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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tomorrow, Jan. 20, is the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is hard for me to believe that we now have an entire generation who has grown up in the United States with this holiday on the calendar, not remembering a time when it was not marked or celebrated. A generation that has grown up learning about Dr. King and his life and work—in children's books, and classroom projects, and now there is a government sponsored Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, whose website mentions in passing, "After a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." though his actual birth date was Jan 15, 1929. The details of that long struggle are important, as is who we had to struggle against.

For those of us who are older, who grew up during the time when Dr. King was still alive, who were part of the civil rights movement, who remember his assassination and the push to establish a holiday in his name—first in states, and then the drive for a federal holiday—we have also the memories of those naysayers, who didn't want to allow it to happen.  

We have long memories, and will not forget, or shove under the rug the names and opinions of those racists who rejected Dr. King and fought back against our movement—even though some resisters have lately changed their tune and pay lip-service to his memory, or attempt to whitewash his ideology, and use his image for their own purposes. Let us refuse today, tomorrow, and into the future to accept historical revisionism.

Follow me below the fold for the history.

Two men are at the top of my "do not forget" list are John McCain and Ron Paul. Both men have run for president of the United States, both have held elective office, and McCain still does (with what seems to be a permanent seat on Sunday talk shows). McCain claims to have "changed" and regretted his stance, and Paul has denied, and lied about (through a staffer) how he actually voted "nay" against the federal holiday.

Last year, Dan Amira wrote The Eight Current Members of Congress Who Voted Against Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for NY Magazine, listing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) (who was a Dixiecrat when he voted and then switched to the Republican Party), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Congressman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY), Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) and Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Some of these names you may be more familiar with than others. Sensenbrenner was the author of racist, anti-immigrant legislation, most recently objected to flags being flown at half-staff of Nelson Mandela, and made the news for his crass references to FLOTUS' derrière.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) gestures to U.S. Rep. Peter King before the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 21, 2013.   REUTERS/Win McNamee/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
The most well-known of all is of course Sen. John McCain (AZ). Read Mother Mags for the full story on McCain's votes, and "reversals." Over at Crooks and Liars they pointed out he was almost 50 years old when he said "nay." No young political novice.  
Check out John McCain trying to wiggle his way out of the fact that he voted against MLK day back in 1983. John McCain was born in 1936. He was how old, how old---hmmmm---let's see...maybe 47 years old I think. He was almost 50 years old and he voted against MLK day! You see he needed just a few more years to figure out the impact MLK had on our society. He certainly can't say in this statement that he was young and inexperienced. Nope, he has to give the impression that he was young and inexperienced since it was his first year in Congress---so he studied and learned and studied and learned until it dawned on him. And then he suddenly realized he made a big mistake.
Markos wrote "McCain's problematic race record" back in 2008, dealing with the same issue, and flat out called McCain a liar.  

On Ron Paul, (sire of Rand Paul who is a chip off the old block) in 2012, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote MLK Day Fact Check.

Andrew (Sullivan) repeats an interesting claim that I've seen all over twitter tonight:

    "Chuck Todd notes that Ron Paul voted for the MLK national holiday. Gingrich voted against. I find the notion that Ron Paul is a racist to be preposterous."

Again, I make no claims about the contents of Ron Paul's heart. I've never met him, and consider such things beyond the bounds of the ultimately knowable. But Ron Paul's voting record is a different matter.

But first here's Ron Paul on Martin Luther King Day in his newsletters:

    "Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day."

It has been alleged that these are Lew Rockwell's words, not Ron Paul's. One would think that Rockwell would be familiar with Paul's record, as he was his longtime Chief of Staff.

Coates goes on to link to Paul's nay votes. Where I differ from Coates, is I have no problem calling Paul a racist. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If it spews racism, it's a racist.

Reporting on Paul "journalist" Chuck Todd, as usual, got it all wrong, since Gingrich voted "Aye" in both the 1979 and 1983 votes, and Paul was a naysayer.  

Of all of those who were "reluctant to observe" Jesse Helms, former five-term Republican United States senator from North Carolina (the idol of Ted Cruz) was one of the most virulent opponents.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), charging that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. espoused "action-oriented Marxism" and other "radical political" views, yesterday temporarily blocked Senate action on a House-passed bill to create a new national holiday in memory of the slain civil rights leader.

Helms' assault on King, which prompted a scathing denunciation from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), came as the White House was putting out word that President Reagan intends to sign the measure, even though the administration once had opposed it.  

The State of Virginia takes the prize for the most insulting "alternative" to allowing Dr. King a day of his own, along with Mississippi and Alabama.
In Virginia, it was known as Lee-Jackson-King Day, combining King's birthday with the established Lee-Jackson Day. The incongruous nature of the holiday, which simultaneously celebrated the lives of Confederate Army generals and a civil rights icon, did not escape the notice of Virginia lawmakers. In 2000, Lee-Jackson Day was moved to the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday in its own right.

Mississippi still shares this celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday on the third Monday of January and Robert E. Lee's birthday January 19.

In Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. and General Robert E. Lee share the paid state holiday on the third Monday of January.

Robert E. Lee still honored along with Dr. King? What?  

Oh, hell no! We have to do something about this.

Before we all head off tomorrow to honor Dr. King, let us not forget that there are those who fought tooth and nail to stop the holiday, and there are still states that tarnish his day with honoring confederate traitors.

Most important to remember is that Dr. King and many others died at the hands of some of the same racists who are still with us today. We have not won the battle that Dr. King is symbolic of. He fought for workers, for unions, was against the war in Vietnam, and established a Poor People's Campaign. Income inequality in this country has gotten worse not better. We still face racist Republicans in state houses and a majority on the Supreme Court who want to take away our voting rights.

Don't let anyone bury this history. And don't let anyone tell you the battle against racism is done. We can honor Dr. King by taking action, and moving forward.  

Every day. Not just tomorrow.

 

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 06:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Support the Dream Defenders, and I Vote for Democrats.

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