged in (Iraq) in others he's increased in (Pakistan, Yemen I guess). In others he's increased it then reduced it later (Afghanistan)
posted by delmoi at 7:01 PM on January 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


but what's interesting is just how butthurt people seem to be about it

Honey, there is butthurt all over this thing.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:18 PM on January 21, 2013


Whether Obama should or shouldn't touch the bible is incidental to the overarching critique which most here seem too willfully obtuse to parse.

OK, I'll bite. :)

His issue seems to be that Obama has co-opted MLK on the Civil rights front while completely excising the nonviolence/antiwar part. A fair critique I dare say, and I have yet to see any Obama apologist attempt a cogent rebuttal.

Here's one. There's no such thing as a unified essence to MLK in the first place. To believe otherwise is pure metaphysics. Sure, there was a guy, and he did a great number of things and said a lot of things, many of which happen to have been awesome beyond measure. But to say "his prophetic fire" emerges from the substance of "the tradition" and actually believe that's all one, big mystically important thing that should never be "sanitized, deodorized, and sterilized" is religious rhetoric through and through--it's simplistic Platonism and a simplistic pronouncement of taboo, and in those respects, pretty tired and vacuous already. The reality is MLK himself was complicated (see numerous comments above), owed debts to multiple traditions, and means as many things as there are readings--not just people, readings--of him and his work. And that's fine. You know, thank goodness he's still in the national picture such that people care enough to listen to pundits like Cornel West complicating the "sanitized" view.

So that's the critique done with.

I love how by far the most common response in this thread has been to attack West's character rather than responding to the substantial critique offered.

I don't doubt there are many complex reasons why Cornel West has always taught in religious studies departments / divinity schools / seminaries and why he currently holds the title Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice. And I'm well aware that none of that necessarily implies a deeply metaphysical current to one's thought.

But in Cornel West's case, I do think it's been a factor. I don't think of that as an attack on his character but rather a straightforward explanation of why he's not embarrassed to turn to metaphysics for much of his argument and turn to the ars praedicandi for quite a bit of his style.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:38 PM on January 21, 2013


delmoi, when you find the perfect candidate for the American presidency, I'd love to hear who that person is.


There are many reasons why President Obama isn't as good as I'd hoped (Obama's failure to really repair oversight of the financial industry is a big one for me). But if you went back to 2004 and said to progressives, "In 2008 we're going to elect a black president who's going to pass some form of national healthcare" (or do any other item I named on my list), they would have said "Talk to me when you're not high anymore." Because it would have sounded totally improbable and way too optimistic for hardened political realists. If you then told them that in 2012 progressives would look at this mythical re-elected black president as one-step short of a total failure, they would have said, "Absolutely not."


Yet, here we are. People need to manage expectations and engage with reality more. I personally think that the American Left (such as it is) has lost its collective mind. They need to wake up and support the only President progressives have right now, rather than going on about how he's failing the ideals of MLK. Obama can't govern farther left than the country allows itself to be led. So long as the obstructionist GOP Congress is in control of the national debate and the media, that's it -- Obama's got fuck-all power to change things, he can only block or manage the worse items that come his way. And he's not going to do that perfectly.


Regardless, when I compare Obama's achievements against the context of past presidential disasters, and add in the fact that he's the first black man to hold the office, I see no reason why he shouldn't hold MLK's bible. MLK himself did things that disappointed his supporters (remember him ordering protesters to turn around at Selma? Or how he was received in Marquette Park?) but you'll note that Cornel West doesn't bring those things up.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:06 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


While civil rights veteran and Democratic state senator Henry Marsh attended the inauguration, VA GOP senators forced through a surprise bill to re-gerrymander the state. They then ended the session in memory of Stonewall Jackson.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:28 PM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


They need to wake up and support the only President progressives have right now, rather than going on about how he's failing the ideals of MLK.

That's true during the election when it comes to getting the vote out, but I don't like the suggestion that Cornel or other "leftists" should be silenced from criticizing him.

