Monday, January 17, 2005

Happy Black Monday
By which I mean no disrespect. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great American and we, as a nation, are better off for his work. I was unsure that having a national holiday for him was justified but the more I thought about it, the more I have become convinced that it is right. Dr. King did his work in civil rights which many see as the province of black Americans. (I do not use the politically correct term "African Americans" for two reasons: There are quite a number of Americans from Africa who are not black and there are a lot of black Americans who are not African. Also I don't capitalize the word "black" just as I don't capitalize the word "white" if I used the term "white Americans.")
If Dr. King's efforts, and ultimately his life, were given just for black Americans, I wouldn't support the idea of having a national holiday in his honor. But his work was for all Americans. We live in a great nation but in the fight for civil rights, the nation was reaching the end of the greatest moral stain on the American body politic ever: the institution of slavery. It took us 100 years from the Civil War (I call it the War of Northern Aggression only jokingly) to sweep the last institutionalized vestiges of prejudice from national government and Dr. King was a great man to help make that happen. A great man not for blacks but for all Americans since he forced governance, including and particularly that run by whites, away from a morally repugnant stance.
I have never believed that slavery dehumanized the enslaved. It oppressed them, it degraded them in the eyes of those who would see them as degraded even in the absence of the institution, but in the soul of individual, slavery never made a man the lesser. Slavery, rather, dehumanized the slave owner and the enslaver. No doubt, many a man became rich off the slave trade (and let's not forget the New England ship owners in that category), but where humanity is truly judged - in the soul, before God - these are the men who are found wanting.
Dr. King did a full measure of restoring the American soul, if you will accept such, to its humanity and so, in my humble (humility being a virtue, even if it is a cliche) opinion, America is the better for having this national holiday.

No comments: