Monday, January 16, 2012
A lot of work went into creating this day. There were years of grassroots support and political pressure before this holiday was reluctantly signed into law by a Republican president named Ronald Reagan in 1983. Some people still agonized over celebrating the life of an African American. It's easy to dismiss them. You don't live with them, don't fraternize with them... you probably work with them. So any stupid comments you hear slide off your back like water.
You figure these people are dumb, backward and willfully ignorant so fuck'em. As long as they don't make the laws you live by, they can talk shit all they want... but, wait. Politicians who think like them do make the laws you live by. There are people in Congress right now who didn't vote for the MLK holiday* and these people are still in Congress deciding domestic policy. No wonder the country is advancing so slowly.
This is not a hint that merely changing personnel in Congress will make MLK's dream of America come true. Barak Obama is a perfect example of that. Dr. King advocated for a change of values. Mr. Obama is a testament to the opportunity in America, but he supports the same values that is destroying this country: militarism, obscene consumption, and fierce individualism at the expense of the public's welfare.
The change in values starts with us and our families. Teach your kids, brothers and sister not to hate other people, not to think that war solves problems. You have to start with you. I have to start with me. We Us I have to change our values or like Dr. King said in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, we'll be protesting forever.
Music is My Mistress, a book about Duke Ellington, he recalls his father advice "Be like a duck. On top you float along, but below you're paddling for all your worth.." We should agitate for change like that. Be smooth on the surface, but offline, aggressively educating ourselves, collaborating with others to make this country live up to the meaning of its creed. America is a thing of beauty at times, but it takes a lot of effort to get us there.
*Roll call for MLK holiday in 1979 http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=h1979-624
Photo: duck in pool near Natural Sculpture Garden in DC taken w/ iPhone 3Gs (Hipstamatic, John S lens)