“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
What is it about folks who try to appeal to our better natures that so sticks in people’s craw? I mean let’s face it, all Jesus wanted was for people to be nice to one another and he got nailed to a post and two-by-four and strung up for the world to spit at while he croaked. How mad do you have to be at a guy to do that? And of Jesus’ whole crew, John was the only one not to have been killed by angry mobs.
Mahatma Gandhi wanted people to calm down, play fair, and basically stop killing and treating each other like animals, so obviously he needed to be shot. And here in our own country we continue the grand tradition by popping a cap in a guy who thought it’d be awesome if everyone waited until they got to know a guy before they hated him, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Now like Jesus and Gandhi, (in India) MLK has a national holiday on his birthday. Unlike Jesus and Gandhi, MLK often goes by his initials, which is way cooler.
Not that it was easy to get MLK’s birthday celebrated nationally. It took 15 years for Congress to finally approve it, and 32 for the final hold-out state to give it’s grudging nod. (It was Utah. Go figure!) South Carolina and a few other southern states responded to Congress’ passing of MLK Day with the creation of their own confederate holidays, such as Kentucky’s “Confederate Heroes Day,” which by some small coincidence, happens to appear on the exact same day as MLK Day! (State motto: Never pass up an opportunity to be a bigot!)
All types of arguments were passed back and forth in an attempt to keep MLKD from becoming a reality. It’s too close to Christmas, the nation can’t afford it, or even that MLK didn’t deserve his own holiday. For this last I point you to Christopher Columbus Day. Columbus, that wild-eyed genocidal slaughterer of over a million native Caribbean Tainto peoples — representing the entirety of their population — who not only never discovered America, but didn’t even not discover it first, who was such a fantastic navigator he thought that the Caribbean islands were India fer chrissakes, and who marketed, popularized, and co-founded the transatlantic slave trade — to this guy we give a holiday.
(Sen. Jesse Helms tried the assertion that King was a communist. Really, North Carolina, you let this guy speak for you?)
In the end it was football, not the philosophy of peace, that allowed MLKD to come to America. Four days after MLK’s murder, Congressman John Conyers first introduced legislation attempting to create a national holiday of King’s birthday. Every year after that, for the next fifteen years, he and Rep. Shirley Chisholm reintroduced the bill only to see it defeated year after year. There was considerable public support for the holiday, but since most of congress didn’t want to be noticed not taking an opportunity to be a bigot, they tried really hard not to pay any attention to the crowds in the streets and the clamoring Civil Rights movement who were looking to see one of their own given the place they felt was his due.
Congress had defaulted to the “too close to Christmas” position, which turned out to be their downfall, when Rep. Katie Hall forwarded the notion that MLKD be moved from King’s actual birthday on the 15th, to the third Monday of January. Now some observers might note that this doesn’t seem to be much of a shift, (from 0-6 days) but it is significant in that it not only creates a three-day weekend, but also would give people off the Monday after Superbowl Sunday most years. This struck everyone as a winning combo, and the deal was made law.
Personally, I think celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a terrific idea, but I don’t believe it should stop there. I am declaring my birthday (September 12, mark it on your calendars!) to be a world-wide holiday, to be observed with flamboyant works of art, dancing in the streets, eating the highly symbolic pickled watermelon, drinking domestic microbrews, (support your local brewers!) and having sex with strangers if you’re single, or talking in a foreign accent while having sex with your spouse if you’re married. George Kevin Pettway Day (or GKPD to those cool enough to pull off speaking in initials) is all about meeting and enjoying new people with different perspectives and experiences, as well as exhibiting a sense of well-being and hospitality. The pickled watermelon is just kinda funny.
I would start planning for the first GKPD now, after all this kind of event requires considerable pomp and pageantry, but now that I’ve suggested that people be nice to one another, I’ll likely be killed before that happens. I’m not that worried though, there are considerable trade-offs to sacrificing your life for your vision of a happier world.
Maybe they’ll name a bowl-game after me.
(Author’s note: If you’re trying to get in touch with me Tuesday the 16th, don’t bother. Burning Crusade, the expansion to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft comes out that day. Unless you’re carrying a sword or have shoulder pads higher than the top of your head, I don’t want to see you. Viva la WoW!)