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Jan 22, 2008

King Day Final


If the photo invites a comparison, is Obama more pupil, beneficiary or logical successor?

And because yesterday finished out with the debate (still burning in my ears), I can imagine each camp's caption.  From HRC: "Merely a shadow."  From BHO:  "So, I guess we're missing LBJ."

Update 9:20 am PST:

I guess the question, thinking about it overnight, is whether the photographer, then the editor, found the two worthy of comparison, or felt that Obama should be measured (somehow) in relation to King.  In the latter regard, however, it seems the deck is stacked in Obama's favor....

The fact that Obama "steps up" from King (reading left-to-right, which tends to be interpreted as "going forward") is to his advantage.  More so, however -- and this is probably why I was thinking about Obama as a successor (in spite of their different vocations) -- is because of the line formed by King, Obama, and the man at the far right.  This feature gives the picture the sense of "a line of succession," with Obama "next in line." (Being centered like that emphasizes Barack as the man of the hour ... and the "looking off in the distance" quality doesn't hurt, either. )  If one were to "push that angle further," in fact, one might even say (and I mean this more metaphorically of course, not literally) that "the next man in line" would/could be even blacker.

(Of course, the Obama - King comparison is a force-fit, which serves to weaken Obama's charge against Hillary in the King/LBJ dust up, because vocationally and in terms of his aspirations, Obama probably lines up as much with LBJ.)

Dem candidates address King Day rally (MSNBC)
Moyers On Clinton, Obama, King and Johnson: A Bill Moyers Essay (via
In Memory and Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (TalkLeft)
Obama and Clinton Tangle at Debate (NYT)

(image: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.  State capitol. Columbia, South Carolina. January 21, 2008. via YahooNews)


I'm not sure there's any evidence to identify Obama as a serious student of King.

Obama's overall message content is so amorphous that it's if anything a stark contrast with King's directness. That's ruling out "successor."

So by default I've got to go with "beneficiary."

MLK, though he put his life on the line for political change, was not a politician. BHO is. His challenges and the means and metrics of his success are different from those of Dr King; direct comparison isn't that useful. They share a common goal working from different angles. Dr King's image in that photo is that of inspiration, the muse, speaking to an attentive audience.

This photo tells a lot of story.

Obama is the legacy of King's message and action. No one can match King's passion in this very "cool" age we live in, now. The rhetoric has softened and been glossed over to remove all traces of the "heat" of King and people such as Jesse Jackson. I miss the rhetoric of King and the reactions to it, but I also appreciate the melting of his vision into a stream of steady, and oftimes, slow progress for all Americans, not only African-Americans. In a way, Obama personifies that "melting" with his diverse racial background, his excellent education, and his gentleness of spirit.

I don't doubt that Obama would love to wrap himself in the legacy of Dr. King. But can he? Occasionally he talks like him when giving speeches. But that may be nothing more than familiarity with the patois of the black church. There is an image I have that MLK Jr. was talking up, as if to the mountains and the sky, and by so doing he was attempting to uplift all those who heard him. What he wanted, he wanted for 'his people.' When Obama speaks, he is talking TO the audience and he wants something FROM them......for them to vote for him to be president. So, successor? No. Inheritor? No. Much closer would be beneficiary of MLK, Jr.'s life, teachings and death.

Of course, his son, MLK III, has sent that letter of endorsement to John Edwards as the one person in the running that truly reflects his father's words that injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.

However, this is a great shot which is very good at evoking an emotional reaction on the day that the MLK III letter was released. No wonder the MSM is trying to drown it out. But another look at the picture shows that Dr. King is looking out into the future with his face tilted upward. Obama's face is somewhere between a frown and a smile as he looks out on the audience. Oriented to worldly concerns.

ref : “is _______ more pupil, beneficiary or logical successor?

The FRAME = conceit implicit of this question, indeed ~ the image itself ~ is that the image viewer will recognize "MLK" and "BHO"... subsequently animate each man with a character = attributes that the viewer believes to be true. Interestingly, more women than men tend to see/associate implicit connectedness between people/objects in images, when relationships are not (explicitly) otherwise known. iow, this image conveys an entirely different meaning when shown to a naive viewer, say ~ from another culture than our own; ie., “What would this image evoke when viewed by an illusionless man, woman or child?”

fwiw, i see the face of a man looking resolved, resolute; i see the face of another man, as if a conjured zeitgeist. Without the illusion of legacy, i see no beneficiary: "MLK" does not make him ‘A Man’, any more or less, than God, or he has managed.

What I meant of course was: "...injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Note to self: Don't post when tired.

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