Martin Luther King's teachings stand at the core of the strong foundation of America. Today, terrorism, war and recession are seeping in, cracking that foundation and eroding civil rights and civil liberties. And while the teachings of Dr. King came many years ago, they are especially relevant to us today as we struggle with painful losses and difficult questions about the future of America.
President Bush announces almost daily that the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan will lead to justice. Although there may be no other realistic options at this stage of this particular conflict, Dr. King¹s teachings encouraging non-violence give us an idea of what lies ahead if our leaders aren¹t especially careful in managing the war and its aftermath.
In a sermon Dr. King delivered on November 6, 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama, he said, "As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos"(King).
The debate over what caused the attacks of September 11 may continue for decades. What¹s important for President Bush, Attorney General Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to remember is that what they do now and in the near future will have serious ramifications for their children and grandchildren, as well as ours.
Dr. King believed that violence begets violence in an endless cycle. As he stated in a sermon delivered on November 17, 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, the only way to stop the cycle is to "inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love"(King). Yes, this may sound unrealistic, even ridiculous, to the cynical or to those who have experienced the most tragic of losses at the hand of those America is attacking. But tolerance, if not love, is the only way that anyone can move beyond desperate reincarnations of violence. America is far from foreign policy nirvana, but that does not mean that our leaders should shy away from trying to attain it. Only the seemingly impossible goals are truly worth reaching.
Some politicians are even using recent events as a way to make civil liberties selectively available. The application of military tribunals to cases involving foreigners suspected of terrorism caused the Spanish government to refuse to extradite a suspect in the September 11 attacks unless the United States agreed to a civilian trial. Clearly, other countries are skeptical of America¹s new policies that Mr. Ashcroft claims are necessary to fight terrorism.
This is not to say that the answer is to become more isolationist. Indeed, long before globalization became part of popular parlance, Dr. King recognized...