When I was growing up, I was taught that America had no king. That no man had the right to rule without the consent of those he ruled, and that our ancestors fought for those rights. Here, we governed ourselves and you rose and fell on your own merit as an individual.
As part of my national catechism, I was taught Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc. But there was one figure that seemed to loom larger every year: Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the eschatological fulfillment of American history, the one who brought the Founders’ “promise” to every American. We were taught King’s words like a mantra:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I was taught that race was just skin deep. That Dr. King’s (alleged) dream was the true realization of my country. Then I grew up.
King’s “dream” as taught to me was, of course, a lie. The man himself was nothing more than a hustler with an ear to the KGB, and a weakness for women. His dream was self-serving, but the man as symbol lives on.
Born Michael King, his name later changed to the more theatric “Martin Luther” King, he serves as an avatar of post-WWII America, the “God of White Dispossession” as Richard puts it. Michael King the man, is dead. Martin Luther King the myth, lives on.
The narrative I was taught is the one embraced by oh so many earnest Dockers-wearing young Republicans today (and their oh so fashionable elders). MLK was a Republican! I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. He was an “integrationist” who was for all Americans, as PJMedia (or should that be PJBoyMedia?) dutifully informs me. The Heritage Foundation waxes rhapsodically about King's committment to self-improvement (despite advocating for such things as racial quotas and federal make-work jobs for blacks).
Then there's Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, here to tell us how MLK was a pro-life champion (he wasn't) and how he was some sort of proto-Reagan, or whatever (full disclosure: I stopped after the first paragraph).
Like everything else they do, Conservatism, Inc. is twenty years behind. As Gregory Hood put it:
Leftists no longer need the pro-American composite character of “King” that was required to sneak him into the American pantheon. They no longer have to deny his Communist affiliations. They no longer bother pretending that King was about equality.
The post-Civil War consensus that gave white America space for Lee-Jackson day and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday died on her streets in the late 60s. From this, the new King of America emerged. Today, he watches over the nation’s capital in stone as the multitudes make their dutiful Hajj.
But the boomer bromides about a post-racial America are growing stale. The only place left that “doesn’t see race” can be found among the lame alphabet soup organizations of “Conservatism, Inc.” (Let us know how that right side of history looks! South Africa sends its regards.)
Everywhere else in America is becoming more tribal. It is embracing identity politics.
America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been a nation in transition. From the reigning world hegemon that strode the world like a colossus to a competing patchwork of groups all vying for the spoils of the Hollow Empire.
As for us, we have dreams too. We’ve put aside the childish notions of the generations that came before us. We’ve started to re-discover who we are. We must seize the mantle of identity before it’s too late.
Let them have their King.
As for the rest of us, we have a dream.