I thought Cornel's speech was really powerful. I think he can be forgiven for saying outrageous and entertaining things to bring attention to the problems he feels are being ignored like poverty and US foreign policy. He has a public voice, and he's trying to use it for good. He should be commended for that, though I don't know if it always works out very well as this thread shows. It does seem like when it comes to lynchings, racism, and slavery in America he holds some deep resentment against the Obama Presidency. Maybe he feels that African Americans have never and never will see justice for this history, which could rightly be considered an American Holocaust, imo. A history that Obama was not nearly as affected by as other African Americans.

I have a lot of cognitive dissonance regarding US foreign policy. In general leftist pacifism and isolationism seem very naive to me, but "double tap" bombings of weddings and funerals certainly seem like they should be tried as war crimes.

While civil rights veteran and Democratic state senator Henry Marsh attended the inauguration, VA GOP senators forced through a surprise bill to re-gerrymander the state. They then ended the session in memory of Stonewall Jackson.

wtf! Unreal! This is obscene.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:54 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Obama tumblr is pretty cool. How can it be Pepsi Blue from me? I left that country in 2007.
posted by infini at 10:43 PM on January 21, 2013


Hey Delmoi, do you remember that all of his wars were there before he got into office? And he has to clean up the shit that the Bushes dropped?
posted by Splunge at 11:10 PM on January 21, 2013


delmoi, when you find the perfect candidate for the American presidency, I'd love to hear who that person is. But if you went back to 2004 and said to progressives, "In 2008 we're going to elect a black president who's going to pass some form of national healthcare" ... they would have said "Talk to me when you're not high anymore." Regardless, when I compare Obama's achievements against the context of past presidential disasters,
Okay. Do you understand the difference between "Accomplishing things" and/or "being a good president" and being pro-peace in the way MLK advocated? Because

Because they are not the same thing, and none of what you said in that has anything to do with whether he is or not.

LBJ passed civil rights, but escalated in Vietnam - which earned him MLK's criticism. If you only look domestically, he was a great president for liberals. But in terms of war and peace - it doesn't look so good. Those are different concerns

In your earlier comment you listed a bunch of supposed pro-peace "accomplishments" including giving him credit for the Egyptian revolution(!?) instead of the demonstrators who actually risked their lives to make it happen. You also cited his getting involved in a war to overthrow gadaffi. Probably, that was a good thing. But clearly that was also the exact opposite of being non-violent.

If you only care about yourself and other Americans, and you like a president based on their domestic policy, that's fine. But that doesn't mean he's also good when it comes to foreign policy from the perspective of people who oppose war, as MLK vehemently did.

The main reason I replied was just to point out that a lot of the so-called facts you were talking about were basically not true (particularly the Egypt one)
That's true during the election when it comes to getting the vote out, but I don't like the suggestion that Cornel or other "leftists" should be silenced from criticizing him.
This is what I'm talking about with respect to "butthurt" from some people. Rather then having a debate about whether or not Obama is living up to MLK's ideals, or any other criticism of the president they demand that everyone get in line and support Obama unquestioningly. It's a mirror image of the Bill O'Riley types who said you couldn't "support the troops" if you didn't support their leader and their mission i.e. support bush. You were "unpatriotic" if you didn't support bush, and now "liberals" are running around demanding that everyone support Obama, silence all their criticisms, and so on.

This kind of thing is very annoying. I like Obama's domestic policies, in fact my main criticism of him in that regard is that he wasn't tough enough with the republican congress in his first term, and it looks like he may be changing in that respect, which is good. His foreign policy, though, is problematic. But like I said, interacting with his closed-minded supporters who can't tolerate any disagreement is tedious and annoying.
Hey Delmoi, do you remember that all of his wars were there before he got into office? And he has to clean up the shit that the Bushes dropped?
Hey splunge, do you remember this? Or this? or this? Also, the problem with Afghanistan is that Obama actually greatly increased troop levels for a while, getting a lot more people killed and accomplishing nothing. Either way, we are killing people in more countries now then when Obama took office.

But this is a good example of what I'm talking about. A comment that manages to be both snaky and condescending, and factually incorrect at the same time. And not complex facts either, these are very basic things that anyone who watches should be aware of.
posted by delmoi at 11:28 PM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


You also cited his getting involved in a war to overthrow gadaffi. Probably, that was a good thing.

