Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Was the Coretta Scott King Funeral Too Political?

We're not certain if this question/argument is even relevant. All funerals for major public figures or dignitaries are by their nature political. Funerals for Presidents are political, a convergence of world leaders, elected officials and other public figures attached to that particular individual through political connections.

To make this argument suggests a certain amount of naivety in the American public psyche.

It's a question obviously being posed and pushed by commentators on the Right, possibly egged on by White House hacks, who simmer with rage that the President is caught in a moment of unscripted remarks. And, we all know, those who support the President and his policies hate to see him caught off guard. So, perhaps the question should be:

Was the Coretta Scott King Funeral Too Political for President Bush?

First, the original question hints to a prevailing level of cultural ignorance on the part of White America and mainstream media: African American funerals in the traditional Black religious setting are, by nature, lively - they are a beautiful blend of "call-&-response" as it is called. The ritual manifestations of African cultural rythms - underscored by the very emotional sermons, stirring gospel and congregational response - are very foreign to Western norms. Hence, one reason behind many referring to King's funeral as a "celebration" rather than a moment of somber reflection. She has not passed; rather, she has "transitioned" or she is "going home."

Second, if President Bush had been absent from this event, this would not have been an issue. Yet, it is since it underscores this President's inability to engage an audience that is not handpicked. It also underscores the gulf of perception between he (as representative of his party) and the Black electorate. And, it speaks to what our recent editorial referred to as the "arrogance" and "royalesque" pomp of American Presidential appearances, as if the Executive is above the questioning or critique of the general public.

Clearly, this was not a hostile or "political" audience - contrary to the mischaracterizations of pundits, commentators and news producers who salivate for such outbursts. This was a concerned and respectful audience, grieving not only for the loss of an icon, but for uncertainty over the future.