A revisit to words of Martin Luther King on violence

This is a reprise of an earlier post. It still resonates, especially after the recent shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things 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 truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. 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.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. Too many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend and missionary George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. We must teach our children those Jesus words. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

* http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/
** http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

You don’t have to be cruel to be strong

Today on CBS Morning News, veteran broadcaster Bob Shieffer quoted FDR reinforcing his point that this vote is a referendum on us. FDR said, “a nation does not have to be cruel to be strong.”

This quote sums up the actions of the US President who has self-proclaimed he governs off “fear.” He has lied to and bullied allies, the media and anyone who dares criticize him. He paints groups of people as evil and enemies of the people. Why is the question we must ask?

My mantra is do not mistake kindness for weakness. But FDR says it a different way. We don’t have to be cruel to be strong. Strength is using your power only as the very last option, not the first. Leaders who want to wage war tend to be the ones who have never fought.

Let me close with a lesson from Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” When Atticus showed restraint when the real criminal spit in his face after Atticus fought to save a black man on trial, that showed a courage which too many did not understand. Atticus did not give his power away to this reprehensible man.

So, what kind of country do we wish to be? Do we want to be civil and strong or cruel and untrustworthy?

What would Atticus Finch be thankful for?

One of my favorite and most admirable characters in a fiction novel is Atticus Finch, the father and attorney in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As we approach my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, I was wondering what the reserved Atticus would be thankful for? Here is a man who was rolling a boulder uphill against the downhill racism that would eventually convict and kill an African-American client, Tom Robinson, during the Jim Crow era of the south.

– Atticus would be thankful for Boo Radley who saved his children’s lives from a hateful racist Bob Ewell whose actions led to the conviction of Robinson. Ewell, in a drunken stupor, attacked Scout and Jem in the woods, to pay back Finch for defending a black man against the Ewell version of the truth.

– He would be thankful for Calpurnia who was the housekeeper, cook and surrogate mother to his children. Like many in the south, Calpurnia represents the many African-American women who greatly helped southern households. Atticus would have been lost without her.

– He would be thankful for Scout’s passion. She would likely be getting into mischief the rest of her youth, but she would make errors of commission not omission. It would never be dull with Scout around.

– He would be thankful for Jem’s determination. Jem would not let his father go by himself to see the Robinson’s, nor would he and Scout let Atticus stand down the lynch mob at the jail by himself, knowing they were his protection.

– He would be thankful to his outspoken friend and kindred soul, Maude Atkinson who explained so well that Atticus was one of the people put on this world to do our unpleasant tasks. She was the spoken conscience to Atticus’ unspoken one.

– He would be thankful for Sheriff Heck Tate, who saw injustice at the hands of racism, but went quietly about doing his best to find what little justice he could for the disenfranchised.

– He would be thankful for the integrity of Tom Robinson, who in the face of lies and deceit, stood as tall as he could, until he could no longer. Robinson is the tragic figure in the story and represents a long line of African-American men who have been maltreated.

– He would be thankful for Reverend Sykes and others who found value in what Atticus did for those in need and who were stepped on because they were black. The line that makes me tear up more than any other line in a novel is when Atticus leaves the court room after fighting so hard for Robinson and Reverend Sykes tells Miss Jean Louise (Scout) to stand up with them as “your father is passing.”

True heroes do not have to carry weapons. In fact, the greater heroes are those who do not. They fight for what’s right, usually against difficult odds. I am thankful to have read and watched the movie version of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I have seen how a real hero acts.

 

 

MLK advice on violence still resonates

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things 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 truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. 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.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. To many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

* http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/

** http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

A much needed return to civility in 2014

Happy New Year. As I contemplated my first post of the year, I kept coming back to a theme that we need to be more civil with each other. We need to check our filters between our brains and mouths or send button fingers, before we say or submit something that should have been left unsaid or unsent. I was reminded of this when I saw the comments made by a panel of MSNBC commenters regarding an adopted child of color in the Mitt Romney family portrait. The panel decided to make fun off the adopted child who looked different from all of the other Romney family members. Whether I voted for Romney or not (I did not), this is out of line for people to be critical of one of his sons adopting a child.