Unless of course one happens to be a citizen of Mali. Its almost as if the Western Powers are at this point picking fights with third worlders in an effort to justify their hegemon to their respective populaces...becuase you know those guys in Algeria had everything to do with Al-Qaeda and nothing to do with Taureg Independence.

Here's one. There's no such thing as a unified essence to MLK in the first place. To believe otherwise is pure metaphysics...

This is just a gussied up version of the previous critiques focusing on West's style rather than the substance of his critique. Does West anywhere argue that there is only one "unified essence" to MLK? No? Ok then wtf are you on about? Take away the "metaphysical" language and the critique is fairly simple and not as complicated as most here want it to be. I think Delmoi summarized the critique best when he said:

maybe continuing to fight wars all over the world isn't exactly in keeping with MLK's ideals.

That's it. Not a very difficult or controversial proposition one would think. I mean we are talking about a guy who has claimed the right to kill anyone he deems necessary with out a trial. If one can't see the inherent contradiction between this legacy and the legacy of Dr. King I don't know what to tell you.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:10 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


MLK fought for civil rights. Obama's administration has fought for secret wars and secret laws; extra-territorial prisons, and punishments imposed by executive fiat. There is nobody less suited to carry King's mantle.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:55 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shh, guys, MLK is the guy people want us to criticize in this thread, remember? That's who we're supposed to be squabbling about so much that it distracts us from criticizing people like Boehner and Alexander and the establishment that is keeping is all down that King and Obama were both trying to fight...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


MLK fought for civil rights. Obama's administration has fought for secret wars and secret laws; extra-territorial prisons, and punishments imposed by executive fiat. There is nobody less suited to carry King's mantle.

Except for every member of the Republican party (elected or not), the distinct majority of Libertarians who are perfectly happy gutting affirmative action and pushing for explicitly racist voter suppression, and a good number of Democrats who go along with either of the two previous groups. Which comes out to roughly half the nation, a small majority of elected officials at the federal level, and a wide majority of elected officials at the state and local levels. The post about Virginia's GOP shenanigans above is a particularly pointed example.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:40 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does West anywhere argue that there is only one "unified essence" to MLK? No?

Yes, you'd made such a point of complaining about people not listening to his argument that I made a point of quoting him several times. You might go back and listen to those segments, because the transcription doesn't do justice to his emphasis, but I wouldn't bother because you're doing it too. :D

I mean we are talking about a guy who has claimed the right to kill anyone he deems necessary with out a trial. If one can't see the inherent contradiction between this legacy and the legacy of Dr. King I don't know what to tell you.

MLK doesn't have just one legacy. That bears on this earlier point just as much:

Obama has co-opted MLK on the Civil rights front while completely excising the nonviolence/antiwar part

MLK doesn't have just one legacy.

He's not himself all of a piece--take it or leave it. That's not the only choice, or else all those earlier points about stuff like the blatant plagiarism in his dissertation on Tillich have to be absorbed as part of his position too. Does Obama have to endorse plagiarism? Or even Tillich? Plainly not. It's fine to forget that stuff, even though MLK's own dissertation could reasonably be argued to be important to his ideas and to who he was.

The suggestion that Obama among others can't pick and choose what he likes from the great figures he likes is just ideological purism. It is in no way an argument that he is inconsistent, irrational, or unethical for doing so, because it's completely normal to read just one work by a particular thinker and use it, read even just one quote by a great writer and love them for it, etc., etc.--and completely normal not to mean all the meanings of a symbol when you use it.

In this case, I happen to suspect it's ungenerous to suppose he wouldn't like those other meanings and legacies to be part of the public discussion, even if he can't endorse it while in the midst of governing. But that's just a guess. :)
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:37 AM on January 22, 2013


upholding the legacy of MLK, ... fetishizing of .... guns


Some little-known facts about the father of the American civil rights movement and non-violence "guru" — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — and his history with guns:

• MLK kept firearms in his house for self-protection.

• MLK's house was once described as "an arsenal."

• MLK applied for a concealed-carry permit after his house was bombed. (He was denied.)

• MLK surrounded himself and his family with armed bodyguards.


