History changes the world. So what, if it doesn’t change us?

The monument in this photo is in Birmingham, Ala., and reads, “I ain’t afraid of your jail.” This is a place where dogs and water hoses were turned on society’s tiniest citizens — as well as the full-grown set — in a disturbing effort to keep segregation alive for as long as possible. And long after legislation told the state to do otherwise.

The most-impactful part of Lady L’s and my visit to Alabama this past November was a walk through the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. I remember at the gate, the ticket-taker simply asked us to make a donation of our choice. On the way out, I donated more.

Like any good Smithsonian, the multimedia displays immersed you in sensory overload. I can’t remember a moment in that place where I wasn’t fighting back tears. I’m ashamed of our forefathers who weren’t ready to let go of their self-appointed superiority. I’m thrilled with the “Freedom Riders” and other ordinary citizens (a la Martin Luther King Jr.) who stepped up and said, hey, I’m willing to be attacked if it means a fairer society will ensue.

(Just seeing the video of James Zwerg, the first one off the bus on that famous 1961 ride, is enough to rip out your heart that you have done NOTHING in this world in comparison.)

Although we couldn’t take photos in the Institute, the door from MLK’s jail cell (from which he wrote his famous 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail”) is burned into the back of my eyelids. (Read it and weep. I did.)

In going through some boxes in the past couple of weeks, I found a number of awards from the NAACP — yes, in MY name — from writings I did as a wee lass. I was quite sympathetic to the plight and I wrote many stories and poems for literary contests held in honor of MLK’s birthday. I almost wonder whether, in a past life, I were somehow there. The poetry I wrote, circa ages 11 through 14, was surprisingly evocative.

In any event, when I turned on financial TV first thing this morning, leaders were up in arms about all the schools that decided today should be a makeup day for snow days taken. And parents were keeping their kids at home in protest.

(God, I miss snow days. Not the SNOW, mind you. Down here, though, school gets canceled on cold days because many of the buildings don’t have heat!)

Frankly, I am in favor of having school today … with the caveat that it’s like the Chicago school whose principal personally knew Martin Luther King Jr. and uses the day for a special assembly where he shares personal stories about the time he spent with the legendary man.

I don’t see how a day off for kids (or adults) means anything when it’s simply a day spent sleeping in, or at the mall, or playing with the Wii, or WHATEVER. At least in school, the kids can be learning about the man who changed America as only he could. Of course, as my caveat-to-the-caveat, it shouldn’t just be a one-off event — what that man did should be celebrated for more than just a day.

I like the “day of service” approach for today (and also for 9/11). We should have more of those. I’m sick of all these religious and social-rights leaders bitching about people not being able to stay home because it violates the “sanctity” of the holiday. Wouldn’t the best way to serve be to A) learn about Dr. King and/or/then B) DO something in his honor?

We’re lucky and yet so very unfortunate to not have a battle like the civil rights one in our time. Sure, there’s a ton of inequality in the world and always will be. But I imagine Dr. King would still be fighting today, since things are far from ideal for people of color as well as those with different sexual orientations and, hell, people who just look or even SEEM different.

And aren’t we ALL different in one way or another? How can anyone allow one group to be oppressed when they’re just lucky they’re not at the top of the bullies’ list … today, anyway?

I have nothing profound to say. I just see injustice all over the world, and especially in my country. It sucks because we’re supposed to be setting the example and, yet, you’ve got assholes (whole colonies of them, right on U.S. soil) who think that having a black president is a sure sign that the apocalypse is nigh.

As the Repugs begin their crusade to overturn the landmark healthcare law, it just reminds me that morons either in power, with a lot of money or both will do their damndest to keep “everyone else” from the privileges they take for granted. Equality, healthcare, fair wages and not living in poverty when you’re working your ass off are NOT privileges, though. They are rights. And God bless anyone with the balls to stand up for everyone else who is too sad, sick, weary or otherwise beaten-down to be able to fight for it themselves.

I salute you, Dr. King. My generation’s absence of someone like you is palpable. Perhaps everyone knows they can’t rise up to the bar you set. But I sure wish someone — hell, a LOT of someones — would try. …

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