Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Not My Kind of Holiday

Monday, January 16, 2012. MLK Day. I was talking with a friend outside the mailroom of the manufactured home park where I live.

A man drove up, climbed out of his SUV and trudged, head down, toward the mailroom door.

“No mail today,” my friend and I said in unison.

“Oh?” He turned toward us.

“It’s a holiday,” I chirped.

He scowled, and turned back to his car. “Not my kind of holiday,” he muttered as he got behind the wheel.

I’ve learned to let that kind of comment pass. I don’t really want to know what he meant. Instead, I counted all the reasons Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is my kind of holiday.

King could never have been elected to the US Presidency when he was alive. But his accomplishments exceed those of most presidents. FDR may be the exception, but he had more than twelve years in office. And for FDR, with the depression and WWII, the country was united in a way it hasn’t been since.

Many believe King’s Freedom Marches divided us. I believe they opened the door to unite us in a special way. Not black with black and white with white, but black with white and all colors in between.

As articles in the paper noted, King was a fierce critic of America—and it’s most ardent believer. He sought economic justice for all, not just for blacks. He opposed the war in Vietnam not only because of the disproportionate number of blacks drafted to fight it, but also because wars “draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

Ah. Wasn’t he eloquent? And human. He smoked, but didn’t we all, back then? He drank and swore. He did all the things a man can do.

And his words moved millions. He led millions in simple-but-not-easy acts of non-violence.

Tears trickle down my cheeks when I watch films of the marches, listen to recordings of his speeches. I remember. I watched as they marched. I listened as he spoke. I cringed at the violence used against them.

My heart spills over with gratitude that the world is a better place because of him. And I sigh, knowing how far we have yet to go.

So what could I say to the man who grumbled about the holiday?

“Peace, brother.”

Because, as Dr. King said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice and brotherhood.”

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