Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in my very first Martin Luther King day of service. I was able to work along side a few hundred people who rose to the challenge and gave up their day off, to make the community they live into a better place.
I had another first yesterday as well, I read the entire I Have a Dream speech of Dr. Martin Luther King. I won’t lie, I was moved by it. My favorite quote was this,
“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
I’m not sure why it has taken me twenty five years to read it in it’s entirety but I am glad I finally did it. After reading the speech I began to reflect on it’s words and the idea of equality and I have come to a few conclusions.
1) The art of powerful and moving rhetoric is a dying art. That’s another blog for another day.
2) We as a society have severely perverted the idea of equality. When Dr. King gave his famous speech for equal rights no matter what a person’s color he understood a very important principle. All men are created equal in the sight of God. This is and continues to be the founding principle of the founding fathers of the United States of America. But what does it mean to be created equal? Does it mean that if one person has something we should all have it? Does it mean that if I want something to happen it has to happen because if it does not you are not giving me equal rights? Does it mean that if someone else is allowed to do something that I should be allowed to do it as well? I think all of the above ideas are a perversion of the idea of equality and in fact, they are in direct opposition to what it means to be an American.
I believe that equality for all people means having the right to make your life and the country that you live in a better place. This is where the central idea of equality has begun to break down. Dr. King and his supporters were fighting for rights such as the ability to vote, the ability to have a job, the ability to attain a quality education etc. All of these rights allow the right bearer to turn around and make the country that he or she lives in a better place. It seems to me that most cries for equality today in this country are not physical equalities that allow the person to better themselves or their country, but are moral equalities.
As Americans we have mistaken equality of body and soul for equality of thought. What I mean by that is this. We assume since we are afforded physical equality that automatically obligates us to receive moral equality. If I believe something to be true or right you must agree with me or you are being unfair, unjust, and narrow minded. While that sounds like a great a lofty ideal, there is a problem with it. It does not work in the real world. A very wise man once told me, “We can all be wrong, but we can’t all be right.”
The reason I bring this up is because for far to long now I have been hearing the bell of equal rights be rung by organizations that are not seeking equality of body and soul but instead are seeking to impose what they believe to be their moral rights. Even if they are opposed to what this country was founded on.
With that being said, I think it might be time to step back and reevaluate what we so passionately cry to be our inalienable rights. To do any less would be an insult to all of those who have furiously fought for the equality that we have today. I would suggest that if it does not help you better your life so that you can in turn better the country we live in, it is not a right. It is a privilege.
How about you? What do you consider equality of body and soul, and what do you consider simply a privilege?