Many in the civil-rights movement continued to carry guns after MLK gave them up. Ironically, the assassinations of MLK and US Senator Robert Kennedy helped open the "policy window" needed to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:01 AM on January 22, 2013


I mean we are talking about a guy who has claimed the right to kill anyone he deems necessary with out a trial.

So, basically, just like the NRA, everyone who's defended "stand your ground" laws, and every gun-owner—including yourself—who's insisted on having a right to overthrow the government?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:06 AM on January 22, 2013


"So, basically, just like the NRA, everyone who's defended "stand your ground" laws, and every gun-owner—including yourself—who's insisted on having a right to overthrow the government?"

That is a really aggressive mischaracterization of what you just linked to
posted by Blasdelb at 6:35 AM on January 22, 2013


I guess I'm just naive regarding the MLK bible but I get why he wanted to use it. It was a huge accomplishment to get someone of color elected and ironic he was inaugerated on MLK day. I say so what. There are way more important things in the world to nitpick. Let him have his special moment.
posted by stormpooper at 6:52 AM on January 22, 2013


Some little-known facts about the father of the American civil rights movement and non-violence "guru" — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — and his history with guns:

If I'm not surprised to learn that MLK was actually a patron saint of gun-owners (no, really!), it's only because every year at this time someone tells us that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a conservative and the Tea Party is heir to his legacy.

That is a really aggressive mischaracterization of what you just linked to

No it isn't. It's part and parcel of that discussion. If you assert that Americans have a right to overthrow their government, then you assert the right to, in some circumstances, commit extrajudicial violence.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:54 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a mirror image of the Bill O'Riley types who said you couldn't "support the troops" if you didn't support their leader and their mission i.e. support bush. You were "unpatriotic" if you didn't support bush, and now "liberals" are running around demanding that everyone support Obama, silence all their criticisms, and so on.

That's bullshit, nobody here has told you or anybody who criticized President Obama to shut up and put up. You're getting pushback because some people (like magstheaxe) recognize that he has done good. And whether or not the good balances out the bad or if it any amount of good can balance out the bad is a judgement that each individual makes. Nearly all presidents are going to do things that contradict each other. The United States is too large, populous, and complex a society to live in, not to mention govern. Hell, in this topic ALONE, he's been compared to MLK's legacy AND he's a warmongering terrorist.
posted by FJT at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to take a look one more time. SLC-Span clip of the President appreciating the day.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:25 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


They then ended the session in memory of Stonewall Jackson.

Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day until 2000. ("I'll see your civil rights leader, and I'll raise you two Confederate generals.") The state continues to observe Lee-Jackson Day as a separate but equal holiday.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:37 AM on January 22, 2013


I was present for the ceremony yesterday, standing about three blocks from the action - too far to make out any details visually though we had a view of a jumbotron. Myrlie Evers-Williams was very moving. It was kind of funny behind asked to rise or to be seated since were had all been standing for hours.

rough ashlar: "A written exam administered by the Pentagon labels "protests" as a form of “low-level terrorism” "

Old, old news. That mistake was addressed by changing the exam years ago.
posted by exogenous at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Cool it.]
posted by cortex at 9:42 AM on January 22, 2013


Old, old news. That mistake was addressed by changing the exam years ago.

I guess you missed the part where Obama's lawyers argued that he has the authority to indefinitely detain reporters for reporting, protesters for protesting, or the author of a hypothetical book on politics for expressing an opinion, under NDAA sections 1021 and 1022. A little more serious than a DOD employee exam methinks.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day until 2000. ("I'll see your civil rights leader, and I'll raise you two Confederate generals.")

FWIW, they had Lee-Jackson Day before MLK Day. They don't deserve much credit for their solution to the "add a new holiday in proximity to already existing holiday" problem, but they deserve more credit than, say, Arizona, who dragged their feet seemingly without even bothering to find an excuse, even a lousy one.
posted by hoyland at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2013


I guess I'm leaving the question of whether they should have been celebrating Lee-Jackson Day in the first place open.
posted by hoyland at 9:48 AM on January 22, 2013


So, basically, just like the NRA, everyone who's defended "stand your ground" laws, and every gun-owner—including yourself—who's insisted on having a right to overthrow the government?

