CNN wants you to know that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t just about all that “I have a dream” stuff. “He’s an environmental hero,” CNN writes via Twitter. He was a socialist before it was cool.”
(Oh, socialism is “cool,” is it, CNN?)
King had a lot of batty ideas and a few truly dumb ones, and he did indeed flirt with the idea of democratic socialism toward the end of his life. But he was right about the thing we remember him for, and that was important.
Using King’s moral stature to promote socialism or global-warming legislation in 2018 is morally and intellectually dishonest, as its the adoption of King as a charismatic mascot for all things leftish. (One wonders what the Christian minister would have thought about the modern Democratic party, particularly its attitudes toward abortion and homosexuality.) King belongs in a category with Mohandas Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson, men who were giants on the issue most closely associated with them but who also had some pretty bad ideas, including destructive political ideas, and each man of course fell short of the glory in the usual human ways.
No one knows what King would have thought about the Paris climate agreement or publicly funded abortions. And even if we did know, there would be no reason to treat his preferences as dispositive, inasmuch as he was wrong about a great number of important things during his own life.
One may admire Gandhi without sharing his reverence for cattle, and one need not take the Mammoth Cheese along with one’s Jefferson. And one may admire the best of King without admiring blindly.