Statement on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 16, 2017
by Cynthia Joseph, Green Party National Headquarters Office Manager
There is much concern with the direction we are taking. Unchartered territory, familiar and unfamiliar faces litter the landscape, coloring it with fear and apprehension.
Our lives are not perfect. Even in ideal circumstances, we still have to pay bills, take care of our health and each other. As Americans, we’ve always seemed to find a way even in the direst of circumstances. Fear is a product of hard times we’ve endured and the prospect that it could only get worse before it gets better.
We’ve lived through a myriad of social changes. And throughout the process, we’ve held on to the hope that one day, labels will be removed and people can just be themselves. That they could work hard, enjoy the fruits of their labor and provide for those they love. These basic needs surpass race, religion and gender. In that regard, we are all the same.
But on this day, when we honor a prolific humanitarian who devoted his life to make sure that everyone enjoyed the freedom on which this country was built, there is a dark cloud tainting his efforts. It is not imaginary. It is not an instance of over sensitivity. It is division. It is senseless. And at its core is misunderstanding, distrust and deflated spirits.
Most troubling is that listening doesn’t seem to be an option. My father always said that if someone answers a question quickly without thought or if they talk over you before you finish the question that in fact they’re being untruthful. I’m not as pessimistic as he was. I do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. But he did grow up an era in which segregation was the norm when no one considered his feelings. That said I do believe there is some credence in his point of view, in that if you’re not fully engaged that you cannot give an informative, insightful response.
Part of the problem is the need to be right. Basically, how it is expressed can lead to a chasm rendering healing impossible. Shouting doesn’t make your message more right. Hurling hurtful comments doesn’t make your message more meaningful. And turning a deaf ear to those who express hurt doesn’t make your message more palatable. All it does is stifle communication; which is basic in overcoming differences.
The old adage that you can understand a man by walking a mile in his shoes does is appropriate in this case. Though, I take license that it could be someone suffering from a debilitating disease and or a fatal illness. It could also be a woman, a gay or transgender individual. Unfortunately, we are all from the same club. Fortunately, we are all from the same club. We all know of the aforementioned, and have loved and lost. The void is never quite filled and the hurt is heartfelt, lasting a lifetime.
These words are not liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Green, or Independent. These words are human. They are what we live daily, while we are trying to make a better life for our families and ourselves. These are the words that are part of Dr. King’s legacy. These are the words that we have to embody to move forward, past our differences to make the world a better place for ourselves and those we love.
Remember, this day is more than a holiday. This is about honoring a man that saw the bigger picture. That inclusion and appreciating our differences makes stronger. Educate those who seek it and those who don’t. Celebrate how far we’ve come. Understand that we’ve got a long way to go. Take the time to tell your children that they shouldn’t be punished for loving their parent of color or of the same sex. Tell them that there is basic good in all of us, despite disagreement. And face up to your role in what they see and hear. They learn from us and we shape whom they will become.