Monday, January 18, 2010

More than just another day off

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
There are basically three types of people when it comes to this holiday. For many, it is an event synonymous with civil rights — a celebration of human dignity and its triumph over ignorance and oppression.
For others, it is a farce — the honoring of a hooligan who deserves little if any accolade.
And for some, it simply means no mail or missed school — la dee dah de dum.
I personally fall into category A. I can do little to persuade those in category B. Like sediment, their concepts and worldview have been compressed through the weight of experience until, brittle and hard, all flexibility has fled.
And so I look to save category C — the apathetic. Not only do these sprawling masses fail to realize the significance of MLK Day, they don’t care. An uphill battle, you say? Perhaps.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, the son and grandson of preachers. His world was one of Jim Crow laws. Functions as simple as getting a drink or using the bathroom became elaborate social rituals. Basic rights were denied. Not just education, employment, property ownership and the right to vote. But simple human dignity — the core of which is framed as self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence — that all men are created equal and endowed by God with certain unchangeable rights: to live without fear or persecution, to be free equally under the law and to strive to be happy. The Declaration further states that when Government fails to protect these rights, the People should not be silent.
Martin became the people’s voice. His eloquence captured their fear and anger and frustration — and became an outlet for their rage and impotence.
“Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them,” King wrote.
King’s thoughts and views are vital, not only to the struggling and frustrated black youth of today, but to everyone who values freedom. King reminds us of our obligations as Americans: that injustice has no place here and that if we are brave and persevere, it will never gain hold.
So we honor him, and his efforts and his voice. And we remember that he was not alone.
“Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who,” King wrote in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize. “Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live — men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization — because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.”
We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a victory of humanity. Because we do have a finer land. And we are a better people.