Martin Luther King’s birthday is upon us. Oscar nominations for best picture include Selma. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King joining other courageous civil rights leaders as they began a series of protest marches from Selma to Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery.
Their goal was to focus attention on the segregationist South denying Blacks the right to vote.
Back in 1965, there were no guarantees of success when these plans were being developed. There was no internet, camera phone, twitter or even a single 24 hour news network available to help them “get the story out”.
What did get the story out was reporters following the old axiom, “if it bleeds it leads”.
Pictures of bloody confrontations between unarmed marchers and state police, along with the murder of Boston minister, James Reeb, caused a national outcry.
America’s mood turned sharply against Democrat, Alabama Governor, George Wallace, and later that year Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.
The iconic photograph of leaders from different races, creeds and walks of life locking arms while leading the third, final, and successful march from Selma to Montgomery shares a similarity to recent photos taken of world leaders marching in Paris.
In a broad sense the underlying, motivating circumstances driving the two events, half a century apart, are not altogether different.
Cascading outrage, fueled by images of senseless violence and death, drove prime ministers, presidents, et al from over 40 nations to visually recreate a Selma type moment.
Missing from the list of powerful dignitaries was Barack Obama.
Also missing has been any consistent, serious, plausible explanation of why he was absent.
Direct questions as to his whereabouts and what he was doing on that historic Sunday remain unanswered. Kinda like a Benghazi flashback.
Given Obama’s lack of transparency regarding the Paris March we’re left to draw our own conclusions.
Knowing the prez is a big sports fan, and the NFL had crucial playoff games scheduled throughout that weekend, it’s pretty safe to assume, given golf was a frigid weather no go, our Commander in Chief found a comfy spot in front of a mega screen TV…. and watched him some football.
Maybe Barack found it more convenient to convince himself the world leader’s march against terrorism was just symbolism.
After all, there are plenty of examples of symbolic gestures (# Bring back our girls) that helped a crisis not at all.
As we write this, however, some actions are already being taken by nations not normally expected to show muscle. France sent a carrier to the Middle East and added to their air strikes against ISIS. Belgium disrupted a jihadist, terrorist plot, killed two of the plotters, and arrested plenty more.
Looking back 50 years we can bet there were plenty of skeptics who gave the Selma Marches no chance of having any genuine positive impact on African American voting rights.
So who can be certain the Paris March will be a swing and miss against terrorism?
If it actually proves to be a benchmark event in the War on Terror, President Obama will be remembered for having blown it off.
We’re left to guess that missing the playoffs and flying the Atlantic, only to be one of 40 in a personally unrewarding photo op, fell well short of meeting Barack’s sometimes, seemingly childlike, narcissistic needs.
Nobody can blame him for missing Selma. He was 3 years old and living in Hawaii. But Paris? Mr. Obama is 53. Childish excuses just don’t work for the “leader of the free world”.