Are you still equating the right to self defense with extrajudicial assassination? Wow.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:50 AM on January 22, 2013


AElfwine Evenstar: "I guess you missed the part where Obama's lawyers argued that ..."

I was replying to a comment about something else entirely, but I guess you missed that.
posted by exogenous at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2013


Are you still equating the right to self defense with extrajudicial assassination?

If you are insisting on the right to violently resist the government, which, correct me if I'm wrong, I think you believe to be a fundamental American right, then maybe you can explain to me the difference between an assassination carried out by the Executive with the (explicit or implicit) authorization of Congress and an assassination carried out by "the people" on an agent of the state?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's bullshit, nobody here has told you or anybody who criticized President Obama to shut up and put up.
Put up what? What are you even talking about?
You're getting pushback because some people (like magstheaxe) recognize that he has done good.
Yeah, and I went through and explained how the list of items magstheaxe mentioned was actually full of complete nonsense. Like giving Obama credit for the Egyptian revolution - or claiming that getting involved in a civil war in Libya was somehow a mark of being "pro-peace"
And whether or not the good balances out the bad or if it any amount of good can balance out the bad is a judgement that each individual makes.
Yes, but again, This is not a question of "good" or "bad" but whether or not Obama is acting in a way consistent with MLK's ideals. Amazingly some people seem completely incapable of distinguishing the difference between their own views and MLK's. They seem to think that because they like Obama, MLK must have as well.
The suggestion that Obama among others can't pick and choose what he likes from the great figures he likes is just ideological purism.
Because MLK didn't have an ideology? He was clearly and explicitly anti-war. It wasn't a minor issue for him. It's completely reasonable to point out inconsistencies between people who reference historical figures and what those historical figures actually thought.
posted by delmoi at 4:06 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Put up what? What are you even talking about?

It was a way to respond when you said Obama supporters told people to "silence their criticisms".

They seem to think that because they like Obama, MLK must have as well.

I don't think it's that uncommon. Because MLK was a good person, and people usually think of themselves as good, they will probably think that MLK would agree with them what is good. And, well, I guess I agree it's good to have a reality check in this regard.
posted by FJT at 4:32 PM on January 22, 2013


I don't think it's that uncommon.
Since when is "not uncommon" the same as "not stupid"? If people are criticizing Cornell West for pointing out the distinction between MLK and Obama, their criticisms need to be based on what MLK thought, not what they think.
they will probably think that MLK would agree with them what is good.
Yes, and that's incorrect.
posted by delmoi at 4:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you are insisting on the right to violently resist the government, which, correct me if I'm wrong, I think you believe to be a fundamental American right, then maybe you can explain to me the difference between an assassination carried out by the Executive with the (explicit or implicit) authorization of Congress and an assassination carried out by "the people" on an agent of the state?

The fact that you have to have this spelled out is fairly humorous. The right to keep and bear arms is not something that I "believe to be a fundamental american right", it IS a fundamental american right. It's called the second amendment which has been affirmed numerous times by the SCOTUS over the history of this country. This is not a debatable point. If you want to disagree with the SCOTUS decisions that's fine, but I'm pretty sure the mods don't want this to devolve into another gun control clusterfuck. Pretty simple. You can extrapolate from this whatever bs theory you want about my personal beliefs. My personal beliefs are not what we are discussing here. What we are discussing are the actions of Barack Obama and how they line up with MLK's philosophy.

It's telling that you are attempting what amounts to rhetorical summersaults to avoid the cold hard truth that they don't in fact line up very well when it comes to matters of war and peace. Now if you want to keep trying to derail the conversation into a gun control debate then I guess I'm going to have to start ignoring you. Otherwise feel free to outline how one could reconcile President Obama's record with MLK's ideology. I suggest you respond to delmoi's points which are just as, if not more, substantive than the arguments I've laid out.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because MLK didn't have an ideology? He was clearly and explicitly anti-war. It wasn't a minor issue for him. It's completely reasonable to point out inconsistencies between people who reference historical figures and what those historical figures actually thought.

