I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to remain optimistic in the world we live in today. Today, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, is a day to be optimistic. We’ve come so far thanks to the tireless work of so many before us.
And yet, the issues that plague humanity seem to multiply infinitely ahead of us. Is this how it feels for every generation?
As an activist, I was awe-struck after watching the film Selma last year. I immediately decided to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s autobiography, some excerpts from which I will share here. I continue to be filled with awe by these words and the actions that they inspired.
MLK and the people marching with him, they got shit done. They changed laws. They created laws. Just as important, if not more, they were able to change the hearts and minds of people across the United States and even the world.
There’s a heart-wrenching moment in the movie where Dr. King, consoling a grandfather who just lost his grandson, Jimmie Lee Jackson, says to him, “There are no words to soothe you. But I know one thing for certain: God was the first to cry.”
How many people have died in this fight against injustice. How many continue to die in the face of it? How many more must we lose? With each, I now picture God shedding tears; crying at the loss of the person and the loss of the humanity that he created. We are a humanity that daily fails to take care of each other.
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Surely, God created us with the belief that we possess everything we need to take care of each other. But do we truly believe that all people deserve the same as us?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”
We’re all bound up in this together at the end of the day. That only becomes more apparent as the web of globalization reaches out further, touching every corner of the world. At the same time that everything becomes more visible, however, it all becomes less visible.
Whereas the people marching in Selma were standing up for the dignity and rights of each other, hand in hand, we often are trying to stand up for the rights of people we will never even see, nevermind meet. Is it possible to stand, boldly, fearlessly in the same way? Can we really walk arm in arm across the bridge together with a family fleeing Syria? Can we stand up with a child in South Sudan?
Tweet this, email that, sign here. These actions give us a way to plugin to the fight against injustice. But is it enough?
“I refuse to accept the idea that the “is-ness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “ought-ness” that forever confronts him.”
I think we’re trying. We want to do good. My generation is one that is still finding our way–figuring out new and better ways to do have an impact on the world. We haven’t got it exactly right yet, but the interconnectedness today holds so much promise for tomorrow. The thing is, we have to work at it. We can’t assume it will happen on its own. As Dr. King states so clearly, it never does.
“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
The time is always ripe to do right. That path lay before us, always. But it can be a damn tough one to embark upon. On this day, we celebrate the decision to do right in this world, whatever the cost.
“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”