Monday, January 17, 2011

Some thoughts in honor of MLK day

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lately, in the wake of the horrible shooting in Arizona, there has been a lot of talk about the tone of public discourse. There has been expressed a concern that the vitriolic words of the pundits and politicians within our public sphere can translate into the hateful actions of suggestible individuals.

While I think it would be comforting to find a specific person, or bit of political jargon, to blame for the sadness and horror we all experienced at such awful news, I don’t think that would be accurate. I think that the real problem is far more insidious, and pervasive, and lies within the “silence of the good people.”

From the reports, it seems apparent that the mental illness of the shooter was long noticed. He was removed from the college he was attending because he was so disturbed. Removed, but not helped, not treated with humanity but shunned. And so we all pay the price for our indifference.

Mental illness is just one area in which our society - the very society that Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed such a shining dream for - is still failing abominably in the arena of civil rights. The rights of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered individuals is another. Yet another group consistently overlooked are the Intellectually Disabled, for whom almost no accommodations are made in any social context, even within the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Unfortunately, it takes time for even our great country to recognize one-by-one the rights of all its people, and acknowledge the dignity that each person owns as a birthright. However, I do think that today each and every good person can do something to help bring Dr. King’s dream a bit closer to reality.

We can be mindful of our own vitriolic words, because they can lead to action - or inaction. We can stop using words like “insane” “gay” and “retarded” out of context. We can remember to be respectful of one another because we never know what crosses we each may come to bear, or are suffering with in silence.

We never know when something said in hate (even unintentionally) may reverberate in the heart and mind of someone hearing it. We also don’t know when something said with love, kindness and respect may give someone the strength that they need to make a better decision, or just make it through the day.

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” 

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there! I was referred to your blog by Bethany from L'Arche. I greatly appreciate this post, especially your reflections on how choosing our words carefully can be an act of love, and a promotion of peace.

    If you'd like to visit, I'm writing about 'disability as opportunity' at
    Thanks again!