Monday, January 19, 2009
Another MLK Day
On this, another holiday dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and by proxy the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, I find myself surprisingly numb. How nice it would be to be a starry-eyed liberal. How nice it would be to greet the likes of battered women, urban poverty, and social injustice with a mild-mannered grin. If the personal stories of yet another oppressed minority or disenfranchised citizen moved me to tears I might qualify as the kind of position-paper, true believer. Truth be told I've known heartache and grief a thousand times over, both in my own life and in the lives of others and one more reminder of the tragedy life sometimes has to offer is just that---a reminder.
I wish I could rejoice in today's holiday, but while I should see progress, all I see is perversion. I've seen too many good people killed, too many good intentions come to naught, too many worthy plans scuttled by disinterest and sheer sloth, and too much energy channeled for lost causes in the wrong directions. Though we have elected the first Black President, we have not eliminated many societal ills, the least of which is racism. Though we commemorate today as a triumph of applied social justice, I can't help musing upon the backlash which occurred in the aftermath of King's assassination. This city, and many other cities, bears the scars of the numerous spontaneous riots which sprung up as news of his death became known. Whole city blocks have yet to be repaired and by the absence of the businesses which once operated there, still register the effects of mob violence.
Yesterday, a visitor to meeting, an activist in her own right, listened at length to my words but ended by saying: Enjoy this event. So seldom do we ever get things like this to celebrate. She was, of course, referring to the Inauguration. She may be right, but in the two months since Obama was elected I have gone from exuberant celebration to sober contemplation. Much needs to be accomplished. After tomorrow, every decision he makes will be parsed, analyzed, and methodically picked apart by the blogosphere and the media. This proverbial death by a thousand cuts is what gets to me the most. No President is immune from this kind of conduct, but forgive me if I might wish to prolong the honeymoon a bit longer.