Back in June 2013, I was suddenly inspired to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s thoughtful, powerful and provocative “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” It struck such a chord with me that I decided to write a post on it, in which I highlighted key excerpts.
Today, January 20th, is Martin Luther King Day for those of us in these United States. With the Republic at such a crossroads, one filled with peril, but also with tremendous opportunity; it would serve us all well to heed the words this great man wrote so many years ago, during another troubled and dynamic time in our history. As such, I am reposting my piece from last summer below.
Martin Luther King: “Everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was Legal”
Even if you have read Martin Luther King’s celebrated “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” I insist you read it again. For those that have never read it, the inspired prose may very well change your life. The letter’s message is eternal and extraordinarily relevant in the current global struggle of the 99.9% against the criminality, corruption and oppression of a very small, but very powerful 0.01%. One of the key tactics this tiny minority uses is to claim that their immoral deeds are “legal.” He spends much of his time in the letter outlining the distinction between “just laws” and an “unjust laws,” and one of the key points he makes that we should all keep close to our hearts and minds in these trying times is:
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.
I also think it’s important to recognize that many of his contemporaries referred to his tactics as “extremist,” very similar to how the term “terrorist” is used currently to demonize public dissent in America. Below are some of the excepts I found most powerful:
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal.
One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
from A Lightning War for Liberty http://ift.tt/1muHQBA