Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 11:26 AM
On last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, Newsweek’s Jon Meacham recommended – as a must read for this year – the final volume of Taylor Branch’s biographical trilogy of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) entitled At Canaan’s Edge. And, having read his first two volumes (and excerpts from this one), I second that recommendation.
However, I suspect Meacham recommended Branch’s book because of its informative behind-the-scenes account of the political intrigue that beset the Civil Rights Movement (including MLK’s power struggles with upstarts like Jesse Jackson, and warrantless wiretaps [No, Bush was not the first to order spying on American citizens] by the FBI seeking information to undermine his moral authority).
On the other hand, TIME’s editors seem to think that teasing readers with innuendos about MLK’s private life is a more effective way to feature his book … and no doubt to maximize sales of their weekly magazine.
Of course, thanks to former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, we already know as much about MLK’s womanizing as we do about JFK’s. Yet I’m sure that interest in Branch’s fascinating details about the complex and often fractious relationships amongst the leaders of the movement will pale in comparison to interest in the few details he provides about MLK’s relationships with women.
But, since I believe that TIME is exploiting “The Secret Agony” of MLK for patently commercial purposes, I hereby provide a tease that I hope will inflate sales of Branch’s scholarly book whilst deflating interest in TIME’s trashy story:
His womanizing was the source of such agonizing moral conflict that MLK was compelled to confess his most enduring extramarital affair to his wife at “her most vulnerable moment – days after she recovered from a hysterectomy.
There! Awful, isn’t it? And we all thought Newt Gingrich was an unconscionable jerk for trying to discuss divorce terms with his wife whilst she was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery for uterine cancer….
NOTE: The only redeeming feature of TIME’s cover is that – by highlighting this aspect of MLK’s life – it might lead to a cognitive dissonance that disabuses Americans of their naïve and hypocritical regard for marital fidelity. After all, there seems to be such a probative correlation between great leaders and womanizing (think Thomas Jefferson, JFK, Bill Clinton, and even wannabe-great Jesse Jackson) that it behooves us to be more accepting of this “tragic flaw”.