Not all holidays are meant to be easy
As January comes to a close, I regretfully look back on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and lament at the lack of time I took to honor an extraordinary voice of peace and justice.
MLK Day is significantly dissimilar to other holidays we celebrate in America. It is different from St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween, because it cannot be easily bottled up into a fun assortment of scary monsters or drunken pub crawls; the holiday it isn’t easy or simple.
The fact that a holiday with such gravity is hardly acknowledged reveals a reality within our culture; we relish in focusing on the more fun aspects of holidays. We neglect those holidays that come along with difficult conversations because it’s easier to celebrate holidays that offer immediate pleasure.
Perhaps MLK Day is not paraded around with such frills and pomp because its weight would be disgraced by streamers and Dollar Tree decorations. The difficulty rests in our inability to commemorate a day without the extra garnishes of shallowness; we don’t know how to engage with each other about the serious issues that exist in society and we are too uncomfortable to create space for meaningful discussion.
No one wants MLK Day to be desecrated and watered down like other holidays, but I question why we are comfortable with an entire month of celebration for Caucasian baby Jesus but are less concerned with reflecting on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., a man who turned the tables on racial injustice and broke down political barriers?
Maybe we are a little uncomfortable or disjointed with the direction of our nation as it presently stands?
Still, MLK Day deserves more attention and thankfulness than just one day, something that applies to other significant yet undervalued holidays such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
There is hardly enough attention given in the media and the general public to the importance of these types of days, they have become merely free days for all of us to skip work or class.
MLK Day holds special significance and hope for Black Americans, yet this day is one that should be honored and celebrated by all, because the core of its ideals speaks to all races, cultures and nationalities. One also does not need to know a veteran to appreciate and acknowledge the sacrifice that all veterans have made to safe-keep our livelihood.
I think Dr. King would hope that this day named in his honor would be centered around all races respectfully acknowledging their place and position in race relations and harmony, instead of breezing past MLK Day in awkward silence.
Veterans Day commemorates the sacrifice of men and women that have given their very lives to protect ours, and too often it feels like a brief pause and empty thank you.
Memorial Day also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the death of our countrymen and their powerful commitment to the betterment of our nation, though it often turns into a headline for sales at the mall.
It is certainly foolish to say that everyone in America disrespects and skips over the true meaning of Veterans Day, Memorial Day and MLK Day. But it is worth acknowledging the shallow distractions of jubilee that the more popular holidays hold.
We do not want MLK Day to become a money-making holiday that lacks meaning. But simultaneously, it shouldn’t be shifted in the background of our appreciation just because we don’t see stores and products promoting it.
Our culture likes to distract us. More than that, it is willing to appease us and tell us what we want to hear. Right now, it’s telling us that MLK finished the job and killed racism, so no one has to worry or get upset anymore.
But we need MLK Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day today and every day, not just stamped into our schedules as a reminder, but actively sought after for the purpose of peace, remembrance, honor and atonement.
To annihilate shallowness rapt in our culture and the rituals set up within celebration, we need to set a standard of appreciation for what is noble and worthy of reverence, and this first begins with recognizing the importance of days that force us to look inward and revise ourselves.