NOTE FROM NORM: A More Perfect Union
Today, against a backdrop of a global pandemic, summer riots in our cities in 2020, and an attempted overthrow of our Democracy in Washington, D.C., we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Perhaps, it is fitting that this day falls in between the near cataclysmic events of January 6, 2021, and the most potent symbol of our nation’s democracy on January 20, 2021.
On the one hand, we saw the forces of a mob attempt, by force, to wrest control of our nation’s democracy from the duly elected because of their grievances at the false claims that an election was stolen.
On the other hand, we will see the majesty of democracy, a peaceful transition of power from one President to a new President at the citadel of democracy, the United States Capitol.
The optics of both are and will be different than we have seen in our lifetimes.
The videos and pictures of a violent mob attacking police officers, killing one, destroying the symbols of freedom and democracy, and delaying, not stopping, our elected officials from exercising their constitutional obligations have shaken us to our core.
We have seen violence before. We have seen it committed against our cities.
On 9/11, we saw it committed against us by foreign terrorists.
During the summer, we saw it committed by domestic terrorists.
And, on January 6, we saw it once again committed by domestic terrorists.
Our fellow Americans.
Those this summer, and those who committed acts of violence on January 6, believe they were right in their cause.
Their claim to the rightness of their cause ended with the first lit match, the first police station torched, the first punch thrown, the first police officer assaulted, the first person murdered seems not to matter much to them or those who are apologists for their criminal acts.
These are not the acts of patriots or martyrs.
They are the acts of criminals.
Martin Luther King, Jr., who is revered for acts of courage in his short life, is best remembered for reminding us that one can act on their beliefs without taking away others’ humanity or their lives.
That our greatest strength is not in our capacity to submit those we believe are our oppressors to hatred and violence but in our capacity to show resolve through our words and our actions.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence, you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence, you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Despite our nation’s Capital and our nation’s Capitols being surrounded by security forces, both civilian and military, what is inside those buildings is far more powerful to our democracy than what is outside them.
The idea of America.
The idea of America is not a perfect union.
It is the attempt to form a more perfect union.
The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden to the position of President Joe Biden is not the result of some ill-gotten gain.
He won his election.
In doing so, he won the right to lead this nation for the next four years.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did not commit himself to memory in America because he raised his fist in anger and brought it down upon his enemies with spite.
He raised his voice in hope and lowered himself to his knees in prayers that America would find a way to live up to its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.
Despite the acts of a few in the summer of 2020 and those on January 6, 2021, America has steadily, if unevenly, gotten closer to that promise.
We are not there. We are not at the promised land that King saw and shared with us on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
His blood on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, was a vivid reminder that we were not there yet.
The blood in our nation’s cities, the blood on the marble floor of the United States Capitol, is a vivid reminder that we are not there yet.
But the time has not passed where we cannot get there someday if we are committed to working with one another instead of against one another.
If we can find the time to heal and not to forget but to forgive.
On this day, in this year, we would do well to remember King’s words that “The time is always right to do what is right.”