Tuesday, January 16, 2018

That Was Quick

Most holidays turn into something else. Memorial Day becomes a day for all the dead. Hallowe'en is about costumes, plus candy for children and sex for adults. Not many people think about the Labor Movement on Labor Day. Presidents Day is about buying cars. And don't get me started about Christmas, which has become at least three other holidays. This despite the serious effort of many people to read the correct Bible passages and get people focused on the Incarnation every December, with a four-week warmup.

Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday isn't much about MLK now, any more than bunnies are about Easter. It's not even really about Civil Rights, though that's a bit closer.  There is at least a nod to remembering protestors.

What is it now, and what is it becoming?  I think it is a merger of Black People's Day and Liberals' Day. Conservatives quoting actual words of King are viewed as unworthily touching holy things. From what I hear at work, I have strong suspicions that it means different things to African-Americans of my generation versus the currently rising generation.  But that's a long guess on my part.  Others would know better.

The holiday isn't that old, either.


As my whimsy leads me.. said...

I have thought about this a lot. I wonder why the holiday wasn’t called Civil Rights Day? King was a great man and inspiring leader, but he is presented now almost like Moses, with a supporting role from Rosa Parks. There were so many other important people who had enormous contributions. I’m reading a book about Whitney M. Young, Jr, who has practically been forgotten. Roy Innis went from radical to libertarian, and just died last year. And those were just a couple of Rev. King’s contemporaries.


charlie said...

Trying to understand that era is "like peeling an onion." THere is always another layer underneath, it seems. I was born in the mid-1960s and grew up in the north, btw.

My understanding improved a bit when I read a snappy, sassy obituary of Hosea Williams in the London Economist about 15 years ago. Hosea Williams (who I'd never heard of) was a creatively mal-adjusted loose cannon who helped to mobilize the rabble so that MLK and people like Andrew Young looked fantastic in comparison, even if you were a white southern traditionalist who was comfortable with the status quo.

The writer noted that MLK was wise enough to see what Hosea Williams' role in the civil rights movement should be.

perhaps paywalled.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ charlie - that was always the subtext with Malcom X as well. If you don't deal with MLK and all those nice ministers, then you've got me to deal with.

That was Gandhi's subtext as well. "Nice little peaceful negotiation you've got here. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it."

james said...

Unless the celebration explicitly requires getting together with other people (church celebrations, 4'th of July shindig in a small towns before TV), it is going to end up being celebrated with whatever traditions families surround it with.

Since most of us don't go much to big gatherings for secular holidays (except perhaps New Year's Eve, which is so arbitrary there's not much to do but "party"), we'll tend to celebrate them with generic "day off" family activities. Our wealth of opportunities for private recreation swamps the get-together types of recreation pretty hard. So, maybe a bigger dinner, or a movie, or just hanging out around the electronics. It's a lot easier than getting dudded up and finding parking and listening to speeches.

(MLK day had no resonance in our family. Victory over segregation? We were living in Africa, and my parents were working under the direction of the local African church association!)

If advertisers have any leverage, they'll try to turn holiday XYZ into a buy-fest. Halloween comes to mind--there's still a tradition of trying to make costumes, but why all the orange lights? The folks for whom the purpose of XYZ matters will try to drum up interest, too, but they're another form of advertiser.

I'm told Ascension Day is still a big day off in France, even though nobody goes to church.

Christopher B said...

MLK day was the buyoff in the 1990s so the Dems could still celebrate Jefferson and Jackson on Presidents Day. Post Obama and the ejection of the white working class, along with TJ and Old Hickory, from the Democrat Party it's not really necessary anymore.