Monday, January 20, 2003

It's MLK day: The Martin Luther King day of service. Soon, my son and I will go out to volunteer. My husband and daughter have been out since 7:30 am (given their traditional orientation to early morning commitments, this is truly a statement!). I know a lot of people are at work--mostly people who have a choice in the matter. I think they (at least the ones I know) believe it's a testament to their superior work ethic. Other, lazier, people are taking off, but these conscientious souls have their noses to the grindstone.

Well I beg to differ. They might think they are being virtuous, but in my 'world', they are being insulting. More than most national holidays (with the exception of Labor Day and Memorial Day) Martin Luther King's birthday has real meaning to real people now. (This is not to say that George Washington was not a laudable person or that he didn't do important things. I just doubt that most people feel a close personal connection to him based on the direct impact he had on their lives.).

I really don't care whether people go out and volunteer, or whether they sit at home enjoying a day off. I just want us all to take the day seriously, and to say a quiet "thank you" to King. He gave his life to a cause that matters to all of us--whether we know it or not. He and all members of the Civil Rights movement, whether tragically martyred or alive and thriving, demanded that our country behave in a manner consistent with its public statements.

I was just a little kid, but I feel thankful for their sacrifices every single day. I do want to live in a world where people are judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," where there is equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal access for all. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights matter. Now more than ever, it's clear that we need to fight for them, defend them, and demand that those in power adhere to them. Words matter, but actions speak louder.

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