thieves in the temple (or, i can do for you what martin did for the people**)
love come quick.
maybe it's because i remember the way the cake tasted back when my school, martin luther king montessori, celebrated his birthday. or, perhaps it's because i won the martin luther king school essay contest--twice. (only to get beat out for the city title by this biracial kid--and yes, i contend that it was because he was biracial that his symptomatic ass won.) whatever the reason, other than jesus, martin luther king is probably my most favorite figure to write about. it's quite easy, you see, to be blasphemus about things sacred. people want to keep things sacred...maybe because preserving items, figures, etc. in such consecrated capsules doesn't compel one to think about them critically. i find that folks want to hear about mlk's philandering, and other domestic issues about as much as they want to know that part of alex haley's roots was plagiarized. thus, some of my blog's content has shocked a few. yet, i never did any of that stuff just to shock (ok, maybe i did.), but perhaps to goad a few into thinking-- would jesus really do that?
but this isn't about jesus, or my sacriligious tendencies. i'd rather talk about the king holiday.
love come in a hurry.
the question: at what point is an historical figure unequivocally recognized, and implicitly revered by the american people?
i did a little quick math in my head, and i just summed up that jesus is the pretty much the only guy who will get you a guaranteed day off of work. of the 10 or so federal holidays, only three recognize individuals--lincoln and washington et. al. have to share presidents' day. as far as i can remember, i had to go to school on both presidents' and columbus days. therefore, i suggest that when it comes to holiday importance, mlk ranks second only to jesus.
now, i'm too young to remember, but apparently there was a bit of controversy concerning making mlk's birthday a federal holiday. though rep. john conyers advocated the celebration of king's birthday as early as 1968, and jimmy carter supported a king day bill, it wasn't until the mid-1980s that the third monday in january was recognized in honor of king. though he later signed the bill, ronald reagan initially did not support the idea, and jesse helms did his best to oppose the decree by questioning whether or not king was important enough to have a holiday, and alleging that mlk was a communist. it wasn't until 2000 that all 50 states recognized the holiday; and last year, the final hold out--greenville county, south carolina-- finally relented and made it a paid holiday.
there are thieves in the temple tonight.
that said, i always had the feeling that mlk day was a sort of red-headed stepchild of federal holidays. initially, i thought that maybe it was out of obligation (white guilt, perhaps?), that we even celebrated. that if one had to choose between pressing snooze, or working that monday, one would still rather clock in at nine than honor the freedom ringer. but it was more than that; that explanation wasn't sufficient for me. my simple math shows that mlk is only second to jesus in the honoring category, so why did i feel that mlk day was being shortchanged? was it the lack of a televised parade? no. one could argue that a drive-by on an urban mlk blvd. was its own form of a parade. besides, minus the floats and high school bands, the third monday in january surely has all of the makings of a holiday: no mail, banks are closed, its own commercial--you know, that mcdonald's one with josephine baker's kids lighting all the candles.
we've already got the no work/no school thing ingrained in our system. and with a three day holiday, sunday night parties in honor of are definitely in order. they're catching on. just the other week, i picked up a couple of fliers for some parties. a dj i really like is spinning not too far from where i live, so i may check it out. lord knows those gospel celebrations and candlelight vigils are a bore, and thus necessitate a little late night boogie--how can i possibly let my shoulder lean to "we shall overcome"? (want to party with a conscience? just give it a title like, "our eyes are on the prize"--in this case the prize is a pair of go go dancers on either flank of the dj booth-- and donate a dollar per head to the united negro college fund or some other poor black kids, and make sure the dj plays stevie wonder's "happy birthday".) yet, we need something else to help the mlk holiday seep more deeply into the abyss of meaninglessness.
what's missing? why, a sale.
a holiday isn't a holiday until you can save 30% on linens. though i've seen one company have a sale, apparently my suggestion in a past blog hasn't caught on. nothing makes a holiday more fully integrated (pun intended) into the american fabric than something that makes people think they're saving money on housewares. and until this happens, until hallmark makes a line of cards, until payless airs b.o.g.o. commercials, until the local pub runs a drink special on alabama slammers, mlk day will just be something the government gave blacks to chew on to distract them from reparations.
previously, i suggested the "i have a dream mattress sale". here's another freebie: la-z-boy and the like should have a sit-in recliner sale. or, burger king could have a breakfast with the king special: free hasbrowns with a coffee purchase, and they'll add the cream for you. get it?
we already know this day no longer means anything to/for us, it's about time we start acting more like it. i saved big on towels, and plan to "walk it out" with some homies tonight. i'm doing my part, what about you?
blame my mother.
**lyrics from my favorite beyonce song, "upgrade u."
language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison