Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran and a Martin Luther King Jr. speech

The post-election turmoil in Iran has been on my mind. While I haven't been singularly focused on it, it keeps occupying my thoughts - making me wonder why it's so hard for us all just to get along and live out our lives.

I've read on several occasions that protesters in many countries look back at speeches by Martin Luther King Jr for inspiration, so I pulled up one of his sermons this morning on the internet.

I found this one about loving your enemies.

At the core of King's argument is the ability to abstract and see pieces of ourselves within our enemies - seeing that we operate within systems, cultures, frameworks that drive much of our behavior.

Some key points in his speech:
See our own faults. "How is it that you see the splinter in your brother's eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?"

"And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals."

Here he also quotes Goethe: "There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue."

"Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system."

Much of what he talks about here applies in Iran today.

Despite my current sympathies for change in Iran, in different circumstances I could easily find myself shooting tier gas, wielding a baton, and beating protesters in the streets.

Similarly, I could likely find myself protesting in the streets.

Change my circumstance, and you likely change me and my reactions.

It's hard to put myself in their shoes over there - but after reading King's speech I think I have better clarity.

And that speaks to King's point (one of many in his sermon) that we need to find and encourage systems that allows and encourages the good in people to be expressed. It does make a difference in how we look at a situation when we say "it's a bad system" vs. "those people are bad." I think that distinction makes a huge difference in how you think about solutions also.

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