Thursday, July 12, 2018

Martin Luther King and "Being Civl"

I got into a dispute recently concerning the views of Martin Luther King and being civil.

The dispute concerned the current "call for civility" by those who are currently being condemned (or on behalf of those currently being condemned) by those who are being accused of engaging in and promoting near-Nazi like wrongs.

Among these crimes is that of calling immigrants "vermin" who are "infesting" our country - identifying them as a race of murderers and rapist and putting them in cages for our own protection.

These are people who, though they seem to insist that the people only express themselves in the polls, have rigged the elections through systems of gerrymandering and restricted voter access, thus denying them a fair expression of their opinion in the only venue where their venue has any power.

These are the same people who have captured the judiciary - a judiciary that has recently shown that it is more disposed to favor those who rig elections for their benefit using the means mentioned above, giving unfair advantages to those with power over those who are supposed to be controlling the government through the process of elections. For some reason, these voters who are being made increasingly powerless and irrelevant - increasingly unable to express their opinion through elections - are supposed to remain docile, obedient, and deferent to those who hold power.

These are the same people who have virtually sold our government's power and prestige to a hostile state, where, if it is not the case that Moscow is dictating the course of American foreign and economic power, we must assume a bizarre coincidence between the policies that President Trump pursues and that which serves Putin's interests.

Of course the people who are the perpetrators of these wrongs are going to tell those who are upset about it to "be civil".

Yet, the question under debate is: What would Martin Luther King say? This is the same Martin Luther King who lead protests against an unfair and unjust state. There are many who point to King as a role model, while they themselves call for an end in civility in a call to protest these wrongs.

I do not want anybody to think that I have any type of authority to speak for Martin Luther King. All I can do is offer an analysis based on my understanding of his words and deeds. These may be in error, but this is how it appears to me.

I think that King would agree with thee calls of civility. He would begin by saying that those who demand civility are right to do so. Civility is a core part of civil society.

But what is civility?

Civility is treating others as they ought to be treated. Civility goes hand-and-hand with justice. The person who violates the call for civility is the person who treats his neighbor as somebody less than human. The person who lacks civility is the person who thinks that he has a right to stand above his fellow human being, as opposed to the person who thinks his rightful position is at his neighbor's side.

Yes, civility is important. Yes, it is important to join the call for civility and to let that call be heard from the rooftops and through the streets.

Where will you find civility?

You will find civility in the government that recognizes that its job is to serve the people, not the people's job to serve government, and, recognizing that fact, recognize that it is their solemn duty - it is the very definition of their proper role as a civil servant - to make sure that the government expresses the will of the people. The person who thinks that his rightful place is to stand above them, look down upon them, and command not only their obedience but their deference, these are the demands of those who lack all civility.

You will find civility in the arms of the person who takes a family that is fleeing the ravages of poverty and violence, wrap them in a warm blanket, provide them with food and shelter, and then see what you can do to help those who come to you with need. These are the deeds of the civilized person. The person who cast them out - who slams the door in their face and tells them to go away, this is not civilized.

Yes, we want more civility. Yes, we need more civility. Yes, people ought to be given the respect that they deserve. That is why we are here.

Having said this, there is another aspect of King's philosophy that we must look for.

I believe that King would not be interested in any action taken out of malevolence and hatred. Even punishment and condemnation is done out of love and concern. Think about a parent punishing a child. The demands of civility do not require that the parent ignore a child's transgressions - refusing to condemn and correct the child's behavior when it is wrong. The parent, out of love for his child, out of respect for his child, corrects his child's transgressions, not only for the sake of others in society, but for the sake of the child. It is done out of love for the child. It is done to make the child a better person.

Just as the loving parent will step in and educate and correct the transgressions of the child - not out of hate and malace, but out of love - our duties to a civil society demand of us that we take steps to correct the injustices and wrongs that we see in our community. We do not do so out of malice and hate - that would be wrong. That would be as much a stain on our character as on the character of those we hope to educate. We aim to correct these injustices out of love - out of a hope that we can all of us, equally, enjoy the benefits of living in a fair and just society, in a community where all of its members treat each other with the dignity and respect that all human beings deserve.

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