On Monday, the nation honors Martin Luther King, Junior. The holiday’s original intent was to “serve as a time for Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Martin Luther King, Junior.” Put just a little differently; this is a day to reflect on the value of our political and civil rights, particularly the impartial rule of law and free and fair elections.
But we live in a divided and distrustful time. Perhaps the impartial rule of law combined with free and fair elections seems impractical right now. If you are thinking that way, we ask you to reconsider.
Divided people resent unfair treatment. Divided people resent any advantages held by the other side. Resentment often leads to violence, especially when fear is mixed in with resentment. There is no glory in the breakdown of society.
You have much to gain from treating everyone equally well and insisting others do the same. Why? Not just because helping others feels good (it does) but also because others will help you in return. Treating everyone well also improves the business climate – more customers and less risk to investments.
Commit yourself to do all you can to treat everyone equally well and work to ensure our state and federal governments do the same. Ensure the impartial rule of law, ensure everyone may vote, and ensure everyone’s votes are accurately counted and reported.
How can you do that? There are three parts to it. One, stop electing warriors to Congress and our state legislatures. They only produce outrage and gridlock. Instead, send people who will work with their fellow legislators, regardless of party, for the best possible solutions to our many problems. Achieving this will require your early support of problem-solvers in the primaries. Two, stop electing partisans to count our votes. They create suspicion and distrust. Three, lobby your legislature for an end to the gerrymandering of voter districts. They make our polarization worse.
There is one more thing you could do. Lead by example. We can all show respect without prejudice to our fellow Americans – regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, political ideology, religion, gender, or sexual preference. Showing respect opens hearts and minds and thus eases our way forward in life. Best of all, respect begets respect.
Image: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Father Theodore Hesburgh singing “We Shall Overcome” at a 1964 civil rights rally in Soldier Field, Chicago.