It is curious how quickly we forget. I have come to realize, during this past week of social studies with my eighth-graders, that most of them have a difficult time grasping the depths and details of tightly mandated segregation, and to some extent, the prejudice which drives it.
I say “to some extent” because unfortunately, prejudice in one form or another is and will perhaps always be among us. Whether gender based, racial based, religion based, or using some other arbitrary system, prejudice seems to develop.
The battles that Martin Luther King Jr. fought still exist.
The tragedy that occurred Jan.8 in Tucson, Ariz., serves to highlight the divisions and stereotypes which damage our nation. We will leave it to the political commentators and columnists to discern the underlying party issues; our concern in this type of column is to address the common humanity which should underlay and heal the problem.
Stereotyping — it removes the necessity of viewing the “other” as a human being. The simplest example occurs when a football coach, getting his team fired up, stirs an “image” of the other team. This harmless technique, meant to fire players up, becomes something quite different when applied to politics, it seems.
Think before you act or speak — that was the message my parents gave me, and it seems to apply in many circumstances. If you truly want to be a person of influence, accept and deal with the fact that your words may have impact on the actions of others.
Take responsibility for your actions and your words- the classic cartoon of someone pointing crossed hands in opposite directions, saying “He did it! Or, maybe she did it— but it wasn’t me!” is all too descriptive of what happens some times.
Speak words of healing and inspiration, not incineration — without getting into politics, the message which the president gave on Wednesday evening was a prime example of healing oratory.
If we can learn anything from such tragedies as the Tucson shooting, if we can move toward reconciliation that is more than rhetoric, then the memory of Dr. King is truly honored.