2006/08/28

Emancipation Day

Though I revere Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I've always been a little uncomfortable with having a national holiday in his honor. Why? Well it has nothing to do with his stature, his vision, his oratory, or his commitment to civil rights. No...it just seems to me that even Dr. King would be uncomfortable with a day dedicated to his memory. Somehow it seems too small--seems not to have the right focus.

I wrote recently that one of the most important American concepts is the notion of "Independence". It's why we celebrate the 4th of July and not the date we won the Revolutionary War or the date the Constitution was ratified. We were free from England's grip on the day we declared our independence. But what is the second most important American concept? I'd argue that it's the notion of "Emancipation".
emancipate (v.) - To set free, especially from legal, social, or political restrictions

Oxford American Dictionary
When we emancipate we fine-tune democracy, we expand independence, and we recognize that, as long as a single citizen is unable to experience liberty, we're all diminished. Thus, over the course of American history, we've had to emancipate many times:
So let me submit that Martin Luther King Jr. Day might be better celebrated as 'Emancipation Day', a reminder that we're constantly in a battle to emancipate America's have-nots. But...not wanting to gratuitously take anything away from Dr. King, how about we just choose Columbus Day (third Monday of October, the 16th this year) and celebrate the exact opposite what Columbus and the Spanish brought to the Americas...Emancipation.

(Thanks to Granny @ Is American Burning and her post on Women's Equality Day. It got me thinking along these lines.)

13 Comments:

Nice going. I just wrote a short post and linked back to you.

Reciprocal and all that.

Thanks.
I read the post at Granny's and now here I am, how cosmic!

Anyway, haven't seen you in a while frog. Can you send a link for Kommandos?
i like this idea...problem i see is that emancipation is a work still in progress..

thanks for the great thoughts...
History is continuously revised and rewritten when new facts emerge. Many old truths turn out to be myths and, in the worst cases, propagandist lies interpeted by elites of ruling societies. In this light, I am so suprised that Columbus has still retained his undeserved day.
I hate blogger sometime! I hope you don't get duplicate comments from me. Anyway, I disagreed with you at first, but now I see your point and would go along with it - as long as nothing was taken away from MLK.

On a related note, I recently participated in a Zogby poll and they asked questions about a national holiday or day of recognition to honor the people who died in 9/11. They also asked if I thought 9/11 was historically as important as Pearl Harbor. (I did not). Anyway, it appears that there is a push to make this a holiday too, although I haven't read that anywhere.
Kvatch, I'd love to see MLK Day as a day for mass teach-ins. Don't close schools, but rather open them to all. Close businesses for the day, get everyone in school to learn about the dignity of freedom and tolerance.

Racism, sexism, hatred strips everyone of dignity - both the victim and the person filled with hate. MLK was on the road to restoring dignity to all Americans.

Thanks for the post!
Thanks Granny, and thanks for the link.

Lily, I can't get to The Blue Republic any longer--rejects my IP and sends me to an error page. (Spamlist, AT&T thing, I don't know...). Anyway that's why I haven't been around.

AZGoddess, indeed it is, but that's what make such a day vibrant, right? We're always refining.

Pekka, I'm surprised as well. I mean...what does Columbus really have to do with North America? If we were going to have a day to honor the discoverer of America by Europeans, then should it really be "Leif Ericson Day"?
Kathy, ARRRGGGGHHHH! No national holiday for 9/11! Sheeesh. More people died at Antietam in an hour than died on 9/11, and our response to the tragedy has been disgraceful.

Diva, you're welcome. I too would like MLK Day to be something more than it is. The Frogette mentioned that MLK was an enabler and that it's the struggle that should be memorialized. Not the man.
MLK, in spite of his flaws, was a symbol for many of us who were around then. I wonder what would have happened if he and Malcolm had both lived and found common ground. Which leads me to wonder about the two assassinations.

Columbus Day has been downgraded in most of California. San Francisco, with its large Italian population, still has a parade but the holiday passes unnoticed for the most part
Believe it or not, Texas is way ahead of you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

And after I wrote that mean poem about them and everything.
Granny, it's also the right time of year--halfway between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. The next best option would be for a day in April. But I've noticed recently (last few years) that the Feds and many businesses are celebrating Good Friday. Something that I not only find offensive but consider to be an "ADP Holiday," since it seems to have started with them.

SA, thanks for that bit of information. I'd heard of Juneteenth but didn't know what it was about. Still though, it's the wrong time of year. We don't need a holiday in June.
AARGH!! I am getting SO tired of Google and this woefully incompetent Blogger!! If this dupes, please accept my apologies.
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Posts like this one make me think I should shut down and just read! Excellent, excellent!! I always got the impression that MLK day was created more to placate blacks, since we had all these "white people" days, and no "black ones." I am opposed to "Black History" month for the same reason. Sooner or later, some dingbat is gonna ask for "White History" month!:) I honestly believe that rather than honoring blacks with those two days, we are doing them a disservice, for we're leaving the impression "you're only important on these dates", and that's no good. It seems every state has an MLK highway or street. Yes, he was a great, great leader - but is this really what his movement was all about? I think not.
TFwY, thanks for stopping by and for the kind words.

I too would prefer that we all remember why we needed a civil rights struggle and why we still need a civil rights struggle.

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