Sunday, January 16, 2011
Monday marks the official national celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the start of a week focusing upon the role of the struggle for human rights in establishing democracy and creating truly livable communities. The recent events in Tucson, Arizona demonstrate that the fabric of civic life in our national life has become seriously frayed, as our national self-examination sifts through the relationship between negative partisan politics and physical violence.
At such a time, it is highly appropriate to contemplate the work of Dr. King, because much of his work revolved around the establishment of a community of good will. Although that work entailed resisting negative and demeaning forces in the social order, he insisted upon having a positive vision of what the Civil Rights movement was trying to accomplish. Dr. King called this vision “The Beloved Community.” In his essay, “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” he stated, “True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force–tension, confusion or war; it is the presence of some positive force–justice, good will and brotherhood.”
The Beloved Community consists not merely of wishing the best for others, but actually creating the conditions whereby that which is best for others are optimized. As early as 1956, Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. As he said in a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court Decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s busses, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
Dr. King expressed his positive vision of this community of good will in his address, “The Birth of a New Age.” “We live in one world geographically. We face the great problem of making it one spiritually. Through our scientific means we have made of the world a neighborhood and now the challenge confronts us through our moral and spiritual means to make of it a brotherhood. We must live together, we are not independent we are interdependent. We are all involved in a single process. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly for we are tied together in a single progress. We are all linked in the great chain of humanity.”
What might such a Beloved Community look like in our local communities here in Southeast Idaho? What would life be like if each of our communities intentionally worked to protect everyone’s rights and promote tolerance and respect for one another – especially towards those who hold differing political opinions, belong to different racial and ethnic groups, or practice a different religious faith – if any at all?
Throughout this following week, in honor of Human Rights Week, The Idaho State Journal in collaboration with 2Great4Hate, will feature daily articles that will look at the legacy of Dr. King’s work, through our local and state Human Rights Commissions, and will feature articles and editorials reflecting upon the history of human rights work in Pocatello as well as the relationship between human rights and our core American ideals. As part of this series, we invite you, the citizens of our communities in Southeastern Idaho, to submit short one-paragraph descriptions of your vision of what The Beloved Community would look and feel like in our communities. Statements should be no more than 200 words, and may be edited for conciseness and appropriateness to the topic. You may submit your thoughts and visions care of the editor, firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions will be featured next Sunday’s edition of the Idaho State Journal (January 23).