Grave robbers | On Politics | Chicago Reader

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Grave robbers

Hey, MAGA, stop using Dr. King to justify police brutality.

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In a futile attempt to justify the unjustifiable, Trumpsters have resorted to grave robbery.

That is, they’re claiming great leftists and civil rights activists as their own—now that these great leaders are dead and unable to speak for themselves.

This is not new. I’ve seen Trump and his followers talk up everyone from Muhammad Ali to FDR when it suits their needs. Apparently, they have no American historical antecedents of their own that any decent human being would want anything to do with.

This brings me to the latest atrocity in journalism perpetrated by John Kass, the right-wing columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

In his June 11 column, Kass argues that Black Lives Matter activists who take a knee to protest police violence against Black people are members of a cult threatening to destroy America.

And if these “neo-Marxists” get their way, law-abiding Americans won’t be allowed to stand for the national anthem. Or, as Kass puts it: “The high priests of the left tell us those who don’t kneel during the national anthem are guilty.”

In reality, the only person punished for his behavior during the national anthem is, of course, Colin Kaepernick, who was banished from the NFL for taking a knee to protest police brutality.

So, in one fell swoop, Kass plays the victim even though his crowd is the victimizers. Slick move, Johnny.

Now, to the grave robbery. In trying to explain that he’s not really the racist his position would lead you to believe he is, Kass invokes the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And I quote . . . 

“I’m no theologian, but my ancient Greek Orthodox Christian faith teaches us to condemn racism and support the oppressed. We’re judged on sins we commit as individuals. The late Archbishop Iakovos, seen in old news photos with piercing eyes and black robes, stood with the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma in 1965. Both religious men abhorred judging entire groups of people by skin color. But they are long gone.”

To read this, you’d think Kass is righteous and holy because he belonged to a church whose former leader marched with King. 

And that Archbishop Iakovos and Dr. King valiantly tried to judge all people fairly. But then they passed. And so . . .

Well, Kass doesn’t come right out and say what his point is. But it seems to be that somehow or other those knee-taking Black Lives Matter “neo-Marxists” corrupted Dr. King’s dream. Sooooo . . .

Protesters who actually take a stand for the oppressed and against racism killed Dr. King’s dream. Which is also Kass’s dream, as he belongs to Archbishops Iakovos’s church. 

Got that, America?

Look, Archbishop Iakovos deserves a lot of credit for going to Selma in 1965 to march with Dr. King. His presence helped win over public opinion for the civil rights movement—a movement that was vehemently opposed by the sorts of people who enjoy reading John Kass’s column. Just saying.

But I think most of us would agree that Dr. King would be kneeling with the Black Lives Matter activists if he were still alive, and taking a strong stand against police randomly killing unarmed Black people. 

In fact, I think this moment calls for a brief refresher on the life of Dr. King, for those too young to remember him.

He lived for about three more years after the Selma march—and he was active until the end.

In 1966, he moved to Chicago and led open-housing marches through the southwest and northwest sides. And how did the crowd of white southwest-siders respond to King’s message? They called him the N-word and hit him in the head with a rock.

In 1967, King spoke out against the Vietnam War. For which right-wingers called him a Commie.

  1. Edgar Hoover, the lunatic who ran the FBI back then, had a hateful obsession with King. Hoover had his agents tap King’s phones and motel rooms. They collected dirt on King that they tried to use to discredit his movement and drive him to suicide.

It’s called COINTELPRO—look it up.

In 1968, Dr. King planned a Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C., in which he called for a full jobs program, guaranteed income, health care for all, and affordable housing.

And the right told him to shut up and stick to civil rights. (Not unlike Laura Ingraham telling LeBron James to “shut up and dribble.”)

And in the last days of his life, he was in Memphis standing up for the collective bargaining rights of striking sanitation workers, almost all of whom were Black.

Lastly, he didn’t just sort of vanish, as Kass suggests. No, he was murdered at the age of 39.

And even after he was dead, Senator Jesse Helms and other Republicans fought to keep his birthday from being a national holiday. “King's action-oriented Marxism,” Helms said, “is not compatible with the concepts of this country."

When in doubt, blame the Marxists.

Without Stevie Wonder’s efforts, I’m not sure we’d even have a King holiday—if Ingraham was around back then, she’d probably have told Stevie to “shut up and sing.”

So, sorry, I can’t sit here and watch some dude use Dr. King to prop up a position that King would most definitely abhor.

Look, MAGA—as Donald Trump calls you—I can’t help it if you’ve linked yourself to a despicable human being leading a racist cause.

But if you feel compelled to find someone from the past to justify your beliefs, go rob the graves of those who might share them. Like Jesse Helms. Or J. Edgar Hoover. Or the guy in Marquette Park who threw that rock—presuming he’s not with us anymore.

And stop desecrating the life and legacy of the great Dr. King.  v

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