Amy: It’s a shame you have to work on Martin Luther King Day.
Nathan: Yeah, but in honor of King, I won’t be working very hard.
Three score and seventeen years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, was born. Almost forty years after that, his momentous assassination came as a great beacon of hope to millions of people who wanted a day off from work and/or school. And now, almost another forty years later, we must face the tragic fact that some of us had to work last Monday.
That’s right, forty years later, the life of the working stiff is still sadly crippled by the manacles of working holidays. Forty years later, the American worker lives on a lonely island of paperwork in the midst of a vast ocean of bureaucracy. Forty years later, the working man is still languishing in the corners of his cubicle, finding himself wondering why exactly, the damn post office ain’t open.
So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to this humor website to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words adding Martin Luther King Day to the nation’s calendar, they were signing a promissory note by which every American worker was to get a damn day off.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of sitting on the couch, watching Judge Judy, and drinking cheap beer. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of the private sector are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation (to a day off), America has given the working people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity in this nation.
So we have come to cash this check—a check that will give us, upon demand, the riches of a weekday barbecue and the comfort of a day without showering. We have also come to my hallowed column to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the daily act of going to work. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of 9-to-5 to the sunlit path of a noon awakening. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of America’s working stiffs. Now is the time to lift our nation’s workers from the quicksands of dead end jobs to the solid rock of happy hour.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the value of an extra paid day off. This sweltering summer of my legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of my lying around and doing nothing. 2006 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that their accountant merely needed a two day weekend and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual on MLK Day. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until we get that fucking day off.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our laziness until that day off emerges. But there is something that I must say to you working stiffs who sit on your stuffed office chairs, feigning employment accomplishments. In the process of gaining our rightful place on the sofa, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for laziness by drinking from the cup of negativity.
We must forever conduct our struggle against those who oppress us and deny us our daytime talk shows. We must not allow our day off to degenerate into actual work. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of spending a work day goofing off.
We cannot skip work alone. And as we skip, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of corporate America, “When will you be satisfied?” They can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue, and our teeth, stained with coffee, keep showing up to work. We cannot be satisfied as long as our basic mobility is from a smaller cubicle to a larger one. We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until we are given the fucking day off.
I am mindful that some of you are reading this from work. Some of you have come fresh from narrow halls littered with motivational posters. Some of you have come from boring meetings where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of bureaucratic bullshit. You have been the veterans of monotonous suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is worse than an unearned day off.
Go back to your barbecues, your televisions, your saloons, and your drinking games. Let us not wallow in the pit of work-related bullshit. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men deserve the day off because Martin Luther King was shot by a bigot.” I have a dream that my four illegitimate children will one day live in a nation where they will receive a day off because a minister was shot. I have a dream today.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious boardrooms of the Fortune 500! Let freedom ring from the fuzzy cubicles of the tech companies! Let freedom ring from the desk of the chatty secretary! From every skyscraper, from every board room, and from every water cooler, let freedom bring us another damn day off!
When we let freedom ring—when we let it ring from every business and every government job, from every boss and every secretary—we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old white man’s spiritual, “Free at last! Three day weekend! Free at last!”
Yes, I too have a dream.