Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and I’m on the train heading into the city to work. My girlfriend has today off. She works for Westchester County. I work for a small private company. Typically public employees have it off while private employees do not. It’s a real disconnect as to who we are as a people where we come from and where we’re going.
Maybe this a “floating” holiday for her, like Veterans Day now is. I don’t know how you “float” celebration of MLK or Veterans or what they did for us. A holiday is just that, to acknowledge on a national level some part of our history and what makes us who we are. But now national pride is a choice. Our heritage and history also seems to be a choice, depending upon your beliefs and who you work for. As a kid I used to get Veteran’s Day off. Not anymore. Now we lump all soldiers living and dead into Memorial Day.
I went to a funeral yesterday of a woman from my neighborhood. She just so happened to be black. There must’ve been 300 or more people there. She never would have believed it. Most of the folks at the services were black or in politically correct terms, African-American.
I wonder how African-American people coming up from slavery through history, discrimination, physical abuses, to making less pay, how they feel about going to work on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday?
It does us a great disservice as a nation to marginalize his importance and other great black leaders, and the civil rights period. The leaders who formed this nation were rebels themselves, challenging often through bloodshed and sacrifice, to challenge the old ways and forge new ones. I’m certain that deserves a day of respect and acknowledgement.
This disconnect is indicative of a larger issue as we honor our past and present less and less with fewer holidays as all powerful business and political interests erode our pride and how we got here. This is 2012, the future, yet we are reverting back to factions that are eroding our social threads.
I don’t understand why people get to choose what holidays we celebrate. Like with the labor movement struggling for equality and a fair wage thus creating the middle class and subsequently Labor Day was born. I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. is deserving of a full holiday, and not only for public workers. Although I work in the private sector, I am still part of the public.
And just like back then when many believed in segregation, keeping blacks and whites separate in schools, at water fountains, and sections of town, there was division in this country, but our leaders had to make the difficult decision, in fact they were forced to because of the glaring inequalities the civil rights movement and Dr. King exposed, to choose between right from wrong.
So the public sector is doing the right thing to acknowledge the struggle that lifted us all out of a systemic bigotry that divided us as a people. Has business now become the new divider, becoming more important than our nation, our vision and the humanity that once united us?
We used to have pride in our heritage and heroes and he is certainly one of mine. There is anger now at civil service workers, resentment because of their “benefits”. Many of us resent them because we have allowed private entities to erode our grander national point of view. MLK deserves his holiday as do the veterans, the living ones, not to only get lumped with the ones we memorialize.