Something to Think about from Dr. King

I heard Senator Cory Booker paraphrase this and looked up the original:

It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. — Martin Luther King

All violence has an underlying cause. Ideally, we would recognize and try to correct these underlying causes, but sometimes violence causes us to react solely to the violence and may even make us more resistant to addressing its roots (see my reaction to the violence in France). This is not to say that we should justify or reward violence but rather that we must not let ourselves lose sight of our ultimate goal: a free and just and equal society. The conditions Dr. King mentions are not intolerable because they spawn violence; they are intolerable because they promote oppression and despair.

The other day someone asked the question, If you had been an adult during the Civil Rights movement, would you have marched? Shortly after I returned home from my mission, my late brother and I were watching a news program with my mother. The program discussed the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was being celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time. My brother said, “If I had been alive then, I would have marched with them.” I said I would have, as well. My mother was horrified, her view being that Dr. King was a Communist rabble-rouser. “Why would you do something like that?” she asked. My brother said, “They were in the right. Their rights were being denied, and someone needed to stand up for them.” I agreed. My mother said something like, “Well, things were already changing on their own accord, so there wasn’t any need to cause all the trouble.” My brother smiled and said, “It’s because they caused trouble that things started changed.”

But I’ve thought about it. Would I have marched, really? I hope I’ve made it clear that I support equal treatment under the law for all people, and I also believe we must do everything possible to eradicate discrimination in all its forms. But would I have marched? I realized that marching requires commitment. You actually have to break out of your normal routine to do something like that. I live about 45 minutes from the White House, where there is always a demonstration of some kind going on. Heck, the White House Peace Vigil, just north of the White House fence in Lafayette Square, has been going on round the clock since 1981. That’s commitment! And yet I can’t be bothered to get in my car or take the Metro into town to speak up about something I believe in. I vote, but I haven’t been particularly politically active in years, not since I participated in party caucuses, a Senate campaign, and a state party convention several years ago. I guess I should feel good that I did that, but since then it’s been a lot of nothing for me. About the only thing I’ve had any passion about in the last few years is Mormonism and the pain of leaving it. I have tried to help people navigate that difficult transition, and I hope I have done some good. But I just don’t care about it much anymore. I wouldn’t cross the street to protest anything related to Mormonism. Heck, I can’t even bother enough to say much about the ridiculous “Je suis John Dehlin” meme. So, maybe it’s time to get involved with something bigger than a mildly snarky blog. I know, that doesn’t fit my negative elan, but so be it.

As I said earlier, I’ll keep you posted.


5 Responses to Something to Think about from Dr. King

  1. CAB says:

    ‘Heck, I can’t even bother enough to say much about the ridiculous “Je suis John Dehlin” meme.’
    I want to go on record as NOT John Dehlin. The church gave him exactly what he has been wanting and working toward. He has been positioning himself and the LDS leaders for a long time to achieve exactly this outcome. Why the hell would I feel sorry for him as if he were some kind of unwilling, but courageous martyr, carrying the torch of freedom from oppression?
    The world has enough self-made martyrs already.

    “About the only thing I’ve had any passion about in the last few years is Mormonism and the pain of leaving it. I have tried to help people navigate that difficult transition, and I hope I have done some good. But I just don’t care about it much anymore. I wouldn’t cross the street to protest anything related to Mormonism.”

    Yes, that. Here I live in NYC and I can’t even bring myself to wrangle a ticket to ‘The Book of Mormon: The Musical.’ Maybe I am just feeling weary of all things portentous and pretentious. Maybe it is this long and dreary winter. Maybe the Dehlin hysteria was just too much. Maybe I gagged over the recent announcement that Romney (surprise, surprise!!) is interested in running for POTUS again, and aren’t we sorry that we did not vote for him last time?
    Whatever it is, I am ready to consider that I don’t need to daily hear about, read about, think about or write about anything to do with the Mormon Church.
    Maybe my own little miracle has finally happened and I am no longer full of anger and pain about the church. Maybe I have mourned enough and healed enough that I can finally, finally move on.

    I think you have done considerable “good.” I have been one of the beneficiaries of your work. But I support your efforts to move on–hopefully to something less painful, and possibly more fulfilling.
    Helpful as writing-through-the-pain can be, there comes a time when you can ask yourself if all that has filled its purpose.

    Discovering that the truth claims of the church are not as claimed can be a shattering experience. It’s like a bomb blowing everything in your life up, a falling apart, a breaking down of EVERYTHING upon which you have based your life. Sorting through the rubble and shards of what had been a life of meaning, a life taking its meaning from the church, can take a while. At least for the thoughtful person, deciding what to keep and what to discard can be a lengthy process. It can take years.

    I have enjoyed making the acquaintance of your snark. And I think your elan is safe.
    Yes, keep us posted.

    • runtu says:

      Oh, I’m sure I’ll still write about Mormonism now and again. After all, I did promise a few people I would finish the concise dictionary. These days, the only time I think about it is when someone brings it up or sends me something to read. As far as my elan goes, I was being sarcastic. I’m a pretty happy person, generally speaking. I have a wonderful family and decent career, and I have nothing to complain about. I suppose maybe my comfortable existence explains my relative apathy about causes and protesting. I’m working on it. I’m glad you are getting to the point at which it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m really sick of people telling us what we should or should not feel. If you’re hurt, let yourself experience hurt. And if you’re angry, it’s important to allow yourself to be angry. It’s not healthy to shut it inside.

  2. CAB says:

    Are you working on a dictionary of Mormonism? I wrote short dictionary of Mormon terms a couple of years ago fro my memoir. In it I gave reign to the satirical and it is a wee bit snarky. Consequently, it was therapeutic to write
    I will look forward to seeing yours.

    • runtu says:

      Mine is completely snarky, which is the whole point. It’s easy to be sarcastic when you’re dealing with raw emotions. I honestly wouldn’t have thought to finish the dictionary if some friends hadn’t asked me to. As you said, it can be therapeutic to be snarky, and I think some of my friends found it helpful to laugh at some of what we used to do and think. It’s less painful that way.

  3. vikingz2000 says:

    I’m always interested in reading what you have to write about.

    As far as Mormonism I’m pretty much over it. Yeah, sure, it’s been bred in the bone for almost sixty years since my family’s conversion (I was just a kid), but it’s just like following a soap opera now. I do miss some sort of community, though, but so far that has been hard to find. But the real boon to my mental and spiritual well-being was when I finally ‘turned the corner’ about being totally unafraid of the possibility, “What if I’m wrong about the church and it’s actually all that it claims to be!?” I finally came to terms with my own brain (as small as it is) by giving more credence to logic, facts, and intuitions (i.e., “Something’s not right here.”). I finally realized that God gave me the capacity to think and reason and as long as if my conclusions have been arrived at with all sincerity for the sole purpose of just wanting to know TUTH, then He (She, It, Whomever, Whatever) could not possibly condemn me, even if I was wrong (because of my fallible intellect).

    As far as not being involved more in good causes, I wrestle with that, too. I’ve tried to be a volunteer for certain things, but the hoops you have to jump through (criminal checks, etc) and then after all that you have someone acting as if you are an employee instead of a volunteer (‘bossing you around’), or you have to kiss up to her/him in order to *especially* get along and to get better assignments, that I’ve pretty much given up on volunteering. I discovered that there can be a lot of bad politics going on amongst volunteers in certain organizations. It’s like you have to ‘pay your dues’ for a long time before you are ‘in’. Nuts to that.

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