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When Did Martin Luther King Become The Most Important Person In American History? ^ | January 20, 2003 | Lowell Phillips

Posted on 01/20/2003 6:40:40 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe

Asking is akin to blasphemy? Actually it's worse than that. Posing the question might draw more serious condemnation than standing on the steps of the Vatican and screaming, "There is no G-d!!" Come to mention it, it is far more likely and acceptable for someone to critically examine the Pope, Jesus and the Almighty himself than Martin Luther King. Considering he was a Christian leader, as well as a civil rights leader, he certainly would think this odd.

Wondering aloud about such things makes me a bona fide racist in some eyes. Not at all surprising in a paradoxical, political environment where disagreeing with judging people based on skin color, euphemistically called "affirmative action", somehow makes one a racist. On the contrary, my respect for Mr. King is far purer than that alleged by people who have appropriated and distorted his legacy of race neutrality to justify exactly the opposite. The hysterical or, more likely, calculated reactions aside, these musings in no way should be construed as questioning the correctness of honoring the man. I believe him to be one of the most praiseworthy figures of the 20th century and indeed he should be recognized amongst the greatest Americans in our nation's history. But the question that I have is, at what point, and by what justification did he become THE most important figure in our history?

The fact that this is the position that King now occupies is not really arguable. Surely historians would have something to say about it, but if public remembrances and general reverence are at all indicators, and they're the only meaningful indicators, the debate has been settled. To see this, all we need do is open our eyes and uncover our ears. The observances of his birthday are all encompassing. Businesses, churches, the media and state, federal and local government institutions pause in unison and reflect. Public officials, led by the president, make obligatory statements and attend celebrations in his honor. And perhaps most important to the nation's attitudes, now and in years to come, the education system, private and public, makes a concerted effort to see to it that our youth understands who King was and what he has meant to this country. The same can be said about no one else in our history.

His birthday being a national holiday officially verifies Martin Luther King's historical preeminence. He is the one and only "American" deemed to be deserving of an official day of remembrance. Christopher Columbus still has a federal holiday bearing his name, but with the exception of it being a paid day off, it's largely ignored. As political correctness creeps ever forward and his image increasingly becomes that merely of the commander in the first way of European invaders to the "New World", the future of Columbus Day looks bleak. He was not an American in any event. Though his importance in shaping the modern world was immeasurable, his role in birth of The United States and in forming the democratic principles that guide us is nonexistent.

That's it.

Oh, we do have President's Day, but it is likewise remembered as a day off to the few people that get it, rather than anything used as an educational opportunity or deserving of ceremony. Actually the third Monday in February officially remains Washington's Birthday according to section 6103(a), title 5 of the United States Code. But since a proclamation by President Richard Nixon in 1971 it has, in effect, been a day to commemorate all past presidents. So we now have a day set aside to honor Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter along with Washington and Lincoln.

Martin Luther King as an image of courage and nobility in the face of hate should never be undervalued. He was steadfast in his nonviolence and eloquence, even as more radical factions in the civil rights movement began to dismiss him. King's assassination canonized him just as Mao-inspired fanatics, and other violent militants, threatened to take control. But he was not the only believer in nonviolence, and despite his charisma, the ultimate victory in the struggle for civil rights is conceivable without him.

It is far less likely that the Civil War would have come about or ended as it did without Abraham Lincoln. It was mainly due to his strength of will and moral convictions that the war evolved from a secession and state's rights conflict to one of a crusade against slavery. Strangely enough, it is many who benefited the most from Lincoln's leadership that have attempted to discard his attitudes and actions. But what can't be denied is that in a time of unimaginable bloodshed and with the Union faltering he rebuilt the moral underpinnings of the war effort. Though the Emancipation Proclamation freed not a single slave, making it changed the course of the nation. And it made Martin Luther King, as we know him, possible. King paid homage to this in the first lines of his "I have a dream speech",

"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity."

