Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson
As I write this it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, 2014 although it’s not actually the late, great man’s birthday.
That fell on Jan. 15, five days prior to the “national holiday,” but the labor unions and the U.S. Congress thought they had a better idea by proclaiming the third Monday of January as the day to celebrate King’s awe-inspiring presence in the American pantheon of stars.
Actually, Congress only came around after Stevie Wonder got into the act.
The vision-challenged musician issued a single (“Happy Birthday”) in 1980 to commemorate a movement to get King’s day of birth named as a national holiday.
Then he hosted a “Rally For Peace” press conference in 1981, and mounted a petition drive that gathered 6 million signatures in favor of the holiday proposal, which The Nation news magazine in 2006 called “the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.”
That did it.
Still, it wasn’t until 1983 that then-President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law creating the holiday in King’s name, and it was not observed until Jan. 20, 1986. The holiday was not celebrated nationwide, in all 50 states, until 2000, according to Wikipedia, thanks to reluctance by some states to go along. I’ll let you guess which states those were.
Anyways, so it goes. We celebrate the birthday of MLK on a day that actually was created to give a three-day holiday for federal workers and others.
It’s kind of like Christmas in that way, since Jesus Christ’s birthday is widely accepted to have fallen on another day entirely than Dec. 25.
A 2008 article in the Daily Mail Reporter (dailymail.co.uk) held that Jesus really was born on June 17, according to a scientist who tracked the movements of the Star Of Bethlehem (a.k.a. the Christmas star in nonreligious circles).
Australian stargazer Dave Reneke, according to the story, discovered through his research that 2,000 years ago there really was a preternaturally bright celestial body in the night skies, but that its appearance over Bethlehem more likely took place in the middle of the year.
Scientists, according to the report, have long held that the Star of Bethlehem probably came about as a conjunction of two planets — Venue and Jupiter — which managed to get close enough together to appear to be one mighty bright star.
And since “generally accepted research” has placed Jesus’ birth as coming some time between the year 3 B.C. and the year 1 A.D., the article states, Reneke drilled down into St. Mathew’s Gospel and concluded that the heavenly confluence took place on June 17 in the year 2 B.C.
He also surmised that the three wise men of lore, spying the bright star, decided it was the sign they’d been waiting for to signal the birth of the Messiah, and followed it to Bethlehem and the much-debated manger.
And that, as they say, was that.
Of course, all of the above presupposes that one believes that Jesus was the only son of God, the savior of humanity and the Prince of Peace on Earth, rather than following the belief of agnostics and others who say he was just a fair carpenter with the gift of gab.
Such debates, as we all know, are better left to those who want to argue the point, a number that does not include me, at least not today.
Nope, today I’m quietly celebrating the birth of another man who might have been a savior of some sort, if he hadn’t been gunned down on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.
And to top it all off, it is appropriate enough that today, MLK Day 2014, is the day of my deliverance from a certain, not to be named set of circumstances that has been anything but peaceful or inspiring, and I am now able to say in my own right, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, (I’m) free at last.”
Of course, I’m now headed for the unemployment line, but that’s not a subject for today’s conversation.
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