A Holiday I Don’t Hate

Hello. In case we haven’t met, I’m the douchebag that hates everything fun. I figuratively poop New Year’s parties. I’m a boo-humbug in October. I wouldn’t celebrate my birthday if my friends (bless their hearts) didn’t drag me out of the house. I ignore so many reasons for joy that they don’t even have terms for me for each and every occasion.

No, really. Here’s proof that I can piss on every holiday on the Federal calendar:

New Year’s Day – The day we celebrate our arbitrary timing for changing a number.
Washington’s Birthday – Thanks, guy who won our independence. And we thank you by celebrating your birthday on a day that’s never your birthday.
Memorial Day – The day we memorialize our veterans by continuing to ignore their medical and emotional needs. New seasonal-wear!
Independence Day – We celebrate the day we said we were independent, rather than the day we actually were.
Labor Day – Great job, workers. Now, back at it. These sales aren’t gonna sell themselves.
Columbus DayColumbus was a douche.
Veterans Day – Okay, this one’s pretty damn legit. Maybe something about no one knowing how to pronounce it? “Vetrens Day?” “Vennerans Day?”
Thanksgiving Day – Hey, remember that one time we got along with Native-Americans before we drove them off their continent?
Christmas Day – Y’all know this is in December to co-opt indigenous religious holidays to hasten their conversion to Christianity, right?

Seriously, that took no time at all. My typing can’t keep up with my cynicism.

Thankfully, even my cold, dead heart softens a bit on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Sure, I could ramble off something cynical about holiday tokenism and probably be correct. However, if any one person deserves his own holiday, it’s MLK.

Today, you’ve undoubtedly heard the same four lines of his “I Have a Dream” Speech. You’ve heard that King was the leader of the American-American Civil Rights Movement. You’ve heard that he was a great voice for equality in the United States.

None of those things are wrong, but they are not why MLK was so damn important.

He taught us to not only refuse to fight back, but also to refuse to hate back. He knew that hate cannot be harnessed, but can only corrupt. He knew that nothing is more powerful than forgiveness. A person who turns the other cheek awakens another’s shame.

He also understood that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It’s why he endangered his domestic progress by speaking out against the Vietnam War. It’s why he spoke out against a society that refused to allow those born into poverty an equal opportunity to succeed. He was concerned for all people, not just his people.

Most of all, MLK is important because HE WAS RIGHT. Certainly, violence can bring about change. However, only nonviolence can bring about justice, which is the only foundation for lasting peace. We’ve seen it in India and South Africa. Sadly, we saw it only briefly in the United States. No one was able to fill King’s shoes.

That’s why we celebrate today. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the greatest voice for love, forgiveness, and justice the world’s ever seen. That’s why MLK Day is important.

Or at least, why it should be.

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At times, I have been accused of being… umm, robotic? A potent cocktail of realism, sarcasm, and skepticism has led more than one person to believe that I have no feelings or that I lack empathy or that I am bereft of basic human compassion.

This fails to explain why I cry twice every time I watch Schindler’s List. It fails to explain why I tear up every time I listen to the soundtrack from The Pacific. It fails to explain the fog of emotion and reflection that swirls around me at the end of the Mass Effects, Bioshocks, or Spec Ops: The Line. Or why I can’t look someone in the eyes while telling them how important they are to me for fear of breaking down.

I am an emotional person. I just try very hard to control it and even harder not to show it. Thanks, German farmer upbringing!

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This is why I write the day after the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard. When I first heard of the attack, I felt… nothing.

No anger. No sadness. No anxiety. No righteous indignation.

Nothing.

And I hate myself for getting to this point. The point where I can go, “Meh. We want guns? This is what we get.” Or “The chickens are going to come home to roost when we ignore the factors that lead to violence.”  The point where the violent deaths of twelve people are less a tragedy and more an argument for the inexorable nature of trade-offs or cause and effect.

I want to be skeptical without becoming cynical. I want to question everything without giving up upon receiving the same answer over and over. Fundamentally, this is what cynicism is and does.

If I’ve fallen off Cynic’s Cliff on the topic of gun violence, is it possible to climb back up? I hope so. Cynicism feels so empty that I can’t help but hate the forces that pushed me off the ledge, but only almost as much as I am disappointed that I failed to put up a bigger fight.

But hey, at least I’m feeling again.