Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ali's Planned Beatification

It isn’t often, if ever, that one is treated to a three- or four-hour funeral (perhaps based on when it began and ended) and it’s hard to imagine that anyone would contrive to plan such a thing. It happened in Louisville, Ky., on 09-10 June. Yes, his entire last rites, according to the plan conceived by Muhammad Ali for his own final gratification or celebration of life or whatever the last rites are called these days took two days, the first in obeisance to Allah, Ali’s god, and the second to treat Louisville to virtually a whole day of funeralizing [sic].

The second day began with a grand motorcade procession started in late morning and using about three or so hours of tying up Louisville streets for a 19-mile trip to the funeral site (about 6 mph), the Yum Center downtown, where the University of Louisville plays its basketball games. The funeral, no matter how it was conceived, lasted for hours and was a combination of Islamic incantation, eloquent preaching, comedy, solemnity, and political speeches, everything from comedian Billy Crystal to a frantic, raging rabbi in a strange garb to Buddhist music-intoning to former president Clinton, who sort of delivered the final dissertation, with only a shadow of his once speech-strength and hopefully without pay.

Since the actual mileage noted elsewhere indicated 23 miles for the motorcade, the final four-mile segment was probably from the Yum Center to the cemetery, so the entire affair was one long experience for the attendees. The old rabbi made a caustic, arm-waving political harangue and actually had to be forcefully pulled away from the speaker’s stand by the master of ceremonies, but the tone of the funeral was set early in the affair by Dr. Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Church and president of Simmons College, both located in Louisville, who made it clear that the funeral was all about white racism.

Cosby’s church is affiliated with both domestic and international Baptist institutions so one might have expected more of a bridge than a wall (Crystal’s political swipe at Trump). This seemed unseemly, also, since Ali’s entry into boxing was bankrolled by a group of white businessmen in Louisville; otherwise, he might not have had the opportunity to train and learn his trade. His trainer, Angelo Dundee, was a white guy, so why the “Jesse Jackson” approach, though Ali’s father claimed that the Muslims had taught Ali to hate whites?

Cosby, like Jackson, whether consciously or not, seemed to be proclaiming to young people the Jackson approach, i.e., hate white people and work the system for what it offers for the least amount of effort, like protesting for something or other. Making solemn occasions into racial and political opportunism speaks ill of those who do that, especially those in the field of education. He took the mourners back some 350 years or so to about 1666 to define the time-line of white mistreatment of blacks. That’s about 66 years before George Washington was born and 123 years before the U.S. became a nation.

The most surprising speaker was Attallah Shabazz, a daughter of Malcom X, Ali’s mentor as the boxer converted to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam, headed by Elijah Muhammad, with whom Malcolm X later parted ways account the old man’s dalliance with young girls. Ali refused to leave the sect, turned his back on Malcolm X and even ridiculed him publicly.

Malcolm X was assassinated by three members of the NOI, and one of his other daughters was alleged to have conspired to have Louis Farrakhan, Elijah’s successor via a sort of power-grab, assassinated. Farrakhan attended Ali’s funeral although Ali left the NOI in 1975 when he became a full-fledged Sunni Muslim. The murderous ISIS is the current high-profile Sunni branch of Islam, perhaps beheading Christians in Iraq (a favorite pastime) while Ali’s funeral was in progress.

The quirkiness of an intolerably long funeral, virtually a day-long affair, designed to beatify oneself is strange enough, but even stranger is the fact that a pallbearer, presumably picked by Ali, was Mike Tyson, infamous for biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear and spitting it out during a bout as well as being an ex-con imprisoned for rape, but Baghdadi el Baghdadi, head of ISIS, might have been amused.

Ali was unmerciful in ridiculing and taunting his opponents (called Frazier a gorilla) and, ironically, used his hands to pummel people into unconsciousness but was virtually deified in Louisville, wherein the first reattachment of a severed hand to its wrist/arm took place by some genius-doctors. That’s how coarse the culture has become.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

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