It is not Valentine's Day yet. Stop telling me it is. Remove your displays, put away your candy, and take down the naked baby with the crossbow. It's January. Mid-January. Which, so you know, is a month before mid-February.
Now that I've vented, let me explain in a slightly less abrasive manner.
Go into a store at any given time in America, and it will be one of six holidays. From January First to February 14th, it's Valentine's Day. For the next three months, it's Mother's Day. In mid March it miraculously becomes July 4th, even though that's clearly intended to take place in July. The actual month of July brings us Halloween, which holds until November 1st when it becomes Thanksgiving. Four weeks later we get Christmas, which ends a month after that in time for hey, look at that, Valentine's Day.
There are other holidays, technically. But there are no specials on flag day candy, and I've never seen an eight-day Hannukah sale. As a consumer culture, we're guided by what is in our stores, and those six holidays are the only things that make the cut.
Maybe it'd be easier if we combined them into one year-long holiday called Valmochrismaweenygiving. We can celebrate by having our patriotic mothers date a pumpkin, eat a turkey leg, and give birth to the baby Jesus.
This weekend is Martin Luther King Day. A day to celebrate one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century. And I'll be honest, I forgot about it. Maybe that's because I don't have a day job and I'm not in school, so I couldn't get the day off to remind me. And there was no snazzy display in CVS.
I could be off base here, but I think celebrating a guy who helped end segregation is more important than thanking our mothers. I know my mother is reading this, and she'd be happier if the world cared more about equality and togetherness than if I made a call to 1-800-Flowers in mid May.
And Martin Luther King's birthday isn't the only MLK day we should be celebrating. Especially since his birthday doesn't often fall on the third Monday of every January (Who decided that?). We should be celebrating the day the Civil Rights Act passed. And the day that schools were desegregated. And the day that racism in America ended. Whenever it is that last one happens, we'll celebrate it.
There's still a LOT of racism in America. I got an e-mail yesterday that was signed, "eat a wing for the King!" Maybe she was referring to Elvis' infamous love of poultry, but I'm pretty sure it was a very misguided attempt at being culturally sensitive. On the flip side, I passed a man selling shirts that said, "First OJ, Now Kobe. Stay away from white girls!" Because if there's one thing that makes a rape and double homicide joke funnier, it's racism.
We've obviously still got a long way to go.
I wish we celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday with the same fervor we celebrate the Big Six. Though not with the imposed guilt of Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. Or the forced enthusiasm of July 4th and Thanksgiving. Or the gross misinterpretation of the original meanings of Halloween and Christmas. Okay, maybe it's better this way. But I propose this next Valentine's Day, next Mother's Day, next July 4th, next Halloween, next Thanksgiving, and next Christmas, while you're shopping for candy, for flowers, for turkey, or for fireworks, take a minute to remember the third Monday in January. Take a minute to remember what kind of country we say it is we live in. And take a break from your one day sale to think about what you can do to make it that much more possible.
I know I'm going to get a flood of e-mails telling me that this is supposed to a humor column and I shouldn't be talking about actual issues. To you, I say happy July 4th.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of Student Body Shots, which is available at SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.