Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The meaning of MLK

It occurred to me this morning (the day after the Martin Luther King Day holiday here in the U.S.) that  MLK Day, unlike all those other long weekend holidays, has not yet lost its original meaning with the public. On Labor Day, there may be a parade, but few people watch it or think about labor issues Memorial Day has become a marker for the beginning of summer, Veterans Day and Presidents Day are barely celebrated other than a possible day off from work or school, and a day for retail sales. But the news was filled with stories about Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday. Politicians spoke about his legacy (even if they got what he believed wrong, it was still about the civil rights leader, either as he really was or as he is now imagined to be). The day really was about Martin Luther King.

I wonder if that is just because the holiday is relatively new. You could argue that MLK has maintained its original meaning because the issues of racial justice are still relevant to today. But it's not like we don't have labor issues anymore, or veterans to be memorialized. I bet eventually MLK's real message will fade and it will turn into something like the others: a public holiday but not day for any meaningful reflection. We're not there yet, so I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts.