January 17, 2011

did you go sailing today



arnold the cockroach again

it has been awfully quiet around the office where o docker works today

just about everyone had the day off but i wonder how many of them remember why

after a few years have passed it is hard to remember much about where holidays come from - only that we get another day to go sailing or skiing or to hang out at the shopping mall

how many think much about veterans on veterans day

or about the guy they named christmas for when it is his birthday

o docker is a butthead just like the rest of them - for him this is just another three day weekend

but we cockroaches remember more than most people do about why today is a holiday

dr king was one of those rare creatures

rare for a human or for a cockroach

he thought more about the well being of other creatures than he thought about himself

and he taught us that if we want others to respect us we must first respect ourselves

in fact if we concentrate on making ourselves worthy of our own respect everything else will start to fall into place

without a lot of yelling and hollering

what a simple and yet powerful idea that is

if others see that we respect ourselves they will respect us too

not everyone agreed with dr king but in the end more did than did not

that is probably why they made his birthday a holiday

for everyone

so why do cockroaches remember dr king

well cockroaches often have a hard time with our self respect

humans are always beating up on us pretty bad and it is easy to think that we are not worth much

in fact the worst thing that humans do to us is rob us of our self respect

cockroaches have been around for millions of years and have a heritage and culture we can be proud of

it is not our fault if humans are stupid about that

we cockroaches perform some pretty valuable work

we do a lot of the work that humans think they are too good to do

like cleaning the crumbs out of typewriter keyboards

o docker would never get down here to clean out his own keyboard

who does he think is going to do that

if it were not for cockroaches - working out of the light where we are seldom noticed - crumbs would just pile up until everything just ground to a halt

we are no lesser creatures because of the work that we do

it is not our fault that all that is left to us most of the time is just the crumbs

some people think that dr king was working to help only people of his own culture

that culture has now become so mainstream that it is easy to forget about some of the harder struggles of 50 years ago

it is too tempting to just go shopping

but cockroaches everywhere know better than that

some of us are still struggling for our dignity and for our self respect

if the struggle is at all easier than it used to be we probably have dr king to thank for that



  1. My wife told me of an old, old man who said, "I remember a time when Negroes had no souls. It was much better and easier then. Now it's confusing." ~ John Steinbeck, "Travels With Charlie" 1962.

    Thank you Dr. King for making such things so "confusing" for some, and so crystal clear for others.

  2. Well said, Arnold.

    This business about how holidays so unfortunately tend to lose their meaning is exactly what I was thinking about with my 2-days-early post looking for better greeting.

    If I'd had more time, I was going to write about how sad it is that so many of our holidays end up being all about retail events and how sort of gross it would be if the stores started having Dr. Martin Luther King Day Sales too.

    However, a quick Google search tells me that that has indeed already happened.

    I guess I didn't realize that because I don't spend as much time at the mall.

    Sometimes ingnorance really is bliss.

  3. thanks bonnie

    i overheard o docker talking to his co workers when he got back to work on tuesday

    he had to run an errand over the weekend that brought him past a local car dealer

    they were running one of those three day weekend sales events with tents set up in the parking lot with free sodas and a weenie roast

    in the world of the car dealer it was business as usual

    they did not have a sign set up saying

    test drive our i have a dream car

    but they might just as well have

  4. gaaaaaccch

    words fail me.

    fortunately somebody else made a very nice video.

    Absolutely choked up hearing Ruby Bridges tell about her own experience.

    I couldn't do anything this year beyond posting - with jury duty on Tuesday, MLK day was a work day for me.

    Maybe next year I will see if I can find something useful to do.

    (and it won't be going shopping)

  5. ps - not that I think racism is gone (in fact, Arnold, would it be hurtful if I made a comparison between the perniciousness of racism & bedbugs?), but I consider myself blessed to live in a place and time in which I can only imagine institutionalized racism.

    I am also grateful that there are many, many books out there (and people like Ruby Bridges) that testify to what it was like and guide my generation's imaginings.

  6. Thankfully, I haven't had to personally endure prejudice in my life, beyond the extent that we all suffer in its presence.

    So, I can never really know to what extent it remains, although it surely does.

    I would guess that the worst is the kind that is not institutionalized - the unseen demons that lurk in the shadows. It's always easier if you can see your adversary.

    I saw a note on Facebook the other day. A man of color is cruising tropical waters in his sailboat and happened across another man of color on another boat in the same anchorage. He wondered, wryly, why everyone else in the anchorage kept mistaking the two men for each other.

    I do know that the country I live in today is a much healthier place than the one I grew up in. Scenes I see around me every day would have been impossible in that other place. I see changes that I thought would take more than a lifetime to happen. One huge surprise came in November, 2008.

    Today's kids are growing up free of a lot of the baggage that my generation carried. And their kids will be freer still.

    Despite the decisions that any of us might make, though, about how we choose to live our lives, I think it does take time for the more important changes to happen.

    Too much time.

  7. The kind that lurks in the shadows and only comes out to play in the presence of like-minded people (or on the safely anonymous internet) is EXACTLY the kind that makes me think of bedbugs - repulsive, very good at hiding, and horrifyingly hard to eradicate.

    However, the more I think about it, the more I think that comparing racists to bedbugs IS insulting.

    To the bedbugs.

    All bedbugs really want is a square meal.