Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy of Love

Which came first: the rhetoric, or the violence? Does an atmosphere of violence promote and encourage people to treat each other with disrespect and disregard?
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"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On my way to church last Sunday, located in Oakland, CA., a city with the 5th highest crime rate in the country, I saw the following sign posted on the billboard of another church nearby:

"Let Love be your only weapon."

And I couldn't help but wonder what the world would be like if the only weapon we had in our arsenal was love. What would it be like to have only love to reach for in responding to life's challenges? Who would we be as a people, as a nation, as a planet?

I know what you're probably thinking. I thought about it myself. In fact, my cynical self, you know, the one I wrote about in last week's post, was the first voice that piped up and told me to "get real." It reminded me that love didn't work out too well for the likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Kennedys or even Jesus.

Turning the other cheek and loving thy neighbor seems overly naïve for times like these, when, in the face of an event like the shootings in Tucson, the fear factor gets ratcheted up even higher and people rush out to buy more guns and ammo instead of asking how they could become more loving.

The blogosphere is rife with commentary about the Tucson shootings, the shooter, and the impact of the political rhetoric in creating the kind of environment that breeds hatred and promotes violence.

Which came first: the rhetoric, or the violence? Does an atmosphere of violence promote and encourage people to treat each other with disrespect and disregard? Or does a lack of civility in our speech and blatant disregard for the right of people with differing opinions promote and encourage those with violent tendencies to act out? Does A cause B, or does B cause A?

And more importantly, what are we going to do about it? What can we do about it?

For one thing, we can call for a renewed awareness of the need for civility, as President Obama did in his speech in Tucson last week. Yes, that's a start and it's an important step. But something more is required of us.

Raising awareness is the first step in transformation. We can't change what we can't see. But how long do you think it will take before we're sucked back into the old ways of being and interacting with those whose politics or ways of seeing the world differ from ours? Nature abhors a vacuum. If we don't implement new behaviors, we'll return to the status quo. Human nature is like that. Clearly, something more is required of us.

Let's face it: in this country, given that we began in revolution and have consistently been involved in wars of one kind or another, domestic and foreign, for most of our history, given that our military budget accounts for approximately 43 percent of the entire world's military expenditures, (more than China, Russia, France, the U.K. Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia combined), we know about weaponry. We know about guns and military hardware.

How much do we know about love?

For that matter, how much do we know about peace? What's our peace budget in this country? Oh, that's right, we don't have one. Efforts to establish a Department of Peace have gone unfulfilled since George Washington issued the very first call for a "peace establishment" in 1763.

Here are some interesting facts about efforts to "give peace a chance" and legitimize it as a permanent part of our established government:

1792: Benjamin Banneker and Dr. Benjamin Rush call for an "Office of Peace" with peace education in all schools.

1925: Carrie Chapman Catt of the National League of Women Voters at the "Cause and Cure for War" Conference, publicly suggested, a Cabinet level "Department of Peace" and "Secretary of Peace" be established.

1926/1927: Kirby Page author of "A National Peace Department" wrote, published and distributed the first proposal for a Cabinet level "Department of Peace" and "Secretary of Peace".

1936: Dr. Frederick Kettner publishes essay "The Need for a Secretary of Peace."

1943-1968: Eighty-eight Congressional bills are introduced calling for a Department of Peace in the House or Senate.

1961: President John F. Kennedy launches the Peace Corps.

1969: Senator Vance Hartke (IL.), and Rep. Seymour Halpern (NY), introduce a Bill for a Department of Peace with a Peace Academy.

2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH.), and Sen. Mark Dayton (MN) introduce Bills calling for a Department of Peace

Do the math. For 248 years, we've been unsuccessful in creating a critical mass of support for the establishment of something as essential to the fulfillment of our founding fathers' vision for this country as legitimizing peace as one of its core principles. How much longer will we allow that to stand? What will it take? Yes, something more is required us.

Rubberneckduck, a reader of last week's post observed:

In a nation that has just eliminated somewhere between 100K and 1 million innocent people in a foreign nation falsely accused of violence against the US, to indulge this one tragic death in this manner is stunningly hypocritical.

And, to a certain extent, rubberneckduck has a point. His observation was not lost on me. My thanks to him (or her) for pointing this out.

However, here's what I hope: I hope, through our "indulgence" in this tragic event, a new door opens. I hope we can use this opportunity as a "teachable moment" and help elevate our national awareness of the need to end the wars abroad and at home and to begin teaching love instead.

As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King this week, let us remember his words:

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method, which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

Dr. King paid the ultimate price in his quest to secure the right of freedom for all who suffer oppression. He may no longer be with us, but may the spirit of his dream live on in us. And may we be worthy stewards for carrying his dream forward and making it real.

May we be the ones who step up and say, in the spirit of Dr. King: "We'll no longer carry the burden of hate. We choose love." And then, in our homes and in our schools, in our families and in our communities, in the workplace and in the marketplace, may we be the ones who reflect love. May we be the ones who remind others, the answer is love.

Yes, more is required of us. May we be the ones who hear and answer the call, the ones who hold the consciousness and stand in the knowledge that love and understanding, compassion and empathy are the way forward.

I send you love and peace, hope and prayers, that our shared journey here on this planet is marked by the end of the old ways and the beginning of a new epoch where love rules.

What more is required of you? Please weigh in here in the comment section and while you're at it, please pay a visit to by my personal blog and website: Rx For the Soul.

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Many blessings on the path.