The Corner

MLK Memorial to Stop Being National Mall Punchline

In the summer of 2011 I had to make peace with the fact that there will probably never be a funnier three months of political news for the rest of my life. Funny things happen all the time, of course — Gary Bauer falling off a Bisquick stage comes to mind — but I honestly believe that Weinergate will never be topped. It is the most hilarious thing that will ever happen, ever.

That said, the delightful summer of 2011 still ended on a jocular note when, just two months after Weiner stepped down, Rachel Manteuffel of the Washington Post pointed out that that the just-unveiled Martin Luther King Jr. memorial had a misquotation: It took a line from one of King’s sermons completely out of context, to make him sound like, well, a bit of a prick. The base of the memorial reads “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” while the sermon featuring that comment basically says, King imagined some people would call him that, but his goal was never to be “an attention-craver, a puffed-up drum major,” as Manteuffel put it. So this isn’t just your garden-variety misquotation; it’s incredibly unfair, akin to etching the lyrics of “Dixie” on the Lincoln Memorial or accidentally adding Jefferson Davis’s face to Mount Rushmore.

Oh well, at least that little flub wasn’t etched in stone! Just kidding. So yesterday we learned from the esteemed Interior Department just how this tiny little error  will be rectified. From NBC News:

Workers will scratch off the wording on the east side of the memorial and match the west side with new striations in order to make the look consistent. . . . The plan to remove, instead of replace, the quote was recommended by the original sculptor, Lei Yixin, as the safest way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial was not compromised, the Interior Department said.

In other words, one side of the memorial will lose a quotation, but the other side will gain some cool matching scratches. They could put on an appropriate, accurate quotation, but that might make the whole thing fall over. At least it’s a bargain — the project will cost between $700,000 and $900,000. Unfortunately, the “makeover” (NBC’s word, not mine) won’t fix the oft-noted fact that the good doctor looks like he’s frozen in carbonite.


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