Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day, a federal holiday here in our nation’s capital. Sometimes with federal holidays, it’s almost too easy to forget what we are really celebrating instead of thinking of it as a “free” day off of work and less traffic on the roads.
However, most of the news media today has done a good job of reminding us of Dr. King’s legacy as a civil rights leader who set goals for humanity of tolerance, equality, peace, justice and opportunity. His famous words still resonate “ Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Those goals and wise words are just as relevant today and maybe more so given the current divisive nature of our political landscape. I heard a number of stories from the recently passed holidays from friends celebrating with family members around the same table unable to find a peaceful discourse and that is indeed a sad state and a tide I hope can be turned. Along with that discord, we are seeing a rise in hate crimes that hurt my heart. We can do better and we can be better.
I also was reminded that this month is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland. The camp had originally been established as a prisoner-of-war camp for Polish political prisoners but soon became the location where over a million people were killed – Jews primarily but also Soviet prisoners, those of Roma descent, homosexuals and anyone else considered an “enemy of the state” were included in those numbers. Zigi Shipper, Holocaust survivor, had some powerful words to share while being interviewed on the news this morning. In spite of all that he had been through in his lifetime, including losing his entire family, he noted “We must never forget what happened. We need to love each other as human beings. It doesn’t make any difference what religion (or color) you are – as long as you are a good person.” But he also noted that he doesn’t think that we have learned from the past and shared that “we need to love each other, not hate each other.”
Powerful words of love and acceptance on a day where we should ensure we take a minute to let them sink in…..