Monday, January 15, 2007

King holiday

I spent the night at my new house, and spent much of the day taking down the Christmas decorations and putting up Valentine's Day decorations, all in the spirit of making the house look lived-in. Not exactly the way I think one should spend a holiday dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr..

I think, given a choice of days, Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have selected his birthday as the day for a holiday. First of all, it comes hard on the heels of the Christmas/New Year holidays, and most people have only put in one partial week and one full week of work by the time his birthday observation rolls around, so many people may be a bit holidayed out. Secondly, it falls in the middle of the most miserable time of the year, a time when Winter has started to wear out its welcome - not exactly ideal conditions for encouraging people who are not already actively socially conscious to suddenly become actively socially conscious. (This year things are a little different, and people are starting to wonder if Winter will ever actually show up.)

Birthdays are accidental holidays. Until recently there was very little control over when exactly a baby might be born. (Last June there were stories of deliveries being accelerated or delayed to avoid having babies born on 6/6/06, a birthdate which might haunt them for the rest of their lives due to quasi-religious superstitious stupidity.) I am sure there are many other events throughout MLK's life that suggest much more appropriate dates for a holiday commemorating his life - one that springs to mind is August 28, the anniversary of his "I have a dream" speech. (The nearness to Labor Day argues against this date, of course.)

I first learned about Dr. King when I was a little kid. A book about his life and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's was one of the selections automatically sent as part of a book club my parents had subscribed to for me and my brother and sister. Nanticoke at the time had even fewer black people then ("black" was the accepted self-identifier used when I was growing up; "colored" and "Negro" had tumbled into the past, though they live on in the names of the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund, and "African-American" was still a few years in the future) than it does now. I was fascinated by this man from a world so different from mine, who stood up for oppressed people in the face of overwhelming opposition, who died because of his beliefs and his willingness to act. I admired his courage and his spirit.

I heard a recording of a sermon given by Dr. King once. It was stirring, breathtaking. The topic wasn't Civil Rights or anything you're used to hearing in documentaries or news clips. It was a sermon dwelling on the meaning of the day's Gospel reading. Yet he imbued it with such spirit, such passion, it made me think Damn, our priest sure as hell could learn a few things from this guy. If all you've heard of Dr. King are snippets of the "I Have a Dream" speech, there's a lot you haven't heard. It's worth seeking out.

And I spent his holiday taking down Christmas decorations and putting up Valentine's Day decorations. Sorry, Dr. King. I'll see what I can do over the next 364 days.

1 comment:

dee said...

Years ago I finally got to Atlanta and the King Memorial. It does need some TLC, but the best part of the visit was sitting in the pews of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church. They play recordings of Dr. King's sermons, and if you close your eyes it's easy to imagine the church filled and him in the pulpit again.