A vocal minority of people in the Tri-Cities are LIVID. I mean, they are beside themselves. I haven't seen them this fired up since last year's property assessments came out. I've been reading tirades to the editor of the local paper for the past few days decrying Hopewell School Superintendent Winson Odom's decision to close his city's schools for Inauguration Day, in recognition of the "specifically historic" significance the day carries. The make-up day will be held on President's Day.
One woman wrote in to say that, IF she had children in the Hopewell schools, they would NOT be attending school on President's Day. She didn't say specifically, but I'm sure she'd home school on Inauguration Day. The curriculum? Revisionist History 101. She wanted to know why the Superintendent didn't "take away" Martin Luther King Jr Day instead, asking, "Do our former presidents not matter anymore?" She went on to say (and I'm quoting directly, because I don't want to put words in her mouth) that "Obviously, all the excitement is because Barack Obama won the presidential election based on the color of his skin and not the content of his character and that is the real reason why you've switched holidays." Another woman's brilliant repartee included this gem: "Martin Luther King was NOT a President! He was just a man 'with a dream!' But we are forced to honor him but we can not honor our past presidents! Why are we being forced to forget our history?" Sigh. So much idiocy, so little time.
I thought about writing a reasoned, measured rebuttal to the Editor. But really, what chance does mere logic have against such blind passion? These are the same folks who ARE NOT RACIST (some of their best friends are black), but who cannot accept that a black man, no matter how intelligent, well-spoken and astute, is the best qualified to run the country. These are the same folks who authored and forwarded vicious chain e-lies about Barack Obama's religious beliefs to try to prevent his election. These are the same folks who don't see Virginia's reluctant acceptance of the Martin Luther King holiday only after years of foot-dragging and only with the monicker Robert E. Lee tacked on to the end as anything except a generous compromise. These are the same folks who really don't understand at the most basic level that Martin Luther King was, in fact, just a man. Not a black man, but a MAN with a huge, all-encompassing dream who toiled, bled and died to help us realize our shared humanity. Barack Obama's inauguration is the culmination of the dream. Not just for black people, but for all of us. We all, as Maya Angelou said, "grew up a bit" with his election. Well, at least most of us did. Some sore losers are still throwing temper tantrums in the local paper.
I don't mean to downplay the significance of these displays of barely concealed racism by making them sound like the isolated petulance of a select few. It is both disheartening and infuriating to me that people can't come together and see that this is a huge milestone in our country's history. We are walking on the moon of brotherhood here, and some people are still worried somebody's going to take their share. How sad. It's a long road ahead for them and a long time coming for the rest of us.