Martin Luther King Day

More or less on this day the stores are open and the schools and offices are closed. Here in Boston the Globe tells us that the liquor stores, taverns, bars, supermarkets, and convenience stores are all open. Why is that? Well perhaps because it’s a day of celebration and eating and drinking is what we do to celebrate.
But we’ve never made it clear when we honor a great man or woman, no longer alive and among us, whether we are honoring and celebrating a life, or mourning a loss. Probably both. The banks are closed, but the bankers themselves probably see this as another long weekend and nothing more. The government offices are closed, as they have to be because this holiday is the government’s own creation, and furthermore nothing important is lost by their being closed. The stock market is closed, and why not. The libraries and schools are closed, and that’s a pity because by keeping them open we would then be showing our respect for learning and education, the things that King himself most valued and respected.

Monday, later on in the afternoon.
I have lived a good part of my life, some 60 years, with the knowledge that we could be blown to smithereens by a nuclear bomb. In the beginning the atom was ours, and the threat was only from ourselves in the form of a nuclear accident. But very soon thereafter the Russians acquired the bomb, probably stole it, and during the next 40 years or so I like everyone else had to build my own life in the deep shadow of the nuclear standoff between the Soviet Union and ourselves and our European allies. That tension was always present, and we could never relax. Then suddenly the Soviet Union was no more. And we were no more prepared for that than we were for Katrina. Why is it that so many of the most important happenings come upon us without warning? Was anyone prepared for the fall of the Soviet Union? Perhaps the dissidents within the Soviet Union, who saw that system up close and saw all the cracks that foretold its inevitable collapse. Well even unprepared we rejoiced. We thought now there would be peace on earth, good will to all men. But, alas, very soon we realized that this was not to be. History was not at an end. All too quickly we became aware of a new and even more deadly state of affairs among the peoples of the earth, more deadly because the enemy now, unlike the Soviet Union, was willing to lose all in order to destroy us and thereby save himself (one thinks of the early Christians?). This time, according to some, the deadly confrontation would be between the haves and the havenots, according to others, between the believers and the non-believers. And then there were those who saw the principal fault line as lying between the West and the rest. Whatever the new division was, the believers very quickly restored the world’s tension, that for one delightful moment, in Berlin, as the wall came tumbling down, had been relaxed. The new (to us) believers springing from the Arab Middle East and picking up, in part, the language of the sword, and in part the language of the Koran, told us by their actions that no more would they remain under our domination. And this is where we are now. And the question now is will we make them like us, into consumers, or will they force us to back off and slow down what does still seem to be the inevitable march of globalization.

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