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Sun Jan 19, 2014, 11:05 PM

Martin Luther King Day

I wasthe union vice president, and on the county workers' contract negotiating committee, when the topic of Martin Luther King Day was raised. I lived and worked in a conservative, rural upstate New York area, where the majority of the town supervisors serving on the county board were retired farmers, with small businesses in their respective communities. Most of them were of my father's generation, and as I sat in the negotiations, I remembered Dad warning me that they were tight with a dime.

Chenango County had the highest percentage of millionaires in the state, but it also had an extremely high rate of unemployment and poverty. County services were not only providing support for the lower economic class, but also at increasing rates for the middle class, which was being stressed by factory closings, and industries moving jobs out of the state. The Board of Supervisors resented the amount of tax dollars being invested in human services, and were intent upon expressing their outrage by insulting the union contract negotiators.

A gentleman who knew my father began questioning me: "So you're at mental health?" Yes. "Well, I figure that social workers are a dime a dozen." Oh, that's the good ones; the bad ones are far more expensive.

When the question of getting Martin Luther King Day was raised, another gentleman from the board of supervisors said, "I don't think we need that. There are many Negroes in Chenango County." What was stunning -- besides the fact that he said that -- was that he believed he was making a valid contribution to the discussion.

That was, of course, only part of the conflict that we faced. When there was no evidence of good will upon the board of supervisors' part, we increased the pressure. Although we could not go on strike, we began having marches around the County Office Building during our lunch breaks. We also attended all the board meetings. The local and regional media provided good coverage. I was asked to serve as our media spokesperson, a role that I rather enjoyed.

Eventually, we got a contract. It was not particularly good, but it did include the Martin Luther King birthday holiday. County employees have the day off tomorrow. I wonder how they will view the day. There has been quite a bit of turn-over in the twenty years since the contract negotiations that led to it being included as a holiday.

It really doesn't matter that the old republicans didn't understand why King's birthday should be a holiday celebrated by all Americans, including the white people in Chenango County. They were savages, inhabiting a frightening world of ignorance. But it does matter how the working class and the unemployed view the meaning of the day.

While we should honor Dr. King on the holiday, and consider the many achievements of his ministry, it is most important that we focus on how King can inspire us to attempt to bring about social justice today. We must confront today's savages and savagery. We will not have King's authority or talents, nor will we have his commitment to sacrifice for the causes we take up. But we can look inside, and identify what King's example can inspire us to attempt. And that, I believe, is the best way for us to honor the day.

Peace,
H2O Man

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply Martin Luther King Day (Original post)
H2O Man Jan 2014 OP
sabrina 1 Jan 2014 #1
H2O Man Jan 2014 #7
sabrina 1 Jan 2014 #14
Cha Jan 2014 #2
H2O Man Jan 2014 #8
hootinholler Jan 2014 #3
H2O Man Jan 2014 #11
Octafish Jan 2014 #4
jsr Jan 2014 #5
Little Star Jan 2014 #6
malaise Jan 2014 #9
hfojvt Jan 2014 #10
hfojvt Jan 2014 #15
Zorra Jan 2014 #12
DirkGently Jan 2014 #13

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 12:06 AM

1. People like MLK seem to come along when they are needed, there are good people risking

everything to confront the greed and savagery that has destroyed so many lives. One thing we can do is to support them.

Thank you for another great OP, H2OMan!

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 06:14 PM

7. There are many ways

that we can each contribute. Exactly as you note, that includes supporting others. It also must involve our finding our own comfort level,, and then (for lack of better words) calling upon our inner-MLK potential, and moving beyond that comfort level.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 08:14 PM

14. My comfort level consists of my limited ability to counter propaganda wherever I find it.

I wish I could do more. But we are not all heroes although we can support those who are. We all play a part. I just hope I can contribute even if it is just to support those who have way more courage than I do.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 08:28 AM

2. Thank you, H2O Man

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Response to Cha (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 06:14 PM

8. Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 09:53 AM

3. The bad ones are much more expensive!



Ain't that the truth!

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Response to hootinholler (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 06:50 PM

11. Even the supervisors

understood it when I put it that way. And, boy oh boy, it is the truth.

I remember that a co-worker told me that he had been slightly offended, when he heard my responses to the various supervisors' attempts to belittle and insult county workers. I didn't get upset and react to their attempts to bait me. Instead, I spoke about us as "social janitors," who were tasked with keeping our communities' appearance of "a nice place to live" up. Polite society doesn't want to hear about -- much less, actually see -- the problems we were supposed to clean up. The supervisors, I noted, were comfortable in slamming services such as mental health or alcohol-drug abuse services --until one of their family needed help. Then they were comfortable in demanding special treatment, such as immediate appointments, whereas the general public would be put on the waiting list.

About a year later, that co-worker brought the topic up again. At a staff meeting, he noted that we were treated like social janitors, and gave me credit for the saying.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 10:52 AM

4. A 1962 Speech by MLK Jr. was released for the first time today

What n2doc brought in:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=4360993

PS: Thank you for sharing the experience back in the day. My grandmother was a Social Worker who began her practice in the 1930s in Puerto Rico. I understand she gave Eleanor Roosevelt a personal tour of the island and the works around then. My grandfather was so very proud of her. No amount of money can compensate for the good they created.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 11:17 AM

5. Recommend

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 05:30 PM

6. I love it when you share these true stories that always have...

a good moral. Thanks and k&r!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 06:16 PM

9. Another great thread Waterman

Rec

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 06:18 PM

10. missing a NOT

"There are many Negroes in Chenango County."

Wiki says he was right, that Chenango county is less than 1% black, and 97.65% white.

I would not insult people by calling them savages. Nor does ignorance have to be frightening.

Until Somerby brought it to my attention some years ago, I, yes even I myself, was ignorant of these words of Martin Luther King.

These words, which essentially say that "even the ignorant can be great"

I still use them as the signature for my email

"Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." - Martin Luther King

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Response to hfojvt (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 21, 2014, 01:55 AM

15. still about fifteen minutes left in the day

you sweet savage.

When I was a wee lad of 11, some of the other kids were talking about this guy "sweet savage" who had apparently survived some horrific crash.

I thought that was a cool name, so I added him as a character in our pantheon of characters in the fantasy world where my brother and I told stories.

It was only last year when I went to search for a video of the crash that I learned a few things I had wrong.

1. His nickname was SWEDE Savage. Not Sweet Savage.

2. Although he initially survived the crash, he later died from an infection during his recovery.

One may, of course, wonder why I am relating this apropo of nothing, in a reply to myself no less.

It is just a prolix, and hopefully mostly harmless way, to kick this thread.

Also, like Kiki Dee "I've got words in my head so I say them..."

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 07:17 PM

12. The older I get, the more my respect for Dr. King grows.

Because every year I find out more about him, and I understand more about who he was, and what a great mind and heart he had.

In my opinion, probably the wisest and most sincere major "leader" of the 20th century, although I suspect that he would cringe if he read that.

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”


“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”


“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”


“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Jan 20, 2014, 07:21 PM

13. Excellent. n/t

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