OUR VIEW: Put into practice the high ideas of a historic event

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Every third Monday of January the nation pauses to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Celebrations are held, work is skipped and reminders go forth that Robert E. Lee was born on the same day a few generations earlier. Then, on the Tuesday following the third Monday of every January, we return to our normal lives.

It reminds us of Christmas, when we spend a season extolling the virtues of giving and of Christian love before becoming gluttons of both turkey and presents. Then we turn to the new year and the rat race of &8220;normal life&8221; that ensues on Jan. 2 &045; perhaps a little later for school children.

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So in this space we’ll not point to the obvious gifts one man’s dream left us. Instead we’ll point to the shortcomings our society must overcome to reach a place in time where we share an equal respect and love for all man, regardless of race, religion or creed.

Society &045; in the north as in the south &045; is a segregated one. Our schools and restaurants and restrooms are integrated, but our personal lives &045; our churches, our dinner clubs, our circles of friends &045; remain largely divided along racial and ethnic lines.

This is not a fault so much as it is a reality. All races are guilty of the inclination most sociologists call normal: for a person to seek out like people.

What we should realize is that to reach King’s dream &045; one shared by many people of many races &045; we must focus not only on the physical realities &045; white people eating with white people or black people worshipping with black people on a normal basis &045; but on what is in our hearts the few days of the year when we all come together.

People of every race are guilty of segregating themselves, save those few days a year when we honor a fallen fighter whose fight one could argue has suffered greatly without its leader.

The key to reaching King’s dream will not be the day when it is the norm for blacks and whites to worship together in the same church or walk hand-in-hand down the street together or socialize in the middle of town at a large banquet table at a popular restaurant. The key will be when a white person feels not odd walking into a predominantly black church or a black person feels not awkward worshiping beside a friend in a predominantly white church.

The difference will not be the insecurity of the individual but the quick glances and low whispers &045; not taunting ones, mind you &045; of people who have seen something out of place.

Until then, we’ll remember a dream &045; and a general (one, however, who said he fought for his country and not for an overriding economic or social belief) &045; but we’ll do little to apply either’s life work to making our society more enlightened.