Five days a week, the department store pays me to do nothing important. Eight holidays a year, they pay me to do nothing at all, which is nice. A day off work is always better than a day at work.

Most of those holidays, though — Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, etc — are kind of sad. I don’t give much thought to what they're supposed to mean, because if I do, it’s a disappointment. On Labor Day, as a working stiff, I’ve never felt honored, always felt ignored. On Memorial Day, I can't say thanks to the soldiers who gave their lives for this country, without remembering that so many of them died in unnecessary wars, like Korea and Vietnam and whatever dumbass war comes next. On the Fourth of July, hey, I like fireworks as much as the next schmuck, but what comes to mind mostly is the interplanetary distance between America’s claims and America’s reality.

Martin Luther King Jr was born 66 years ago yesterday, and today is his birthday (observed), or so the calendar says. It's the only holiday where what’s celebrated seems seriously worth the bother, with no caveats and no excuses. I saw American apartheid as a boy, when my family lived in the South. I remember ‘colored’ drinking fountains, segregated businesses, even segregated government offices. I remember when black people were expected to be subservient and silent.

You don’t have to be black, only a decent human being, to feel queasy thinking back to that, and the change is largely because of M L King. He led the fight to make this country almost a decent place to live, and while clearly he didn’t succeed, he accomplished enough to cost him his life. He freed a lot of people, but they say the good die young, so surely there should be a day honoring Dr King. 

What’s that you say, there is a day? Yes, it's today, Martin Luther King Day — but only if you work for the federal government. If you work for a corporation, your boss is telling you that today doesn't matter. You get New Year’s Day off to honor Pope Gregory XIII, and Thanksgiving off to honor a bird or a football game or something, and of course Christmas off for Christ’s sake, but there’s no time for honoring a black man who gave his life trying to make this country better.

At my workplace, it’s just another day at the office. The stores are all open, regular hours. Did something important happen today? Sorry, we’re fresh out of holidays in America. Funny how that works.

From Pathetic Life #8
Monday, January 16, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Pathetic Life 

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