This year's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday happened to be a slow news day. On the blog, we posted clips from Dr. King's last speech, pictures from the marade held in Little Rock and a particularly telling link to the Blue Arkansas blog, which listed all the schools in the state that explicitly list MLK day as a holiday, and those that don't. Each of these items sparked a fair amount of discussion.
There was one item, though, that was particularly divisive, and not just on our blog but across multiple platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The "State of Arkansas" Facebook page posted the following status update: "The State of Arkansas would like to wish all my citizens and friends a very happy Dr. Martin Luther King/General Robert E. Lee Day on Monday! For those of you with the day off, enjoy it!"
In Arkansas, the state officially recognizes the holiday as celebrating both men. A link on the "info" page went to the state Department of Parks and Tourism website. However, Dena Woerner, the communications manager for parks and tourism, says she has no idea who is running the page and it is in no way affiliated with the state.
One thing is clear, though: race is still a touchy subject down here in the Natural State and one that will be, and should be, discussed with passion, pain and empathy — and, regrettably some hyperbole, race-baiting and closed-mindedness — for some time to come.
The next day, that one Facebook status had 73 comments. Our own blog post about the uproar had 24. Some were fair-minded, some over-the-top. I think I even saw relationships irrevocably shattered by the back-and-forth on Twitter. Here are some of those comments from the Arkansas Blog that I found, for one reason or another, worth reprinting here.
"... My point is that I don't view sainthood as a threshold requirement for honoring a person, with remembrance or with a holiday. That applies equally to Dr. King and Gen. Lee.
"So I reject the idea that there is nothing for black people to honor in the legacies of Washington and Jefferson, just as I reject the notion that Dr. King's work benefitted only blacks.
"Who knows whether the millions who could not vote, access public facilities, live in peace and without fear, or attend decent schools would have resorted to 'second amendment remedies' if not for his leadership. I think all Americans would have paid a high cost had that occurred.
"Gen. Lee is in a different category than Washington or Jefferson. You'd expect his home state of Virginia to heap its highest praise on a Favorite Son whose loyalty to state triumphed over oath to defend the United States. He's an authentic Virginia hero. Arkansas? Not so much ...
"I do wish the days weren't celebrated together — it sure *looks* like King for the blacks; Lee for the whites. That notion dishonors both." — Tap
"A military leader that dishonored their oath with treason or a preacher the FBI illegally spied on? That the question must be asked is indicative of the moral ambiguity this nation's citizens find themselves. Some still long for the mythical 'good ole days' when naivete allowed the oppressor to demand the oppressed thank him for the privilege." — Zatharus
"... And no matter what any of you say, it was about slavery. Read the articles of secession of the confederate states. The stain of slavery still mars our political discourse. When reading the Constitution at the Opening of Congress (a fine idea to my way of thinking), they left out anything to do with the three-fifths clause which was the framers' deal with the devil to get the document ratified. I would call that re-writing history. There seems to be a lot of that going on among the right wing today." — the outlier
"I seriously doubt that it would make a dime's difference to Martin Luther King that some folks celebrate Robert E. Lee's birthday at the same time they observe his. Were he still with us, MLK would have far more important things on his admirable agenda." — Durango
"Maybe all holidays should be paired. Lesseee ... Ground Hog Day could be paired with Red Hawk Day, the ground hog's natural enemy. Washington's Birthday with King George Fest, Easter with Druid Daze, etc etc etc. Sorta like making Democrat and Republican Senators sit together for the SOTU speech." — Sanford Marker