I'm not sure what the terms of the discussion you've been having are, but I don't disagree with this, so I'm also not sure why it was aimed at a quote from me.

I'm mainly here to bash on Cornel West, whose does not simply say that MLK would oppose Obama on war and other matters but that MLK in general must not be "sanitized, deodorized, and sterilized" and taken up for political reasons outside "the tradition" of the figures he names that "produced" MLK.

That's ideological purism--a classic exhortation against culture/power dilution, really, especially at the point where West talks for the second time about MLK's "prophetic fire" and how it and the tradition that produced it must not be "tamed."

Would MLK have more than a few bones to pick with Obama? Sure, absolutely. Wouldn't we all. But that doesn't make MLK sacrosanct as a symbol Obama has no business using, and if Obama (or anyone) makes warranted connections between aspects of what he's achieved and aspects of what MLK stood for, then they're warranted, and it's not inconsistent in itself for him to do so, nor does it deplete the power of MLK as a symbol.

If Cornel West wants to write MLK's hagiography, that's fine, but it's not any kind of argument for others not to make reasonable connections to just some good things MLK did. If he (or anyone) wants point out MLK said a bunch of other stuff, that's fine too, but that doesn't mean that others were wrong to appropriate what they did--if they were particularly constrained by circumstance, they may have even hoped others would pick up the point and run with it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:17 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


MLK would have bones to pick with West, too.

A cross post from this thread seems relevant.
posted by Miko at 7:41 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually AElfwine Evenstar That the second amendment gives the right to keep and bear arms to all americans IS a debatable point. The second amendment states "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." This means that we will probably be debating this poorly worded amendment forever.
While the SCOTUS agrees with you on this it seems pretty simple and obvious to me that the second amendment actually creates The Reserve and National Guard, and not the current view that it means we should all be running around with RPG's.
I don't find it odd or incongruous that President Obama is using MLK's bible, though I do find it a bit odd that any Bible is used at all (as was mentioned several times up thread). Anyway Happy inauguration you strange bedfellows.
posted by evilDoug at 8:39 PM on January 22, 2013


You know, during a recent re-read of Taylor Branch's monumental biography of Martin Luther King Jr. it struck me repeatedly how MLK was viewed by many of his contemporaries (particularly on the Left) with much the same ambiguity as Obama is today. Plenty of people were willing to portray him as temporizing, milquetoast, or superficial, and many radicals saw him as drawing energy away from more radical solutions towards his (as they saw it) more conservative vision of reform.

Time (and the circumstances of his death) have, of course, baptized MLK retrospectively in much the same way that Lincoln and FDR have had their respective massive personal and political flaws washed away. Of course, it's far too early to guess what future generations will do with Obama's legacy a half-century down the road, but on that level, it seems quite proper indeed for Obama to take his oath on MLK's Bible. It expresses clearly the continuity between two figures who are/were fundamentally divisive figures, who inspired both adoration and contempt from their "allies" on the Left and truly apocalyptic levels of hatred from the Right.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's called the second amendment

Previously: The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery
As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, "The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search 'all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition' and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds."

It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?"

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South. Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings. As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

Patrick Henry:
"If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia."
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:12 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Puke, puke, puke:

US military says Martin Luther King would be proud of its weapons

The US Air Force's Global Strike Command yesterday posted a truly vile bit of propaganda in which it appropriates King's image, name and words in order to claim that he would "be proud to see our Global Strike team . . . standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the US arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense"
posted by dunkadunc at 12:55 AM on January 23, 2013


It's called the second amendment which has been affirmed numerous times by the SCOTUS over the history of this country. This is not a debatable point.

The existence of the amendment, no. But the specifics of what it covers, yes. From DC v. Heller:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:09 AM on January 23, 2013


Wow, what is wrong with the Air Force that they would post that sh*t?

The military does seem to have a positive civil rights and integration legacy. There was a good fresh air with author Rawn James Jr. discussing this the other day.

