What Would MLK Have Thought?

by Heather Robinson

Like everyone else with a heart and sense of decency, I’ve viewed the events in Dallas with grief and sorrow. I keep having a strange feeling that at least Martin Luther King was spared this.

I can’t really imagine life from a perspective of, say, a young black man who has been treated cruelly by police. But that young man can’t really entirely imagine life from the standpoint of the family members of a decent, hardworking police officer shot in the line of duty by a miserable, destructive person. And few of us can – or care to invest the time and extreme open-mindedness – to try and imagine life from the perspective of that sick person.

A wise man I knew once said, everyone is someone’s child. It’s a truth so simple, and so often overlooked. To go through life with that consciousness might be the province of saints and heroes among us. To actually view each human being you encounter as a precious and unique individual, as having been created by God, as having been welcomed – or not – but as having come into this world as a tiny, helpless, crying infant, no more evil than any helpless creature who simply wants to live. It’s so very simple.

But it’s hard to really hold that consciousness when we ourselves are uncomfortable, in distress, afraid, in pain. In those instances, for the most part, our own selfish nature prevents us from being fully conscious of the other. It happens in interpersonal life, it happens on the freeway. It happens when we order lunch and the waitress gets our order wrong. Even with such simple, tiny disappointments and frustrations, we prioritize our own needs ahead of the humanity of the other.

Then again, it should come as no surprise that this is the case. It’s always been and probably always will be. An exception is family life, and the great loves that allow us to glimpse the soul of another, and the rare (for most of us) moments of altruism that such love inspires. The idealists among us do better; they seem to make a lifelong practice of cultivating awareness of the smallness of their own needs and wants and personalities, and in so doing, become the greatest of givers. On the other hand, I’ve always believed there is a virtue in living for the self as well; I believe there is a reason God created us as individuals. As the sage Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” But the rest of that quote, “If I am for myself alone, what am I?” is not as often practiced.

When I write that all lives matter, it is not to antagonize, only to repeat a truth I don’t believe we should be afraid to say. It is is the only way out of the mess of victim-worship and insensitivity that has grabbed our country like a vise and will surely not let go until we let go of our narrowness and embrace a bigger vision.


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