I was reminded of how one of George W. Bush’s campaigners effectively derailed John McCain’s momentum in the 2000 Republican presidential primary season. McCain was coming off some early wins and Bush was reeling. Yet, one of Bush’s campaign people leaked to the South Carolina press and voters that McCain had fathered an African-American child out-of-wedlock and was raising her. The truth is John and Cindy McCain adopted their Bangladeshi daughter Bridget in 1991. Yet, this lie caused McCain to lose the election in SC and Bush used that momentum to eventually win the nomination. His daughter later in life found out about this story from Googling her own name, so the false story caused her anguish.

In the US, since the marketers and campaigners have segmented our citizens into cliques, we have tended toward a less civil, combative tone. We use words intended to inflame or label people, when people and the issues are more complex. You see the terms Conservative and Liberal or Progressive thrown about to indict people. These words are akin to a one word smear tactic, which is grossly unfair as most people are a quilt of perceptions, beliefs and thoughts. I find myself with views similar to many Americans as someone who is fiscally conservative, but socially progressive. So, what does that make me? Am I wrong to want a Return on Investment on our spending or am I wrong when I want to help people climb a ladder out of poverty or who got laid off by their employer at the age 53 because their salary was too high?

Our friend Roseylinn at www.roseylinn.wordpress.com has an interesting quote from the character Spock in Star Trek on the lack of veracity of name-calling. So, my advice to people is to name call less when people disagree with you and be civil in your disagreement. When people raise their voice or name call or both, I tend to discount their opinions. I would much prefer to watch a panel where people civilly offer their opinions and let the person with an opposing opinion speak. Someone who must shout over the person with opposing view, per the Spock quote, is proving the other’s argument.

On day-to-day matters, we have taken a horrible page from sports participants. Fans have begun taunting the opposing fans, borrowing an extremely poor example from the players. There have been people beaten to death because they pulled for the opposing team. We have seen folks get in arguments over whose team deserved to win, pull a gun and kill someone. We have seen family members kill each other over whose favorite on American Idol won or lost. As a former high school athlete, we were told not to taunt or we would be benched. That may be old school thinking, but it does not make it wrong. If an opponent taunted you, the best way to get back at him would be through playing well. I took particular pride in guarding a taunting basketball opponent by not letting him touch the ball the rest of the game.

Your actions speak more volumes than your words. You vote with your feet. Your kids watch you, your spouse sees you and your co-workers observe you. But, even if no one sees you, you know what you did. What behavior do you wish to show them and yourself? If you are patient and civil with the overworked store clerk, first you will get better service, but you will also be an exemplar for others. If people see you bump a car in a parking lot and go back inside to find the owner or leave an informational note (not a faux note), then people see this. When you return to the Chick-Fil-A to return too much change, then people see this. When you defend the absent like Dr. Wayne Dyer advocates, people hear this.

If you read my posts on gun deaths, I often note that one of the many causes of the increase in gun deaths in America is lack of civil discourse. When people perceive they are being treated with disrespect and have access to weapon, an impulsive act can end one life and ruin another. Here is the trick – if you don’t take offense then you are not offended. There are many life teaching scenes from the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But, when Atticus Finch is spit on by a vile man trying to get him to fight, his courage to walk away is significant. What many do not realize is the easiest thing for him to do would be to fight back. Yet, Atticus did not showing a much greater strength of character. From the trial, it was apparent his assailant had beaten his own daughter, so if someone had it coming, it would have been him.

Let me close with comment I use often and there is no better exemplar than Atticus Finch. Do not mistake kindness for weakness. Gandhi was a great example of civil disobedience, but he fought very hard for people in need in South Africa and India. You can have strong convictions, but treat others like you want to be treated. Kindness is not a weakness. Civility is not a weakness. Acting poorly to others is a weakness.

