I don’t discuss politics much on the blog, but I like to think it’s pretty obvious where I stand, which is with kindness and inclusiveness and respect to people of all cultures and beliefs. In this country we are forced on a regular basis these days to examine our conscience on these matters. Perhaps this is part of what is necessary as we grow as a nation. But while there are the broader, abstract ideals that would have us treat others with respect and kindness… do we do this at the most local level? Do we treat the ones we love with respect and kindness? Are we patient with our family in our requests and in our answers to simple questions? Are we helpful, doing things for them without being asked? Do we respect the life decisions other family members make? These, too, are tough questions as we examine our own actions in regard to respect.
It’s been a little while since I’ve done this, but years ago I began sending an occasional donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. They, in turn, would send me return address labels imprinted with my name and address and a message: Teach Tolerance. I rarely used the labels, because the message kind of irked me. If I did use them, I would cross out the word Tolerance and write in the word Respect. Tolerance, it seems to me, falls short in the goal of accepting others; Respect feels more like we’re actually making progress in understanding each other.
Anyway, today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2018 in the United States of America, these are the things first and foremost on my mind, as I strive to be the best version of myself that I can. If I am open and treat others as I hope they would treat me, I think that’s a good foundation.
Image: A photograph by Ralph David Abernathy of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for the Right to Vote; it was taken on the last day as marchers left the campus of the City of St. Jude for the State Capitol. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. The Voting Rights Act, designed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local level that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote, was signed into law later that year, just a month past my first birthday. It astounds me sometimes that this most basic of civil rights was secured only in my lifetime, and that my grandparents probably knew people whose parents had been slaves or who had been born into slavery themselves. Perhaps it is no wonder that we still have so much work to do to overcome this past and to reach a place where respect for all people is common.