Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day always raises my melancholy. I'm melancholy for the rubbish Whig history of race relations I was taught in my public school. I'm melancholy thanks to the public opinion surveys and FBI crime data I've worked with. I'm melancholy because there is easily-picked low-hanging fruit right there rotting on the branch: end the thrice-damned drug war once and for all.
I think I'm mostly melancholy because of an ongoing, resolute refusal of folks to grant commonplace dignity to all. Some of us refuse to grant dignity because of profession choice, others because of what folks choose to pursue a hobbies, or with whom they wish to have sex, or to which gods they pray. Some folks withhold dignity on the grounds of income or spending habits. Others withhold dignity related to military service or the lack thereof.
I'm a dishwater-dull, American, white, suburban dad. I've got it better than almost everyone on earth. I count myself extremely lucky that I can afford the luxury of merely indulging melancholy rather than suffering impotent rage over easily-corrected injustices. Everyone on earth should have a presumption of dignity, not just people like me. I suppose it's my ordinary human frailty that the best I can do is to teach my children and the few who heed me here at EE (& elsewhere) to respect the autonomy of strangers, to lend them dignity regardless of race, of social status, of profession, of gender, of age, of nationality.
Dignity is much like trade: it is mutually beneficial. By delimiting what others are allowed to do with their time and talent, the universe of exchange opportunities available to me quite naturally expands. Will some of the choices folks make be non-euvoluntary? Perhaps. But when people are denied the dignity to discover for themselves what is best in life, they necessarily suffer the often-grim alternatives. Build euvoluntarity. Build dignity.