It occurred to me that I was so focused on Moron's inauguration that I didn't properly acknowledge the holiday that celebrates one of the very greatest Americans.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s purpose and message have been sanitized for public consumption, as is the way of things. A kind of feel-good, we're-all-in-this-together spirit of volunteerism defines the current popular image. This is not in the spirit of King's life and work.
King was not just a brilliant orator and an organizer of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. He was a revolutionary. He understood - and acted on - the connections between human rights, poverty, segregation and war. He steadfastly opposed US involvement in Vietnam. He knew that justice must come hand in hand with jobs, and that democracy on paper is not good enough.
King was persecuted by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which went after him with a fervor unrivaled for actual criminal conspirators. And Hoover was able to act with impunity, because he was blackmailing the President. He had so much dirt on Kennedy - including that one of his many girlfriends had turned out to be a Soviet spy - that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was helpless to stop the wiretapping, surveillance and, yes, death threats.
For more about the life and legacy of the great Reverend King, I highly recommend the two massive books known as "the King books": Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize- winning Parting the Waters and Pillar Of Fire. (They are the first two books of a planned trilogy; I eagerly await the third.) They are absolutely fascinating histories of the American civil rights movement, told through the prism of a biography of King.
These books are both epic in scope and rich in the details that make history vibrantly alive. Among its many eye-openers, these books will demolish your image of Kennedy as "the civil rights president", not because the author has an ax to grind against Kennedy, but because he cares about historical accuracy, as opposed to myth.
JFK did everything he could to ignore the entire civil rights movement, since championing it would cost him the precious Southern vote. As civil rights workers were attacked with bombs, shotguns and bullwhips, and an entire population lived in daily terror, the Kennedy Department of Justice turned their backs, interested only in appeasing the white Dixiecrat vote. JFK was dragged kicking and screaming into the civil rights era, and only because he could no longer count on the press to keep a lid on what was boiling over south of the Mason Dixon line.
If you haven't truly imagined what life was like for African-Americans living under Jim Crow, these books are endlessly revealing. You will come away filled with admiration and wonder at the moral (and physical) courage of ordinary citizens challenged to find their greatness against impossible odds.
In addition, I personally came away with disgust that such conditions were allowed to thrive in the United States well into the second half of the 20th Century. King is now hailed as a hero, but let's not forget he was denounced from the floor of the US Senate as the most dangerous man alive.