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01/11/2022 05:23:22 PM

Jan11

Promoting the values of mutual respect and kindness: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week we celebrate Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. An important and very timely lesson we can learn from Dr. King was his commitment to civility toward all. Dr. King taught us that violence should never be the means used to establish the ends of peaceful coexistence. Not only is violence and incivility harmful to society. It also defeats the purpose of our collective efforts.  As he himself emphasized, nonviolent resistance was intended not to defeat our opponents but to convert them -- the target of protest wasn't only social change but also individual growth. We are after the soul of the person. The current practices of murdering people because they are not part of our tribe is a complete repudiation of the values that perpetrators profess to be protecting.   Now more than ever such people could learn from a cardinal rule of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference: a protester should always "carry a letter of introduction" or, the willingness to abide by standards of civility.  Without such respect for our fellow citizens, no matter what the cause, we can have no true justice or peace.

Critics of such civility argue that a kind approach is ineffective in promoting justice.  But this argument is false.  We can be civil and at the same time passionately disagree, for civility does not mean complacency.  It does mean that we find ways of respecting the basic humanity of those with whom we disagree.

Such words not only apply to our elected leaders here and in Washington. We, too, need practice in the fine art of not shouting so much, and not to assume the worst of our opponents.  We, too, need to promote the values of mutual respect and kindness.

Dr. King was not a rabbi but his words reflect the spirit of Torah. Civility does not complement Torah. Civility is Torah.

Sat, September 24 2022 28 Elul 5782