Martin Luther King Day
Happy birthday Dr. King.
Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan originally opposed the creation of a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1980's. They thought MLK wasn't "important" enough to warrant a holiday.
There are only two other federal holidays in America that commemorate individual people: George Washington's Birthday, and Columbus Day. Christopher Columbus is famous for "discovering the Americas" on his campaign to make a lot of money and gain a lot property, and for mutilating or enslaving the people he found who were already living there.
George Washington is famous for leading the American military against the British during the Revolution. He also fought against the French & Indians before that. He fought with a capable military force and probably wielded a sabre and other arms. As the first President of the United States, he presided over a slave nation, and over general national policy that included exterminating native Americans because of the inconvenience they posed to colonization. For example he signed into law the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. Washington owned slaves up to his death, and even then they weren't freed: his will postponed that until his wife's death. George Washington broke a Pennsylvianian law which granted freedom to slaves who lived there for 6 months. In accordance with economic values rather than the values that America supposedly stood for since the time of the Declaration of Independence, he rotated his slaves between his Philadelphia and Mount Vernon mansions-- illegally-- to avoid six-month spans.
Martin Luther King Jr. called on and rallied America to rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." He did that in the face of America's oldest and strongest institutions: racism, jim crow, and the vestiges of slavery. He never raised arms against his fellow man. He was once hit in the head by a brick, which was thrown by a white person who hated him.
King was eventually gunned down because of what he stood for: human rights and constitutional rights for black people, and beyond that all people, even poor ones. Martin Luther King Jr. famously had a dream that one day all people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. That black people would not be terrorized by police or mobs, or excluded from taking some small relief in hotels and restaurants. He envisioned a day when even in Alabama little black boys and black girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. He called for these things not gradually, but NOW.
He was killed because of that simple aspiration he held for the country. The possibility of it becoming reality was unbearable to many awful people because of the privileges they thought they were entitled to and because of the hysteria they suffered. So they fought desperately to stop him, and one eventually murdered him.
Christopher Columbus does not deserve reflection. George Washington retired and died a wealthy man, after forfeiting his opportunity to lower America from the highest pedestals of hypocrisy. Martin Luther King Jr. fought against entrenched, bloodthirsty hatred-- fought against American tradition itself-- using only peaceful means, with the goal of restoring the dignity of all men women and children, in accordance with ideals that had hitherto largely received only glorified lip-service.