In his new book, The Double V: How Wars, Protest and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military, author Rawn James Jr. argues that if one wants to understand the story of race in the United States, one must understand the history of African-Americans in the country's military. Since the country was founded, he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, the military "has continually been forced to confront what it means to segregate individuals according to race."
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:49 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You guys have a strawman fetish, don't you? First of all if one reads the thread you guys are cross linking to one would notice that I several times call for sensible control policies. I thought Obama's list of executive orders were good first steps towards dealing with the mass shooting problem. I've never made the argument that the 2nd amendment is not without limits as it obviously is. Maybe going forward you guys should try to address points I'm actually arguing instead of making things up. Thanks.

Actually the gun control issue is a perfect illustration of Obama's moral degeneracy. His crocodile tears for the children of Newtown were disgusting. If he really gave a damn about those kids then he would not have perpetrated at least 10 Newtowns over the course of his first term. Then for him to surround himself with children to push his (admittedly uncontroversial) gun control agenda is beyond the pale. Sick man is sick. Quit killing kids Mr. President!
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:00 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"What we really have is a president who has normalized, for many, many liberals in the United States, the policies that they once opposed under the Bush administration."
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:25 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suggest you respond to delmoi's points which are just as, if not more, substantive than the arguments I've laid out.

I don't know what you are expecting me to say, but I don't disagree with delmoi too much. Obviously, Barack Obama isn't Martin Luther King, Jr. Just as obviously, Barack Obama has never been, or claimed to be, a pacifist. Would MLK be deeply critical of Obama? Quite likely. Would he be appalled by the last decade of war? Almost certainly. Is it reasonable, as delmoi wrote "to point out inconsistencies between people who reference historical figures and what those historical figures actually thought." Of course it is! It's completely reasonable! Are drone's horrible? Yes. Is war hell? Yes. Is West's effort here at making himself arbiter of MLK's legacy silly and a little cynical? I still think so.

The right to keep and bear arms is not something that I "believe to be a fundamental american right", it IS a fundamental american right.

You quoted me and still answered a question I didn't ask. You've suggested before that violent resistance to government is a fundamental American right. I want to know if you believe that, not if you believe in a right to keep and bear arms. Or do you conflate the two to such a degree that the right to arms is implicitly a right to violently resist the government? I ask that—and I think I've asked politely— because I'd like to know why Obama's war makes him a "moral degenerate" while a war of the people against the government is, presumably, patriotic. When you call Obama "a warmongering terrorist," I can't tell if it's the war you hate most or the monger.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:51 PM on January 23, 2013


You've suggested before that violent resistance to government is a fundamental American right.

You need to learn to read better. I have in the past recited the history of the idea which is completely different thing from what I personally believe about the matter. What you seem to be trying to accomplish here is to excuse president Obama's murderous actions based on the fact that you think I hold contradictory opinions which even if true has hardly killed anyone. This really doesn't make much sense, and as far as I can tell seems to be a variant of the chewbacca defense.

I'd like to know why Obama's war makes him a "moral degenerate" while a war of the people against the government is, presumably, patriotic

Because one is actually ocurring in reality and real people are dying, and the other is nothing more than a figment of your imagination. One is very specific involving very specific examples, geopolitical realities, and actors; while the other is a vague and ill defined fantasy which offers no venue for serious discussion.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:22 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm mainly here to bash on Cornel West, whose does not simply say that MLK would oppose Obama on war and other matters but that MLK in general must not be "sanitized, deodorized, and sterilized" and taken up for political reasons outside "the tradition" of the figures he names that "produced" MLK. ... That's ideological purism--a classic exhortation against culture/power dilution, really ... what he's achieved and aspects of what MLK stood for, then they're warranted, and it's not inconsistent in itself for him to do so, nor does it deplete the power of MLK as a symbol.
Why are you assuming that "ideological purism" is universally regarded as a bad thing? You seem to be saying you think it's perfectly fine if people completely ignore half the stuff someone believed in when they were alive if they feel like it. It's something that certainly pisses people off if it happens when they're alive. The other day some random idiot compared himself to MLK because of his fight against the contraception mandate in Obamacare. Despite the fact that MLK was pro-contraception and praised Margaret Sanger.

But from your argument, you think that's totally fine: people are free to pick and choose which beliefs of Kings they care about, and ignore everything else? And if anyone complains about it they should be "bashed" the same way Cornel West should be bashed?

