Time and tested words of wisdom offer succor during the passage of harsh times, trial and tribulation, none more so than those of Martin Luther King. The present day hardships of armed conflict, decisiveness, and grinding hunger and poverty are arguably as omnipresent as they were during his day.
Most tellingly, the continuation of such turmoil all but ensures that his message will resonate into the foreseeable future. And yet, curiously, the aura of his words and the power of his influence have become appropriated by factions that seem opposition to the very tenets he espoused.
Frankly, this is not a new phenomenon. One of the most complex chief executives, our 37th President Richard M. Nixon, had an amicable relationship with King and initially supported civil rights during the Cold War. He was smart enough to recognize how racial discord could be a formidable weapon for the Russians and their allies in undermining the United States domestically.
Denied the Presidency in 1960, as the Rev. Art Cribbs notes, Nixon blazed a path towards his elusive goal by devising and implementing the now famous “Southern Strategy,” to lure Southern Whites into the Republican fold.
Today, Cribbs lays the collapse of the middle class and the expansion of homelessness at our 40th president, Ronald Reagan’s feet. Well before he entered the White House, he dismantled California’s mental health system, igniting the expansion of the Prison Industrial System, in clear opposition to the Christian tenets his evangelical followers presume to uphold.
In sharp contrast to this master manipulator of the collective psyche, our 39th president, Jimmy Carter, had a mixed record as a politician (serving just a single term), but maintained his beliefs in Christianity regardless of the ramifications.