In August of 2007, The Washington Post reported that a Chinese man named Lei Yixin would be the man to head the sculpting of the near 30 ft. statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. that would be placed along Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin. Yixin, a man who has also carved statues of Mao Zedong, would be the chief sculptor of what was to be called, “Stone of Hope.”
By April of 2008, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts had objections to the statue’s appearance. In a letter, commission secretary Thomas Luebke identified the proposed finished product as too “confrontational” and consisted of a “Social Realist style” unbecoming of the statue’s namesake. It is not clear exactly what changes were actually made, and the statue now sits in Baltimore, awaiting construction.
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The perplexing decision to award the project to a Chinese sculptor is made more so by Yixin’s own words. He is on record as saying that Mao “isn’t as bad as some people think.” The fact that the 20th century’s most murderous dictator can be viewed in such a way notwithstanding, the explanation for the selection of Yixin can be found by following the money. The Washington Post reported at the time that a former adviser to the Memorial Foundation believed Yixin was chosen in the hopes of getting $25 million from the Chinese government to help fund the project.
It is certainly not a leap to say that if the Chinese government contributed such a massive sum to the memorial, it would want something more in return than just one of its own carving the granite. Could that something be the symbolism of merging the legacies of Mao and MLK? The American civil rights leader’s legacy is unassailable in the United States; it is beyond taboo. Are the Chinese attempting to raise their murderous leader to the same level of respect as MLK? Are they attempting to make criticism of Mao, or Chinese communism, taboo by enjoining the two legacies in a 30 ft. statue in our nation’s capital?
Such a notion is not unprecedented. Mao himself exploited MLK’s work for his own ends in a statement issued in the days after King’s assassination in 1968. In part, Mao said:
Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation.
The Chinese leader was using Martin Luther King as a tool of war in order to weaken the United States domestically and, by extension, in Vietnam. It was a symbolic gesture with the objective of furthering an agenda. This statue is symbolic and furthers an agenda, as well.
Enter the Ground Zero mosque. It too is about symbolism, and its proponents have nefarious objectives. As Mao exploited King then, so too is the Islamic world exploiting the first amendment of our Constitution now. Shari’a law and the U.S. Constitution are incompatible. So are Maoism and civil rights.