(Special to The Root) — A few years ago in fall 2011, I was staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. This is the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. is said to have finished writing his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before delivering it the next day at the Washington Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.
With a bit of time to spare, I walked the short walk to the Martin Luther King Memorial on the Mall. I was struck by how new it looked, given that it commemorated someone who died more than 40 years ago. I learned later it had only opened in August of 2011 — which tells a story, I guess.
But overwhelmingly I was struck by the inscriptions on the memorial, and one in particular, which was spoken by Dr. King in Atlanta in 1967.
If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.
Dr. King’s wisdom is a rare resource to the United States, I was sure. But this is why I find it so surprising — and shocking — that in 2012 and 2013, an unarmed boy can be shot dead in a street and this can be found .in accordance with the law. I can only conclude that the kinds of loyalty Dr. King spoke of have not transcended the sectional divisions in U.S. society.
Dr. King’s words struck a chord with me. I can appreciate what the results of friction between race, tribe, class and nation are, since my region has been experiencing this for centuries. I can appreciate what the absence of peace means.
Too much, we in my region look at things sectionally, and today the divisions are entrenching based on narrow loyalties and manipulated narratives. Various interests use ideology and well-crafted stories to promote elite political interests at the expense of the ordinary individual.
We don’t appreciate our fellow man and woman enough, we don’t extend basic human rights far enough and we rely too much on force when we could rely on consensual politics. It is deeply worrying to me because it is so hard to extinguish the flames and develop the world perspective that is needed to live peacefully and in harmony.
Wherever I travel — and not just in the Middle East — again and again the same themes come up: a lack of respect for the ordinary citizen, a lack of basic human rights and the primacy of force or coercion over popular participation in politics.