1.20.2013

Inauguration 2013: Why I think President Obama should be sworn in on a motel Bible instead on Dr. King's

by Brother Jesse Muhammad 

This morning I was watching the news and saw how elated members of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s family are about President Barack Obama’s plans to take the oath of office on two bibles, one belonging to Abraham Lincoln and the other one Dr. King’s.

It’s being called “symbolic,” “historic,” and potentially “inspiring,” since the 2013 Inauguration falls on the country’s observance of Martin Luther King Day. I agree it’s symbolic alright. Symbolic of hypocrisy instead of honor; it’s symbol without a grain of substance.

I’ll let the present-day Lincolnites deal with why they feel Pres. Obama shouldn’t use the bible of the Great Liar, oops, excuse me, I mean the Great Emancipator.

Instead, I want to delve into why Pres. Obama would be better off using the Gideons Bible found in the local motel. Trust me it would carry the same weight. 

Though pleasing to the eye, I still don’t really think Dr. King would hardly care about a monument being erected in his honor on the Washington Mall. To most, that statue and memorial was a fitting tribute in recognition of this strong voice of the poor, but he probably would have rather that money be spent helping the poor. But hey, who really cares, right?

I agree with Minister Farrakhan when he said, “If in honoring Dr. King the government does nothing for the poor and the weak of this nation and continue to perpetuate war, their hearts are as cold as the granite used to make the statue of Dr. King.”

Pres. Obama visited that monument with his family. However, what did he do once he returned to the Oval Office? Did he change his course of leadership to address the issues of the poor that Dr. King fought for? Nope. It’s all about the middle class these days. Heck, he’s barely used the B-word since he’s been in office; “Black” that is.

Now, a man in Atlanta was hired by the King Center to rehabilitate Dr. King’s personal King James Bible, one he used in preparation for the delivery of God’s Word and serve as inspiration while on the road. I read that adhesive was used to attach the loose leather cover along with other patchwork before the Bible was eventually shipped to D.C.

Maybe they should have also FedEx’ed Mr. President "a bottle" of Dr. King’s backbone to fight, will to stand against injustice and the consciousness to do what’s right even in the face of serious opposition.

The younger generation may not even know why I’m saying this and it may come across as me attacking Pres. Obama. That’s not the case. However, he’s about to start his second term and now he should man up in some other areas of his presidency that can lift the poor.

Dr. King was assassinated 10 years before I was born. As an elementary, middle and high school student, I learned about him once a year, like most, through plays, books, lectures and his ever-quoted “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on August 28, 1963 during the March on Washington. However, like many of my classmates at that time, I did not truly understand Dr. King because all we heard was that he was the dreamer, the dreamer, the dreamer, the dreamer.

When I got to college I discovered that we had been robbed of the true essence of this man and his evolution that took place before his last days among us. I learned more about a wide-awake Dr. King that rallied against the Vietnam War to call on America to take care of its poor at home. Do you think Dr. King would have joined Occupy Wall Street? How has America and its intelligence agencies treated its anti-war groups?

I learned about a Dr. King that delivered an anti-war speech titled “Breaking the Silence” in 1967; a Dr. King that said, “I’m tired of marching for something that should have been mine at birth”; a Dr. King that was spied on and plotted against by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI COINTELPRO from 1961 to 1968; the Dr. King that was lied on by the government; the Dr. King that met one-on-one with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam in 1966; the Dr. King that many in America did not like, yet, his face adorns a U.S. postal stamp. Even Black people started distancing themselves from him and many pastors banned him from their pulpits. These were men who held the Bible in their hands, yet in another instance opposed a man who was striving to walk the path of Jesus in the highways and byways.

My eyes came open to a different Dr. King than the one my teachers gave to me. This disturbed me, because I wondered why we were not taught these things about Dr. King early on in school. Unfortunately, this cycle continues in 2013 with schools force-feeding our young people a watered-down Dr. King by omitting his post-”I Have a Dream” years.

This man wanted an end to what he called the “triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.” What policies from the era of George W. Bush has Pres. Obama continued that are diametrically opposed to what Dr. King wanted an end to?

“Celebrating” Dr. King’s birthday has even become a lucrative business for corporations, ahem, The 1%, and for those today that so-call “praise” him, but never would have been with him post-”I Have a Dream.” 

The Dr. King of 1963 was not the same man in 1968. His life was cut short just as he was evolving. We all evolve as human beings, but it seems as if we want to only minimize his impact to one speech, one march, one moment. This is not to say I don’t think the speech was and is powerful—because I do.

Yes, Dr. King cared about the condition of Black people and called on us to do something for self, get better organized, build economically and grow in political power. Read this and more in his 1967 speech “The Black Power Defined.” I’m sure some will be quick to call this “separatism”, “Black nationalism” or “racism.”

In 1968, Dr. King and the SCLC organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic justice and take a stand for the poor of all races in America. How much more could you and I do for the poor in our communities, cities, states and country?

If Dr. King were here today, I believe he would still be beating the drum of the anti-war movement and would not be silent. I believe he would oppose the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and any moves being made to go to war with Iran. I believe he would oppose what is being done by Israel and the billions of dollars in aid being given to them by America. Furthermore, I can’t honestly think he would be encouraging our young people to join the military to go and fight unjust wars. Matter of fact, Dr. King would be a conscientious objector.

Dr. King would be condemning the death penalty and he would have cared just as much, if not more, about the mass shootings taking place in Chicago as the ones in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown. Sadly, we can’t say the same about Pres. Obama and he’s from Chicago.

Let’s be clear: Dr. King would want us to honor him; not with just parades, floats, songs, dance, plays, speeches, t-shirts, street signs, statues, a national day off from work or even just a 12-hr feel good day of service. How about we teach more than the “safe version” of Dr. King? How about we fight for the poor every day?

If we’re not doing the works of Dr. King then the dream is dead. Isn’t it time to move pass just dreaming? It takes more than dreaming. It takes action by all of us. And it takes more than just putting your left hand on his Bible.

Mr. President, respectfully, if you’re not going to live Dr. King, just go down to the local motel in D.C. for one of their Bibles. Otherwise you’re just toying with the emotions of the people and making mockery of a man’s legacy.

P.S.—Now I’m going back to focusing on doing my part. 

(You’re welcome to follow Brother Jesse’s boring tweets @BrotherJesse)