At one time in my life I was a huge opponent to a holiday honoring Dr. King. I had several reasons that sounded good to me at the time.
- We have enough holidays
- Dr. King wasn't worthy of a holiday
- Government has better things to do
- Teachers just wanted another day off
I was driven by a rationale that stemmed from my father to a degree. My dad had many strengths and weaknesses but among his worst demons was irrational bigotry. By irrational I mean that his bigotry was random and inconsistent. Personally, I don't think he tried to be bigoted or evenhanded. He talked like he didn't like black people but had black friends to whom he was devoted to deeply. I don't get it today, and I doubt I ever will.
I remember reading about how Dr. King had ties to the Communist party and how he was loose with women. I heard from others in my community about how he hid behind his status as a clergyman to stir up the masses and cause chaos. This was not what I believed necessarily but was enough evidence for me to be against any effort to honor him.
Years later I listened to some speeches by Dr. King. I listened to many that preceded his famous 'I have a dream' speech and listened to the formation of the many great pieces that finally ended up in his signature speech. I listened to his call for non-violence and his unwillingness to put up with the injustice that had been going on in the country for so long. I heard in his voice that he didn't hate white people, but hated inequality. When I heard Dr. King with my ears, my heart heard Thomas Jefferson.
The promissory note analogy from his speech rang true for me. He knew that the age of freedom was young and new. He knew that true equality had yet to be reached but was within reach in this great experiment of a free society. I always heard more hope in his voice than I did bitterness. For some reason though I heard more bitterness in my dad and in the empty logic I used to deny his life's work a day to be honored.
I don't care anymore if MLK was a communist or if he did fool around on the side. He may very well have had several failings and personal demons, but the message of equality is larger than the people who proclaim it. I'm glad that we have a day to honor a man that used non-violent civil disobedience to bring about change.
Plus, it gives me a day off near my own birthday. Cool.