When I first heard that the Washington Mall was going to get a memorial to
Dr. Martin Luther King, the first such memorial to a person other than a former president, I was very much in favor. I once heard him speak in person, and admired greatly what he did for this nation, more than all but a few presidents have done.
I have tried to like the monument. I have drawn comparisons between it and Stone Mountain, which is a signature feature near his home of Atlanta. I have commented to myself on the overall openness of the design. But the statue of him is, frankly, horrible. It barely looks like him and the pose, with his arms folded across his body, is completely untypical of him. He stands, in that statue, glaring downward, looking like nothing so much as some sort of angry dictator.
Dr. King was a man who always had his arms outward, reaching to enfold the spirits of the people with whom he spoke. Anger at injustice was part of his message, but it was a noble and righteous anger leveraging change to something better, not the surly resentment that seems to be reflected by the artist of that memorial. Dr. King’s memory deserves a memorial at this nation’s center. It deserves better than this.