Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dr. King, Lincoln and Springtime Dreams

Have you ever had an idea that seemed practical, sensible and intelligent in nearly every way, but it had one flaw and that one flaw could not be reconciled? I have and I'm going to tell you about it. You may not think it's worth your time, but if time is so important, why are you reading an Internet blog? The flaw of the idea is its utter insensitivity. I choose to reveal the flaw first so no one says "Does he know how insensitive that is?" Yes, I do!

Anyway, it goes like this: why can't we observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the Abraham Lincoln holiday on the days they left us rather than their dates of birth. In Dr. King's case, the date was April 4th and Lincoln's assasination occurred on April 14th, although he didn't die until the following day.

Need I remind you that King's birth occurred on January 15th, which is most often a cold and gloomy day even in the more temperate portions of the country. And February 12th, Lincoln's birthday, rarely represents much of an improvement. Imagine instead having holidays on April 4th and 14th; there are no paid holidays in April as it stands now, and this would give us two, the second immediately before taxes are due. Perhaps it doesn't seem terribly relevant, since only bank tellers and government employees seem to get President's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day off anyway. But there is untapped potential here.

Before you accuse me of blasphemy, think about it along these lines. First, both of these holidays are artificially structured to occur on a Monday. We don't observe Dr. King's birth on January 15th, but on the third Monday of January, anywhere from the 15th to the 21st (by the way, I realize George Washington's February 22nd birthday has been fused with Lincoln's to create
President's Day but I'm leaving him out of the argument). As long as it's imprecise to start with, why not give ourselves a better shot at fair weather?

Among many others, one problem is the still living and quite relevant King family. It might not seem quite right in Coretta Scott King's eyes to have to officially honor her husband on the miserable day he was murdered in 1968, rather than the day of his birth, which is likely to create fonder memories. I would include the Lincoln family as well, except that assasination lies much deeper in the past and, in addition, who and where are Lincoln's surviving descendants? We never seem to hear about them.

While commemorating the anniversary of death rather than birth might appear crass and unusual, it is not unprecedented. There are two quite popular examples of it; the first and most obvious is Jesus Christ, whose birth, crucifixion and resurrection are all observed in some manner (incidentally, varying texts report Jesus' birth in several different months, one of which--and I hope this means something--is April). The second is John Lennon. Not much mention is made of Lennon on October 9th, the day in 1940 when he was born. But on December 8th, radio stations play his songs endlessly and ceremonies take place in Central Park near the Dakota Hotel, where Lennon was murdered.

So maybe the insensitivity makes more sense than our senses initially admit. And think about this: Lennon, while one of the world's best songwriters and a well-intentioned, if irascible, human being, was no Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln. Lennon died needlessly, but he wasn't killed because his impact on society was so profound it produced outrage among his political enemies. He was killed, in essence, by a fan who also happened to be a crackpot. But perhaps honoring the day King and Lincoln were killed might remind us: they died! They died because they changed the world. Lincoln died, in large part, because he freed slaves; King died, in large part, because he helped guide the descendants of those slaves down a path toward true racial equality.

Give it a good pondering. April 4th and 14th might be nicer, brighter, freer days than January 15th and February 12th. In more ways than one.


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