It's chill but I've been down the hill looking for a couple of items I don't really need and failing to find them. Fine by me. Back at the house I'm relieved to discover that the postman seems to have had no junk mail to bring me today. Fine by me. The stores are full but traffic seems strangely light.
Later at Ken's, the market up the block and around the corner, I am buying a few modest items for a modest Monday dinner when the checker asks me, "Are you having a nice long weekend?"
Without thinking I reply, "Well, all my weekends are long these days."
"Good for you," she says and then it hits me.
"I'm sorry. Today was a holiday, wasn't it?"
She nods. I try to think of something to say to recover from what must be, to the clueless young, a clear gaffe, but I've got nothing. Since the morning I'd completely forgotten the status of this new holy day in America. I guess I was overwhelmed with the second immaculation taking place somewhere very far off to much more muffled praise than the first immaculation. In addition, being in Seattle you just don't get a lot of notice about MLK regardless of the media's breathless litany of adulation and rotund hosannas of praise. Seattle is, after all, the very whitest city or town I've ever had to endure. That is, however, no excuse -- at least to the ever sensitive and always guilty white folks that yabble and clatter about the town.
Early in the day the holiday was brought to my attention by the always slavish Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker who confidently opined: "Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, a lot of us will be watching King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, on YouTube or elsewhere." A bit later on another page I read a more realistic assessment of the day which went, "We have "progressed" from 'I have a dream...' to 'I have a drone...'." My range of reaction was measured between a muttered "Yeah right" and a rueful but passing smirk.
And then I just forgot about it. Seattle's just too white to pull together a convincing MLK Day parade.
Reflecting on The Day after my grocery store reminder I have to say that I'm sticking with that rueful but passing smirk as I consider the distance we've come since King's speech at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago in 1963. Then we struggled, with men like King, to come together as a people, to move beyond our past, to be one nation. Now, under the cynical manipulation and malicious policies of one who would cast himself as the inheritor of the King mantle, we find the current occupent of the White House doing his best, day after day, to drive the races apart once again.
How strange that someone who has attained the presidency in this day and age should not only hate citizens because of the color of their skin and the cut of their bitter and clinging class, but be lauded for it. Stranger still that he should be half-black and be inaugurated on the day set aside to honor Martin Luther King. Once I would have remembered and honored this day and felt we were at last getting beyond race hate in America. When exactly that was I now forget. I guess we've still a reckoning ahead of us.
Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 21, 2013 6:28 PM
[Added per Pittman's suggestion.]