WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar endorsed a plan Tuesday to remove a disputed inscription from the Martin Luther King Jr.
28 Aug 2011
Since neither the hideous kitsch of this chinese-communist or saddam-hussein firdowsi-square or kim il-sung great-leader effort, nor the quotation misattributed to King (thereby permanently drawing attention to King's history of plagiarism, beginning with his doctoral dissertation), can be removed or changed, the statue and the graven errors will be a monument, but not the monument it was intended to be. It will instead serve as a monument not to a particular man, but as a monument to the degradation of the democratic dogma. And that last phrase, I hope everyone knows I know and certainly hope that they know that they will know and am not trying to full a fast one, is not by me, but by Henry Adams.
Or this one:
22 Aug 2011
Not a standing stone, but rather woven into the warf and weft of our national fabric. It might be called the telltale figure in the carpet. And by the way, James, home, please, and don't spare the horses
Or you can read several previous postings on the subject, beginning with one about the Theodore Parker quote, attributed to Martin Luther King, and among the bouquet or florilegium of five woven quotes on the carpet made specially for the Oval Office:
Monday, 6 September 2010
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." According media reports, this quote keeping Obama company on his wheat-colored carpet is from King.
Except it's not a King quote. The words belong to a long-gone Bostonian champion of social progress. His roots in the republic ran so deep that his grandfather commanded the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington.
For the record, Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama. Unless you're fascinated by antebellum American reformers, you may not know of the lyrically gifted Parker, an abolitionist, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist thinker who foresaw the end of slavery, though he did not live to see emancipation. He died at age 49 in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War.
A century later, during the civil rights movement, King, an admirer of Parker, quoted the Bostonian's lofty prophecy during marches and speeches. Often he'd ask in a refrain, "How long? Not long." He would finish in a flourish: "Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
-- from an article in The Washington Post by Jamie Stiehm on the quotation by Theodore Parker attributed to Martin Luther King
It's amazing, isn't it?
And funny, too.
Here is the Oval Office, redecorated by the same expensive interior decorator who did John Thain's office digs at J. P. Morgan for more than a million dollars, that thick-headed morally obtuse John Thain then had to pay back, and the result was --- well, what you see.
And President Barack Obama selected five quotations to be woven into the bland beige of the rug: four Presidents, quotations that he had lived with, quotations that had inspired him, and that he thought should inspire others too. four of the five quotations were taken from great presidential predecessors, but the fifth, never a president but by near-universal agreement a Great Man, a man so great that apparently Obama and all the others who were in on this project never knew about King's penchant -- or that of his editors and fellow-writers -- to take quotations from others.
It might have helped if everyone had been a bit wary, at least wary enough to check quotes attributed to King, and what would have helped the most would have been had they been familiar with the still little-known results of the investigation undertaken by the authorities at Boston University, some years ago, where King received his doctorate in theology on the basis of a thesis that, the committee charged with investigating the matter reluctantly concluded, was in large part plagiarized work. That is why I and a few others never call King "Doctor King," and find that unctuous and deeply-respectful tone with whiich it is uttered by, say, the likes of Tavis Smiley -- so unintentionally comical.
Jamie Stiehm claims that in the case of the quote from Theodore Parker, King never claimed it as his specifically. Nor did he attribute the quote to Parker. He simply left it as is, possibly using the strategy made famous by an Italian waiter, who hands the visiting Americans the conto, or bill, which lists the antipasti, and the primi, and the secondi, and the dolci, and the caffe, but has inserted, somewhere in the middle of the list of charges, something the man scanning the bill (oh, it is a man, for both the tale and the teller are very old-fashioned) cannot quite make out, and when he asks the waiter "What's this?" the waiter replies, unembarrassedly, "Oh, that reads 'Forse passa'" ("Maybe it will get by"). That was probably King's idea: maybe the Parker quote would get by, but if it didn't, he always had the excuse, or a worshipful posterity would provide it for him, that he never meant to deceive, that he always knew it was by Parker, that he never explicitly claimed he had written it, that he had merely left off the quotation marks out of haste, or because he assumed that the quote was so well-known that he hardly had to attribute it to the great Theodore Parker.
Think of all the people who were in on Obama's selection of the quotations. Think of how many people on the White House staff had endlessly discussed the precise quotations to be used. There was George Axelrod, a figure in some ways reminiscent of Stanley Levison, who among other tasks helped King produce so many of his words. There was Valerie Jarrett. There were so many in on the discussion about these quotations -- couldn't a single person dare to think for himself. Didn't anyone notice how unusually memorable that particular quote was, and had they not, if they were familiar with King's work, noticed how he, or Levison, or others, would drop these quotations from others in -- quotations that didn't sound like King at all, but were clearly from a different, much more eloquent and thoughtful, time and place? And weren't any of the librarians at the Library of Congress asked to check those quotations? Or did someone know, but was afraid to say the obvious -- talk about Speaking Truth to Power -- to Barack Obama, about King's history of plagiarism, in ways large and small?
Then there were those who were in charge of creating this special rug, a rug that will now live in comical infamy and all visitors to the President's room will see the quote attributed to Martin Luther King, which all educated people -- just how many of those are left, do you think, under the New Dispensation? -- know to be by Theodore Parker. No one on that staff thought to check those quotations. No checking at all. No knowledge at all?
I admire Stiehm for his puncturing so beautifully one big balloon -- there are so many -- of complacent ignorance. And he ends with another quote woven into that rug: Lincoln's "of the people, by the people, for the people" and reminds us -- something not everyone knows -- that it originates in a phrase from....Theodore Parker. He ended with that, and so the discussion of what that borrowing means to us is left to us to decide, without Stiehm's own commentary.
Is he implying that King was just another Lincoln, when he borrowed, like the great logsplitter from Illinois, from Theodore Parker? Because that would not be true. Lincoln always maintained that Theodore Parker was of all men the one who had had the single greatest influence on him. Parker's original phrase was scarcely ten years old, and Theodore Parker was one of the half-dozen most famous men in America at the time. There was no attempt by Lincoln to hide anything. And note, too, that Lincoln changed the phrase by removing the three "alls" which slowed the thing down, and so, not only quickened into more vivid life the stately cadence of Parker's three syntactically-identical cola, but in changing -- as the brilliant writer, that is self-editor, that Lincoln was, would -- an already-beautiful phrase of Parker's by his, Lincoln's, great power to add or subtract, elevated it to an O Altitudo! of rhetorical immortality.