There was nobody on the subway today. Manhattan was a ghost town early this morning.
It's MLK's birthday. Many people were granted the day off to reflect upon the greatness of the man and his legacy and to take a day off from their normal routine of disrespect and derision. I had to work, but the silence on the way there made it easy to consider what the day's about.
We don't seem to have gotten very far in the last 40 years. There's a lot of tension. The diverse nature of the U.S. and the cultural pride of its residents creates a lot of friction, misunderstanding, and disagreement. It hasn't abated since the Sixties; it's mostly mutated from racial tension to cultural tension. When you're judging someone by the content of their character and they don't seem to have any, it's hard to know what to do. Locally speaking, the great New York melting pot doesn't extend to stereotypes. Stereotypes are enforced and reinforced here, and it seems as though everyone now has something to overcome - if not personally, then culturally.
Considering all of that, I find it pretty crazy that people don't consider MLK day a real holiday. Some people had the day off, some didn't, and that's not a problem for me personally, but employers seem to consider this to be an optional holiday. While the higher ups didn't include this in our holiday schedule, thank god my boss' boss' boss, an excellent thinker, made our entire department take time out of our crazy lives a few months ago to visit Sotheby's to view MLK's collection of papers -- handwritten notes, letters, sermons, speeches -- before it was handed over to Morehouse College in Atlanta. It took about an hour or so of reading to make me see things completely differently. Everyone came out of there talking about how his hope was contagious. It takes a great writer to convey revolutionary ways of thinking, and we had two incredibly rare talents wrapped up in one guy with MLK.
If more people actually took an hour out of their day to find out more about what he was talking about, there'd be something to this holiday. It's worth trying to bridge the gap and figuring out why people are different. But then you'd be asking people to work, which I suppose wouldn't make much sense on their day off.