We are living in an America that is more divided than ever before. While the president and Republicans called their Democratic opponent in the 2016 election “crooked,” on the other side, liberals such as Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.”
King preached equality and inclusion, and one of his most famous quotes was “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Is there a future where we can see eye to eye, where we approach one another with understanding instead of hate?
As we took the day off on Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, it is important we reflect on how we uphold such values in our everyday lives, as well as in our society, politically and socially.
Our recent political divisions are becoming more hostile and polarized. Just this Monday, on Martin Luther King Day, thousands of gun rights supporters gathered in Richmond, Virginia to protest gun restrictions implemented by Democratic lawmakers earlier this month. The protests, while ultimately peaceful, stoked fears of violence similar to what happened in Charlottesville in 2017, when a neo-Nazi drove into a crowd, killing one person and injuring more than two dozen.
While King lived in an arguably more divided America, political violence has increased in recent years. In 2019 alone, there were 418 mass shootings — more shootings than days in one year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Facts like this can make us question where our country is heading. A majority of U.S. adults support stricter gun control laws, according to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center. If both sides can find common ground, why aren’t we actively working towards this?
We have lost our ability to have constructive and proactive conversations with those across the aisle from us. Regardless of different ideologies, political divisions should not turn sociological. Instead of debating options to solve issues such as gun control, sexual assault and climate change, these topics have become partisan issues.
“I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos,” King said. “All humanity is involved in a single process, and all men are brothers. To the degree that I harm my brother, no matter what he is doing to me, to that extent I am harming myself.”
What King said should hit home for us, regardless of political sides. Listening and engaging with one another will not cause cultural extinction—it will enrich our cultures and communities.
As members of a Jesuit university that “invites men and women diverse in talents, interests and cultural backgrounds to enrich our educational community and advance our mission,” we must open our minds to those who are different from us.
Maybe spend the rest of the week talking to someone you disagree with in your classes or with whom you work, and instead of what you disagree with, find what you have in common. You might surprise yourself.