Obviously people can do whatever they want - Obama and Ken Cuccinelli can compare themselves to MLK, and people like Cornel West can bash them for it. But you seem to think it's somehow inappropriate to complain if people pick and choose things and ignore the whole philosophy - as this makes them 'ideological purists' which is apparently horrible for some unspecified reason.

It doesn't seem very well thought out.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


But you seem to think it's somehow inappropriate to complain if people pick and choose things and ignore the whole philosophy - as this makes them 'ideological purists' which is apparently horrible for some unspecified reason.

LOL, OK, here's a specified reason: it's a wellspring of all-or-nothing false dilemmas, such as the many, many, many examples in this thread, including your own comment.

Are informal fallacies not a bad enough reason to call out a philosopher? I mean, if it was just you doing it, whatever. But Cornel West ought to know better.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:33 PM on January 23, 2013


Incidentally:

"Warranted connections."
Warranted connections.
Warranted connections?
Warranted connections?
Warranted connections?
Warranted connections?

I am not positive, because this is well outside my areas of concern, but I'm pretty sure Ken Cuccinelli, the Tea Party, and the Global Strike Command do not have the reasons Obama has to acknowledge and commemorate MLK and do not in general share his list of inspirational figures.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:54 PM on January 23, 2013



LOL, OK, here's a specified reason: it's a wellspring of all-or-nothing false dilemmas


and i should care because? do you have anything that isn't totally abstract? any reason i should vare more about "all-or-nothing false delemas" then civilians getting blown up by drone strikes?

these points of yours are completely detached from anything real, and basically meaningless. you're also just defining your own terms in order to make your argument sound good what you call "ideological purism" could just as easily be called "consistency" or "non-hypocrisy"
posted by delmoi at 1:25 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You need to learn to read better.

Darlin', you wouldn't read the paragraph I wrote that you chose to quote. You'd make a very poor tutor.

What you seem to be trying to accomplish here is to excuse president Obama's murderous actions based on the fact that you think I hold contradictory opinions which even if true has hardly killed anyone.

Well, besides the fact that they aren't simply Obama's "murderous actions," but actions authorized—in the breach, at least—by the entire US government, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and that kooky Paul family, it would be pointless, literally pointless, for me to make such excuses, even if I wanted to, which I don't. Further, I don't know what you believe—because you've stubbornly refused to say what you believe—but it is true that I take strident denunciations of extrajudicial killings a lot less seriously from who someone who's main objection seems to be that it's the government and not the citizenry who's doing the killing.

Why are you assuming that "ideological purism" is universally regarded as a bad thing?

Why are you assuming that Monsieur Caution is assuming that "ideological purism" is universally regarded as a bad thing? As Monsieur Caution is probably aware, plenty of people regard "ideological purism" as an inspired, and even necessary approach to the world. But in this case, if you're assuming that "ideological purism" is a desirable way to apprehend the legacy of MLK, then just who is the arbiter of precisely what that legacy consists of and who is pure enough to invoke it?

these points of yours are completely detached from anything real

As sure as Hitler, at some point in an internet debate, someone always says "this argument of yours, it is completely detached from anything real ..."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:04 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


You've already conceded what I've been arguing so I don't know why your are still commenting other than to score points in some imaginary grudge match in your head.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:38 AM on January 24, 2013


Well, if you're satisfied that I've conceded your point, then why did you comment other than to score points?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:49 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


then why did you comment other than to score points?

Because throughout this whole discussion you have been twisting my words in another thread to suit your rhetorical needs in this thread. That is not really cool in my opinion, especially when you make it sound like I'm some type of violent militia nut who wants to overthrow the government; which I don't. So excuse me for taking it a bit personal. Basically, because I feel like I have been falsely smeared with the label of something I abhor and I guess I'm just a little defensive at this point.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:01 AM on January 24, 2013


Get a room, you guys!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm hoping MeFi Mail gets renamed "Get a room" or similar for April 1st.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:44 AM on January 24, 2013


Professor Cornel West: Obama Is A ‘War Criminal’ Like Nixon And Bush
posted by homunculus at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


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