Just as Lincoln made King possible, so too did George Washington make Lincoln possible. It is all but unimaginable that the War of Independence could have been won, the constitution could have been ratified, or that the presidency would have evolved as it has without him. And here again King's victories centuries later would not have come to pass. Washington's image has suffered greatly by a recent focus solely on the fact that he was a slaveholder. No one should be above scrutiny, but Washington was no lover of slavery and expressed his wish to have "a plan adopted for the abolition" of the institution.

No less a liberal outlet than PBS recognizes this:

"He possessed and displayed in his life courage, self-control, justice, judgment and an array of other virtues in such full harmony and to such a degree, and he surmounted such great challenges in so many circumstances of war and peace, that to see how he lived his life is to see much more vividly what it means to be a man. This is by no means to say that he was flawless any more than Babe Ruth was a perfect baseball player. It is merely to say that, if he had not lived, such greatness could hardly have been believed possible." And had Washington not lived the greatness of King could hardly have been believed possible.

I don't doubt for a moment that Martin Luther King is deserving of a place of honor in our history. But he is by no means the only or most deserving. There are others that could easily be named from Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Franklin and beyond whose shoulders King stood upon to accomplish what he did. And dismissing these men does a disservice to them, to this nation, to our children, and to King as well.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Government
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1 posted on 01/20/2003 6:40:41 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Excellent Article! Bravo!
2 posted on 01/20/2003 6:46:05 PM PST by ConservativeMan55
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Too tired right now to read it all.
It is true though.
The reason is, MLK and his words makes my spine tingle!
Just words,just words!
Forty years later it is still so!

Merely words!
3 posted on 01/20/2003 6:48:57 PM PST by Radix
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I kinda love un-PC musings....this was great
4 posted on 01/20/2003 6:51:18 PM PST by ErnBatavia ((Bumperootus!))
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To: Tailgunner Joe
This is a dangerous subject to discuss, and that fact says a lot about contemporary American society.
5 posted on 01/20/2003 7:03:45 PM PST by Malesherbes
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I was there. I lived it. IMHO, he was a Jesse Jackson with manners. He was arrogant, he swaggered, he *politely* bullied his way around the country, copying Ghandi. In the back rooms, he was a womanizer and he associated with people of questionable character. Give me a Jessie Lee Peterson over MLK any day!

What we have here is an excellent example of revisionist history. Nobody wants to say the emperor had no clothes.
6 posted on 01/20/2003 7:03:56 PM PST by Humidston (Call a Commie FREE - FSTV - 1-888-550-FSTV - tell 'em what you think about their protest)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
MLK's cult of personality in America is starting to rival that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And there are those civil rights leaders who think Dr. King is not honored enough!
7 posted on 01/20/2003 7:06:55 PM PST by ctnoell70
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To: ctnoell70
What a dumb item. No one has EVER said that MLK was the "most important person" in US history. All some folks are saying, and the holiday indicates, is that he was a major figure in US history. The manner of his death also made him a martyr. I can't think of anything I have read or anyone I have heard (liberal, moderate) who has ever claimed he is the most important person in US history. This kind of tripe gives conservatives a real bad image.
8 posted on 01/20/2003 7:12:13 PM PST by jraven
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To: Tailgunner Joe
A local mom was talking to her 3rd grade daughter last year..the girl was a walking encyclopedia on Black history and had NO CLUE who George Washington or Abe Lincoln were on Presidents day..
9 posted on 01/20/2003 7:23:24 PM PST by RnMomof7
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To: Humidston
The emperor is naked already. MLK was a collectivist-leftie and this day of honour is the most dreadfully awful display of bogus pandering to race-baiters conceivable. Bush rushing out to a black church, the rats whining that they're more genuinely black. Please...! I don't ever want to hear the word diversity again, not even with a small "d".
How about a Bill of Rights day? Taxpayer freedom day?
10 posted on 01/20/2003 7:25:38 PM PST by kcar
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To: jraven
NOT a dumb idea! If Ronald Reagan was rammed downed my throat as Dr. King is year after year, I would complain about that also. Furthermore, MLK has a few skeletons in his closet that are worth imvestigating (his ties to the Communist Party, for one). Such arrogance shown for limiting debate on this issue doesn't exactly help conservatism either.
11 posted on 01/20/2003 7:29:29 PM PST by ctnoell70
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To: Malesherbes
Big Bump!