Rob Roy and Linked In

I have been away from Linked In for a several months and was making some updates the past few days adding a number of connections. For those of you who have been on this network building site, invitations lead to mining which lead to more invitations and so on. My wife was using our family computer as I did this connection building on my work computer a few feet away.

She was listening to me comment on some of the names that I viewed as I scrolled down the list and became fascinated by my sorting observations. The observations are the unfiltered first reaction to a name on someone else’s inventory list which heavily influence the decision of whether to invite or not invite someone to “friend” you for lack of a better term. The reason I mention this exercise is I had just completed watching yet again one of my favorite movies “Rob Roy” starring Liam Neeson in the title role and Jessica Lange as his wife. Why is this important and what does it have to do with LInked In?

If you have never seen “Rob Roy” I would encourage you to do so. Without giving away the end, the theme of the movie is “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” Rob Roy’s honor is more dear to him than anything else. He would not be who he is without it. His wife, family, clan and even enemies admire him for it. I have shared this with my children as well. I tell them their name is the most important asset they have . When someone mentions your name, what do you want people to say about you? Do you want them to say “I don’t trust him” or “he is not a hard worker” or would you rather them to say “his word is gold” or “he has got your back?”

Using this context, as I sorted through the names of people on the connection list of others, recollections like these came to mind. As an Old Fart who has been in an industry and area for a long time, I know a lot of people. And, they also know me and would hopefully have more things on the good side of the ledger to say about me. I had a colleague once whose reputation was not pristine. He once commented that he had been marketing to someone for 18 years and knew them well. I made the comment to myself, “and they also knew you, as they have never hired you for any work.”

As I went down the Linked In list, by far the names I recognized provoked a favorable reaction. I haven’t thought about that person in years or where are they now? Yet, there was a handful that proves the antithesis to the Roby Roy theme is alive and well. My wife would ask about a particular sigh or “tsk.” I would comment this person is not very trustworthy (I declared some as sleazy), this person is a jerk to others, or this person is a real rectum.

These observations were usually based on concrete examples, so they were more than the result of personal interaction. One would more often than not try to game the system. One made everything more difficult than it needed to be. One went out of his way to have a very good employee fired over a minor screw-up, which is ironic since the accuser was far from perfect. One took a female colleague into a stairwell to bless her out (this one scared me when I first heard about it). One was fired for sexual harassment by two different employers by being an asshole primarily to female subordinates. Not to be gender specific, there are a few women on the list who elicit a negative reaction as well.

In my dealings with people through the years, one of my pet peeves is when someone treats a perceived subordinate of another supervisor differently than he does a perceived peer. In other words, they look down on the subordinates, suck up to the managers and treat the peers in a more appropriate way. The example of the person fired is an extreme one, but more common is the condescending tone used by these people to perceived subordinates or actual subordinates.

I recognize I have used extreme examples to prove my point, yet these are the ones I would sigh and pass on when I saw their names. On the flip side, there are many of whom I am proud they would accept my invitation to be in my network. They are the ones who provoke the Rob Roy type response. That is what we should aspire to be. People whose name provokes fond memories or respect. Atticus Finch is another name in books and movies that evokes such a response. I often say my wife is easily the best half of our family. She has commented to me about how wonderful neighborhoods have been where we once lived. I finally told her the neighborhoods were nice because you lived in them. You made them nicer and people responded to your efforts.

But, in-between these extremes are people who are accountable and responsible. They work hard and they endeavor to do the right thing. Sometimes they give in to temptation and feel badly about it. They would then fess up and take their medicine. One of the lessons I received early on was about the friar who responded appropriately to the question “what would you do if you found someone’s wallet filled with a lot of money?” The first person answered “I would turn it in to the law” while the next person said “I would keep it.” The third friar said truthfully “I would be tempted to keep it, but would pray that God would give me the strength to turn it in.”

Your name is so very important. How do you want to be remembered when it is heard? It is up to you, so please remember Rob Roy’s mantra – “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” None of us are perfect, but it is a goal we should each aspire to reach. If you don’t, Linked In can serve as the reminder to others you don’t want.