On the 7th of February, 2006, Coretta Scott King was memorialized at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, eight days after her death from complications of a stroke at the age of 78. Among the thousands of people in attendance were President George W. Bush and his First Lady, Laura. Former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton were also there, as well as former First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter.
President Bush was the first of the VIPs to speak, saying "We gather in God's house, in God's presence, to honor God's servant, Coretta Scott King. Her journey was long, and only briefly with a hand to hold. But now she leans on everlasting arms."
He went on to talk about the good work she and her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., had done with regard to the advancement of civil rights in America, how she bravely confronted racial hatred with grace and dignity, and what a kind-hearted woman she'd been. The allusions he made to political or social events of the past were largely general in nature, and only used for the sake of defining her good character and noble spirit. All in all, his remarks were very respectful, and the sentiments he imparted were both uplifting and well-intentioned.
Unfortunately, this cannot be said about the words of two other individuals who spoke at the funeral, namely the Reverend Joseph Lowery, and former President Carter. Lowery was the first of the two to address the crowd, saying "She [Mrs. King] deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there, but Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here." He then nodded his head in the direction of the President, adding "Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor!"
Some time later, Mr. Carter took to the pulpit, exclaiming "It was difficult for them [Mr. and Mrs. King] then personally, with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps." With these remarks, Carter was clearly taking a political cheap shot at the President over the NSA's current signals intelligence program, which he strongly opposes.
He then stated that "This commemorative ceremony this morning, this afternoon, is not only to acknowledge the great contributions of Coretta and Martin, but to remind us that the struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi... Those who were most devastated by Katrina know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."
As was true of Reverend Lowery's remarks, Carter's were gratuitously political and insulting, designed to shame President Bush at a time when he had no other choice but to sit quietly and take it. In my view, the behavior of these two liberal activists was both grossly inappropriate and cowardly, and those who attempt to defend them are no less detestable.
Like most folks, I have been to a lot of funerals over the years, including those of my brother, my parents, my grandparents, and most of my aunts and uncles. Just recently I attended the funeral of my uncle Fred at a small Catholic church in a town not far from where I live. Like most memorial services, his was conducted in a solemn yet dignified manner, and the individuals who spoke before the assemblage kept their remarks simple and respectful, praising my beloved uncle for a life well lived, and comforting the grieving friends and family members in attendance.
Knowing uncle Fred as I did, I feel confident that the proceedings would have met with his approval, and I doubt that anyone left the church that day harboring ill feelings about anyone else who had come to pay their respects.
Simply put, no one used the occasion to preach hatred for anyone or anything, or to vent their frustrations over the current state of the world beyond the church's doors. Had some egocentric pinhead showed up with the intention of turning my uncle's funeral into a political rally, I would have been compelled to hunt him down after a day or two and beat some respect into him.
There's a time and a place for everything, and even a child knows that a funeral is a time for remembering the dearly departed, not for advancing one's personal agenda, be it political, social, or other. Those who refuse to abide by the unwritten rules of common decency and respect which pertain to such events are contemptuous, deserving of ridicule in my opinion and, at least in cases where the honor of the Daley clan is at stake, a sound thrashing as well.