MLK Day 2017:
What would MLK really want us to remember him for on this day—and perhaps every day. I believe it is six words “Life, liberty and justice for all”. In a single word, “justice”. This one word rings out in many of his speeches and most of his quotes. As valued, through the ages, by many other wise souls.
"Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. ... No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." MLK
President Obama’s farewell address only days earlier referenced our Declaration of Independence. He said that “these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing.” What Obama didn’t mention is the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people around the world who were included in the words of our declaration, but were executed. Millions of people literally killed for expecting their governments to abide by this fundamental principle that our founding fathers recognized as ‘self-evident truths’ 230 years ago. The President did mention “justice” three times, but none in the context of ‘justice for all’ globally. Could this be why the world appears to be heading toward increasing chaos? His failure, and the failure of every President before him, except Lincoln, was in not putting ‘justice for all’ as the highest priority. And we wonder why the future looks bleak.
President Obama did reference George Washington’s final farewell address regarding his warning about the dangers of hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, and foreign wars. Each a caustic factor that toppled other democratic republics before ours. Washington at least advocated “justice towards all nations” in his last address.
The purpose of the “435 Campaign” is to address these threats George Washington warned about. And, underlying each threat is injustice. Whether it is the injustices in our streets, our economy, our foreign/military/intelligence policy, or the gross injustices that our nation has ignored throughout our increasingly and irreversibly interdependent world.
Our hyper-partisanship is driven largely by our collective failure to differentiate between flawed American principles and the fundamental principles our nation was founded on. Pride of patriotism, of borders, or political party instead of pride in putting ‘life, liberty and justice for all’ above all else, is our most lethal flaw. Our misplaced pride has weakened the very foundation that our government’s systems and structures depend on - trust in the media, in science, and our election process. And, having never really applied this fundamental principle to our foreign, military, or intelligence policies we have created, exacerbated, and/or ignored problems abroad that have cost American taxpayers trillions in dollars, millions of Americans lives and war related disabilities. Our debt burdens in blood and treasure may break the back of our nation yet.
World War II should have taught us the value of putting the ‘rule of law’ (something we always pride ourselves in) over the ‘law of force’ (something we use too often in foreign policy). Few Americans recall that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally agreed on after the horrors of WWII were intended as a global bill of rights. It was a rational means of preventing future wars if it were made enforceable. Much of our nation’s financial debt, debt that could undermine our freedom and security, came from ignoring that profound document at home and abroad.
Like with our own Declaration of Independence, ‘we the people’ failed to insist that our government leaders incorporate its fundamental principles into our global affairs. In creating the United Nations Charter, a document similar to our original Constitution, the designers failed the justice standard of treating all people equally. Failure to include the fundamental principle, in creating our Constitution, cost our own nation more lives than both World War I and World War II combined. Failure to infuse that principle into an enforceable UN Charter, is responsible for most wars and infectious disease related deaths and disabilities worldwide.
I believe President Lincoln understood what George Washington recognized and what MLK knew well. That if we as Americans fail to apply the universal standard of ‘justice for all’, to all, we will never know or experience real freedom and real security. Read the greatest speech in history, The Gettysburg Address. It begins with its author referring to the fundamental principle used in the creation of our nation with that profound line that “all men are created equal”. He began his speech with “Four Score and Seven years ago” which doing the math, adds up to the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln wasn’t referring to the U.S. Constitution. Even more important is his conclusion. We should forever remember what he said, and didn’t say. He declares that “the great task remaining before us” is “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…”. Then, he did not say ‘and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’. Instead he stated, “that government... shall not perish from the earth.” We will never know if he meant ‘this’ government. We do know exactly what he did say, “that government” [the concept - fundamental principle of every government?] “… people shall not perish from the earth.”
It is our task before us in 2017 and beyond to insist that government, at every level (local, state, national and global) be ‘of the people, by the people for the people’, so ‘we the people of the world, shall not perish from the earth. That will require most of us keeping our word regarding the first two words and the last five words that all American’s have spoken with hand over heart to our flag. “I pledge”… “liberty and justice for all”. I’m confident MLK would agree.