My child is in second grade, and is being told that MLK is the greatest man who ever lived in this country.She has no idea who Abe Lincoln was.She was taught that George Washington was greedy, and that all whites are greedy

Go figure

We had a wonderfull talk about how white and black and red people used to treat each other back in the old days, and how Lincoln and MLK just wanted us to treat each other based on how we acted, not by the color of our skins.

The ongoing pittfalls of trying to raise my child color-blind, as MLK rightly advocated,and avoiding the "white guilt" the current batch of race-baiting media whores and liberal history revisionists tout as truth, while teaching her to respect her Sioux ancestry is starting to make my head spin.

12 posted on 01/20/2003 7:33:13 PM PST by sarasmom (<p>Everyone get off my land, and take your lawyers,politicians and slaves with you.!)
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To: RnMomof7
Most homeschoolers give very little attention to mlk, or malcome x, I think perhaps this is why homeschoolers are walking away with many of the national spelling bee and geography bees. I really is a crying shame that public school kids know more trivial things, than things of real importance.
13 posted on 01/20/2003 7:38:31 PM PST by goodseedhomeschool
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I was in elementary school in the 70s, about a 40% black school, and I'd say we easily spent 3 or 4 more times studying Harriet Tubman than MLK.

And more time on Tubman than Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson combined.

MLK has committed the crime of being a man...Tubman is even more PC because she was a black WOMAN.
14 posted on 01/20/2003 7:41:34 PM PST by John H K
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To: jraven
As much as I agree that SOME stuff on FR gives conservatives a bad image, people aren't really exaggerating on this thread.

It depends on how old you are and where you went to school...

But there are many locales where more will be taught about MLK (and Harriet Tubman, etc.) than Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, and Reagan COMBINED in elementary school (particularly) but also in Junior and Senior High. The most extreme school districts will add a heavy dose of Malcolm X too but I personally did not experience this in the 70s.

That's an obvious indication that educators BELIEVE MLK was the most important person in US history, even if they don't say so in so many words.
15 posted on 01/20/2003 7:45:38 PM PST by John H K
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To: Tailgunner Joe
All I know is, I didn't get my damn mail today. Not sure if that's good or bad.

That said, I agree with the author. MLK was certainly an enigma and true folk hero of the 20th century, and not just to blacks.

And that said, I can with little effort point out many other great Americans who are equally or more deserving of a national holiday. Teddy Roosevelt springs to mind, as does George Washington Carver. Carver arguably did more for American blacks than MLK. Thoughts?

16 posted on 01/20/2003 7:48:13 PM PST by yooper
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To: Tailgunner Joe
About the same time that Doctor Suess's birthday became more important than Jesus Christ's
17 posted on 01/20/2003 7:50:17 PM PST by mlmr
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To: Tailgunner Joe
In my mind, the biggest mark against MLK has been the behavior of many of his associates and of his family since his murder. Their naked greed has been sad and reminds me of the aphorism that one is judged by the company one keeps.

The biggest mark for him was that he did stick to non-violence, helping produced a relatively non-violent end to segregation. Something that today's protester's have no clue about -- for some reason they think that a broken window, lots of profanity, and even some nudity will persuade others of the rightness of their cause. The "I Have A Dream" March would look very different if it occurred today.

18 posted on 01/20/2003 7:52:52 PM PST by LenS
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To: goodseedhomeschool
I told my homeschooled daughter that MLK was an important symbol of the civil rights movement of the '60s, whose intention it was to promote the uniquely American ideal of equality. We certainly don't obsess over him.
19 posted on 01/20/2003 7:58:03 PM PST by Jeff Chandler ( ; -)
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To: LenS
Jessie Jackson has managed to nullify everything that Martin Luther King stood for.

Can we call it even?

20 posted on 01/20/2003 7:58:34 PM PST by Hunble
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