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Find your way home, Reverend Jackson

By Michael Moriarty
web posted April 25, 2005

The similarities between the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. are incredible. They draw you in like a murder mystery. The same question must be asked about both deaths: where was their security detachment?

In the Line of Fire, a 1993 movie starring Clint Eastwood, is about one security agent's personal agony over the avoidable death of a U.S. President. I predict that this film will eventually be followed by very specific biopics revealing the connections between Dr. King's public prediction of his coming death and the actual murder that followed not long afterward. How did Dr. King suddenly sense his fate with such clarity? And, after having heard his concerns, why weren't his protectors more alert?

Everyone knew that Dr. King turned the necks of the South from racist red to vermilion rage; and it was general knowledge that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had sounded off about Communist connections within the King entourage. Who actually paid James Earl Ray to make the hit? This will likely never be known.

The back balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, which I have driven by in the same way tourists in Dallas view the Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald hid, seems an odd place for an impromptu appearance. However, when you consider that Malcolm X was gunned down in a formal setting, it just shows that the enemy will, with persistence, find a way.

Both victims had begun to disappoint their more left-leaning followers. At least, in the case of the civil rights leader, recently disclosed files of the Soviet KGB reveal a growing disenchantment with Dr. King's statements on a number of issues. I have no doubt that this dissatisfaction was expressed to Dr. King at one point. Perhaps it was then that the great civil rights crusader knew his days were numbered.

In the midst of all this was Dr. King's closest disciple, Rev. Jesse Jackson. With Dr. King's blood on his shirt and justifiable rage in his eyes, he swiftly assumed the leadership of the civil rights movement. Rev. Jackson looked for help in white America and eventually resigned himself to having Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton assist him. Rev. Jackson was not initially a big fan of Clinton, but became a staunch supporter once he was elected U.S. President. At the tawdry end of the Clinton administration, Rev. Jackson had to pick up where he left off.

Jesse JacksonSo where is he now? Since Clinton left office in 2000, things seemed to roll forward and a bit downward for Rev. Jackson until the Terry Schiavo nightmare. Although a pro-choice advocate during his earlier campaign for the presidency, Rev. Jackson took a public stance in sympathy with Terry Schiavo's parents. He said publicly that the Supreme Court's treatment of Ms. Schiavo was inhumane. I hold a similar opinion and said so in my recent ESR editorial The Heart of Terry Schiavo. Needless to say, I was quite surprised by Rev. Jackson's point of view. In light of his pro-choice position and his Rainbow Coalition's aggressive campaign to institute affirmative action, I thought there was little left of Dr. King in Rev. Jackson.

Dr. King was a lifelong opponent of wholesale abortion. He made it clear that once everyone is in the same starting gate because of his fight for equal opportunity, the race would depend, not upon the color of one's skin or even the name of one's political party, but upon the content of one's character. His message was sent to the entire American Rainbow Family, not Coalition. How can one even know one's own character if the race ahead of you has been fixed in your favor?

I'm not sure how Rev. Jackson would deal with that contradiction. Most of what has arisen from the handlers of Dr. King's Estate bewilders everyone, black and white. I'm not sure if Rev. Jackson has any say in how Dr. King's legacy and image are being handled.

So, in light of the Terry Schiavo national ordeal, where does Rev. Jackson stand in relation to his former mentor? On either side of the Rainbow Coalition leader stand two forces for liberal change: Clinton's increasing power as an internationalist and progressive leader for, as he calls it, a Third Way; and Illinois Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and his steadily growing Harvard black alumni now teaching at the University of Chicago. With Clinton's health failing, an internationalist, progressive, liberal backup must be found and no one is more qualified to perform that task than Sen. Obama. He was the youngest editor in the history of the Harvard Law Review and easily defeated Alan Keyes' campaign for the Senate and that Christian's heroic efforts to oppose the Roe v. Wade decision. Maintaining the rules of separation of Church and State, Sen. Obama rendered Keyes' moral stance utterly irrelevant. As far as I know, Rev. Jackson voiced no strong opinion of either candidate.

So with Clinton worried about heart problems and Sen. Obama building his own black Politburo in Chi-town, Rev. Jackson seems to be a bit out of the loop. Therefore, his reemergence during the Schiavo controversy means he's either planning another run for the Presidency in 2008 or is sincerely upset over the court's decision. Or both.

I'm not against a change of opinion in the world of politics. My hero, Sir Winston Churchill, joked about "ratting" from Conservative to Liberal and then "re-ratting" back to Conservative. To put it simply, though, I'd like to see Rev. Jackson return to Dr. King's original beliefs and not carry on with the King Estate's "improvements" to that American prophet's stated positions.

In other words, as Dr. King might have said, "Come home, son. Come on home."

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who has appeared in the landmark television series Law and Order, the mini-series Taken, the TV-movie The 4400 and Hitler Meets Christ, a surreal tragicomedy based on the actor's controversial New York stage play.


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